“Don’t you ever run out of stuff to write about?”
My barber asked after reading my last 1,600 word marathon column
about the post on the city bike trail that nearly broke me in
“Not really. Most of the time my typing fingers can’t
keep up with my harebrained ideas,” I replied frankly.
The truth is I don’t chase columns. Even as deadline approaches
and there’s still nothing there, I just keep riding and
it’ll come to me, like it did on a business trip to Mankato,
Minn. this month.
All the inspiration I needed was an afternoon ride on the bike
trail past Mount Kato Ski Resort, now closed in the record 70
degree mid-March heat. For years I’ve ridden by here wondering
what it would be like to scream down that hill on my bike, right
over the snow-pack.
While the back hills of the resort are open in summer to mountain
biking, the face of the ski hill is strictly off limits to cyclers.
It would take a fool bigger than me to try this stunt in the middle
of the afternoon. I’m sure you’d be chased away or
even arrested in short order.
“But,” I thought. “Who’d be watching the
ranch at midnight?
I tried hard to push the silly notion out of my mind when I returned
to the hotel room that evening. But the more I tried to sleep
and the closer it came to 12:00 a.m., the more I became obsessed
with making a starlit run at old Mount Kato.
Later the thoughts started getting out of control. The next thing
I knew I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror rigging
my video phone to my forehead utilizing a baseball hat situated
backwards over a stocking cap. After 20 minutes in the lavatory,
err… laboratory, my hat-cam prototype was ready for deployment.
At the stroke of midnight I was back on my Raleigh heading for
the hills with my phone mounted precariously to my head, adrenalin
now blurring any sense of reason my parents instilled in me.
I began zigzagging up the steep hill from the side, scaling the
slushy grass next to the man-made snow slopes, forcing my bike
up in front of me one careful stride after another.
I could hear water streaming under the ice, quickly finding the
path of least resistance to the bottom. The surface of the slope
appeared wet, wavy, icy and steep, conditions not conducive to
bike riding at all. Still I forged on with the risky mission.
Finally perched at the top breathing heavily I mounted my bike,
barely able to stand still on the glazed icepack long enough to
get both legs over her without falling down.
Surveying the valley below I was just managing to suppress the
fear of being caught, hurt or both before escaping the scene.
I decided to engage the front headlight to accommodate the video
even though it made me more visible.
“In a half hour, you’ll be back in the hotel room,”
I said out loud while trying to envision a safe and successful
Hat-cam in place I said a little prayer, pushed the start button
on the video, lifted my feet and slowly let the brake out, bound
for the bottom or bust.
Bump, bump, bump, skid, and bump I negotiated the bike successfully
for the first half of the ride when I heard the beep indicating
the 30 second limit on the recording function had been met.
With the video complete I turned out the light, managing my way
carefully but speedily down the rest of the hill in near total
darkness; bump, skid, skid, bump. I wasted no time pushing back
through the wet grass and into the parking lot. From there it
was a three mile victory sprint back to the hotel.
Of course the video turned out to be completely dark except for
a couple distant streetlights as the hat cam was angled toward
the sky instead of the ground. I guess it’ll be back to
the Lav... Err.. Laboratory with that little invention. I’m
actually surprised the phone never bounced free from the hat.
There’s a scenario I had not planned for.
Never-the-less, you can hear the bike bouncing down the hill and
some of my jittery narration if you check out this column at dansbikerides.com.
Sorry there wasn’t a more cathartic finish to this story
like a gnarly face plant, brutal chase, tazering or trespassing
charge, but it looks like even I can still turn a successful mission
now and then.
Thanks for riding along.
Traffic Tip: Every bike ride is in High Definition.
Watch the videos! (You must have Adobe Flash Player to play)