Brian's Blog

I’m not sure what you will find here; general musings and maybe some technical stuff spattered here and there.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wrong Turn

Last weekend me and a friend of mine (Scott) decided to mountain bike two sections of the Ozark Trail, and camp in between making a nice two day trip. With all the logistics of where to park the cars, and where to put up the camper meticulously planned out, we set out on Friday night for our two day adventure.

The plan was simple; park one car at the start of section 1, set up the camper in between section 1 & 2, and park another car at the end of section 2. This way we could ride, camp, ride, drive back to get car 1, drive back to get the camper, clean up, and go home. We got down Friday night so we could get camp set up, and have an early start on the riding for Saturday. (Clear as mud? Doesn’t really matter… read on.)

We pull into our camp site and set up camp at about 8:00 PM. It was dark, but we managed to get the camper set up and a nice fire going. After a couple beers, and some jerky, we were lights out by 12. That’s when our neighbors showed up. When I say neighbors, I mean 30 or so hillbillies with a lust for revving engines. Along with 15 4wd trucks, they pulled in about 10 atvs, a dirt bike, and a gasoline powered rc car. All of which they had running till 4:00 AM. Every once and a while the engines would quiet down enough for us to hear their Led Zeppelin blasting in the background.

So 4:00 AM its quiet and we finally get some sleep. At least until 7:00 AM when they get up and start the same thing all over again. By this time the two of us are pretty mad, and we start devising another plan over breakfast. We decide to swap the camper and car 2. So instead of ride, camp, ride, there will be some driving in between.

So right after breakfast, we pack up camp, and move.

We arrive at our new campsite and check out our new potential neighbors. They all look like the type of guy you would find in the gun section of Wal-Mart, scary still, but hardly going to stay up till 4am hooting and hollering. We pick a site and set up.

Now its lunch time, we should be riding by now but we’re hungry. So we eat.

Finally, we get on our way to the trail head and it’s around 2:30 when we start riding. The trail starts out going down hill and for the most part doesn’t stop. There were a couple good climbs, but the majority was all down hill. Scott is breaking in new pedals and was having trouble clipping in and out. This caused him to crash numerous times. Since his confidence was burned, he started riding slower than usual. I was having one of my better rides, and found myself stopping often to let Scott catch up.

We ride to a clearing and decide to stop for a snack. It’s now about 4:15, and we have some where around 3 miles left to ride. It will be no problem to make it out by dark. We chat with some other mountain bikers on the trail, finish our snack, and head off. This will be the last time I see Scott for some hours.

I ride up to the last creek crossing before the end of the trial and wait for Scott to catch up. I wait… 5 minutes pass, 10, 15… Twenty minutes pass, and I finally decide to back track to look for Scott. There’s no way I got that far ahead of him. Something had to of gone wrong.

As I’m riding back I decide to ration off my water since I had very little left. I back track further but still don’t see him any where. I decide to ride all the way back to the clearing where we last stopped. I get there, and no Scott. I have no idea what happened, but I know this: its getting dark. I decide to ride back to the car as quickly as possible so I can get there before dark. Then I will figure out the missing Scott issue. “Maybe we just passed each other some how” is what I think to myself.

I start my ride back and almost immediately my derailleur completely snaps off. I had knocked it on a log earlier in the ride. I guess that had weakened it. Now it was gone, and I could not shift gears. I got off the bike and shortened my chain to see if I could some how rig a single speed. I tried and failed. I couldn’t get the chain to stay on any one gear. Now it was 6:00 PM and I had roughly 3 miles in front of me with no bike.

I pack up and start walking. My plan is to jog the level stuff, hike up the hills, and coast on my bike down the hills. After some time I make it back to the creek crossing. Along the way I kept looking for Scott in case I didn’t see him earlier.

I continue past the creek, and up a hill. The hill itself is all washed out and very rocky. I could barely walk up it much less ride it. Then it struck me. This isn’t the trail. I look at my gps (yes I had one) and I see that I made a wrong turn way before the creek crossing.

Then it was instantly clear to me. Scott was ok and back at the car already. He had passed me when I was waiting at the wrong creek crossing. Now he is the one who is probably looking for me.

So why did I make a wrong turn if I had a gps? Well let’s just say this… pure stupidity on my part. I checked that gps at every intersection but the one I made the wrong turn at. Why? That trail just looked so familiar to me. I had ridden this trail before, but going the opposite direction. I was convinced I was turning the right way, plus I was going really fast.

It’s now 6:30 and under the cover of the trees pretty dark. I can still see clearly enough to coast down some hills. I make it to the right creek crossing, and start running. Thoughts of ditching my bike in the woods and running out started to cross my mind.

6:40 a difference of 10 minutes makes a huge difference. It’s now pitch black on the trail. The moon is out and the skies are clear, but the dense tree cover blocks out almost all of the moonlight. I can barely make out the trail at this point, much less the logs and big rocks that cover it.

I can see a car drive past on a fire road, but there is no way for me to get to it. I decide to stick with the trail and make it to where we parked the car.

My shirt and shorts are both soaked with sweat, and my shoes are also water logged from having to walk through the creeks. The temperature is dropping and it’s starting to get colder. I hardly notice it though because I can only focus on one thing: getting to the car.

My gps tells me there is a little less than .3 miles to the car. Now I can faintly see campfires and lantern lights from the campsite the car is parked at off in the distance. I start to loose the panic that was slowly building up.

I finally make it out and to the trail head where the car was parked. I walk towards the car only to find it not there. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. It’s now after 7:00PM. Scott probably finished around 5:15. He probably went to get help. Crap.

I lean my bike next to a tree where the car was originally parked, so if Scott comes by he will see it and know I’m ok. I start walking over to one of the campsite to ask for some water, and maybe sit next to a fire. Off in the distance I hear a car coming down the road. It sounds like my car; it’s got to be Scott. I stop and wait for it. Whew, it’s my car alright.

The window rolls down and profanities start flowing out. Apparently Scott was driving all over the place looking for me. He drove up and down just about every fire road looking for my dead body. This was his last pass by the trail head before he drove out to get help. I made it just in time.

Needless to say there was no riding the next day.


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