Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Oh, the Love

(left, Paula, Eric, Mary and Carol roll through Pocahontas trails.)


The longest relationship I have ever had is with a city. Or more accurately a region, Hampton Roads. Many say it’s a confusing name, but it’s perfectly descriptive from a cycling perspective: Hampton Roads. Not Hampton Single Track. Not Hampton Hills. These Hampton Roads that can get awfully boring after a while.

It is difficult to explain to anyone outside this region just how completely flat the roads are. “Flat” is a blanket descriptor for regions that have so many more hills than here, thus diluting the real meaning of flat. DC is considered “flat,” but compared to here, it’s rollers land, for example.

It’s also hard to imagine a region this large with no sizeable trail system as in other populated areas. Like planted right in the middle of Philadelphia is Wissahickon Park, a wicked single-track system. We have woods (Seashore State Park, False Cape State Park, Dismal Swamp) but the riding trails there are double track and pancake-Sunday-ride flat. Plus, none of those parks have much potential for building decent single track since they are situated in wetlands and sensitive environments. Was I born a mountain biker to whither away here?

So what do I do? I sneak off on Wednesday nights to the only true single track trail, Indian River Park (aka Ipswitch) and get my kicks riding the meager 3 mile loop at night with a single light beam so I really don’t see the encroaching highway, car dealership and surrounding homes. I cling to a trail that has no room for growth and tell myself it will change someday. Sigh.

I also drive lots. On a typical Sunday it means driving an hour west of Hampton Roads to the various single track trails that EVMA has built and maintained in the Williamsburg region. I long for more extended and more hilly loops, but it sure is better than what we have over here. The longest loop is 8 miles at Freedom Park.

This past Sunday, I drove 2 hours with Carol to Pocahontas State Park, located near Chesterfield 20 miles south of Richmond. It’s simply a cell-phone-serviceable state park plopped in the suburbs, but I felt like I was in a sordid, backcountry affair. Paula, Frank and gang led us through perfectly groomed middle-ring ridge trails. It was a major rush to ride on a trail system 20 whole miles long in a place where the trees absorbed all cares and the dirt below gave way to a future. I wanted to flirt hard, do things like quit my job, abandon my house, ride in the woods forevermore. I fantasized about living in Richmond close to Pocahontas, Forrest Hill and central to the mountains, or in Harrisonburg close to GW and Shenandoah National Forrests or in PA. . . I had to stop myself.

I hate that I feel. I hate that I feel strongly for that which is not practical. I love my job, my family, my friends, my life. There would need to be more going on than a few dirt trails for me to move, let’s face it.

I mean, why do I stay in Hampton Roads from a cycling perspective? Number one, weather. Riding here is year round, and there are very few ice or snow interruptions. The temperature hangs out in 40F-50’s most of the winter, and I have observed that even Richmond 2 hours away and DC 3 hours away have temps consistently 10 degrees lower. Number two, people. There is a huge and vibrant (road) cycling community here. With the flat comes less risk of crashing and easier terrain, so more people stick with the sport. The area is known for large group rides, yet I wonder if we bond together to demonstrate our long-term commitment or is it to somehow head off the Hampton Roads monotony? Maybe both?

1 comment:

Anne said...

yummmmmmy... riding outside.
Tell me again what it is like.
Please?

Soon. Right? Winter will take a rest?