A friend walked with me while I was carrying some items to my car the other day. We opened the rear door of my car and dumped my items inside. She reached inside and pulled out a pamphlet.
“What do you have this for?” she asked while waving a Motorola Two Way Talkabout pamphlet at me.
“We used to use those for mountain biking," I said. She looked at me puzzled.
Let me explain...
Flashback about 6 years ago when I was still trying to convince Chris I was the girl of his dreams (note: still trying). And of course the girl of his dreams would be fearless about riding a mountain bike.
Convincing, eh? Except if that girl is me.
I'm not a big fan of the mountain bike. I'll do it, but not without a lot of sweat, tears, and fear. I don't like descending big rocky hills. I don't like climbing up tree roots. More importantly, I can't stand going that slow.
But Chris tried to convert me. He started by getting me a mountain bike. In Chris-speak, this is "love".
We started easy around town. Some little park where there are some trails and logs to jump. He taught me to jump logs, to bunny hop, to do all the things cool mountain bikers do. Even so, I was still totally uncool. I still unclipped to hop logs. I still took turns really slow. There was more than a strong chance I would somehow pick up a large stick and get it jammed in my derailleur.
Then he took me up to Kettle Moraine in southern Wisconsin. It's one of the better places around here to mountain bike on quality single track covering more than 10 miles. I was set. I was so hard core and ready. This was like the Kona of mountain biking and I was really excited to go (ok, really I was scared sh*tless).
Kettle and Moraine are two fancy words that have something to do with glaciers. And if you know anything about glaciers, you know that they usually leave something behind – in the way of hills, dips, valleys, peaks, and loads and loads of rock. The scientific term for this rock is glacial outwash. The new mountain biker term for this rock would be “stuff that I will undoubtedly fall on and jam into my knees and hands over and over again.”
The trail begins easy enough, a few slight descents and some climbs on packed dirt. But then it begins, a series of undulating hills in the forest with branches, roots, rocks, leaves, twists, and turns. I did my best to maneuver around everything and found that what in doubt it helps to clip out. I did this a lot. Needless to say the first loop probably took me well over an hour with all of the stops, drops, unclippings, and all together dismount and give ups.
Chris on the other hand, loves this stuff. He’s doing loop de loops while I’m walking up hills. I’m fishtailing in sand and he’s jumping it all together. I’m dropping my chain while he hasn’t even shifted gears.
We set off for a second loop when Chris equipped me with a two-way radio in my back pocket just in case. He slipped it in my back pocket and told me to use it if I needed help. We parted ways and said we would meet in the parking lot afterwards.
There I was, riding alone in the Wisconsin woods. I’m riding through the leaves and sand and walking my bike while sweating that nervous mountain bike holding on for dear life on descents kind of sweat. I was uncomfortable, I was scared. I wanted to stop and be done, but I also wanted to be the cool chick that rides a mountain bike. So I tried, I tried hard, white knuckling the bars, riding the brakes, concentrating really hard.
Maybe I was concentrating a little too hard because that’s when I heard a voice.
Huh? I looked around. It was just me. Me and the trees. And trees don’t talk.
But a moment later, there it was again. The voice.
I listen more closely and realized I could make out the words the voice was trying to say.
“Hey, hey you. Hey…………..(long silence)………PICK IT UP.”
Pick it up? What? Pick what up? Am I dropping gel wrappers? Huh? Who? And what do I need to pick up?
I shake it off and keep riding. It could be some creepy stalker trail jailbait hiding behind the trees yelling at me. What do I know. It's Wisconsin after all.
I’m riding about 8 mph through some sand before making the last of several steep descents and climbs. One descent is blind at the bottom. I stop at the top, look down, take a deep breath, and let it ride. Climbing back up again, I hear the voice.
The voice stops. I look around. There is NO way anyone followed me down and back up that hill. I see no one on the trail. Maybe it was lack of water or concentrating too hard. Maybe this is what happens when you mountain bike too long. I knew there were more reasons I wanted nothing to do with this sport. Still I continued. I’m pedaling along slowly but surely.
Out from nowhere, the voice calls again, “Hey you.........Popo rides faster than you.”
Oh, THAT WAS IT. I knew that voice. I knew that tone. And, more importantly, I knew Popo. Popo is Chris’ grandmother. Imagine a surly, sharp Chinese woman with a penchant for gossip and People magazines. A woman who makes a mean egg roll, who will hang up with you on the phone, who won’t leave the house but the minute you come over demands that you check the mail. Introducting......Popo.
But Popo riding faster than me? Now that's a low blow. But the more I thought about it the more I thought chances are Popo probably would ride faster than me because that’s just how Popo rolls. You could say up, she says down. You could say hot, she’d say cold. Put me on there with Popo clipped into pedals and I bet she takes off like she’s straight out of hell.
But back to the voice – which, I realized, was streaming from the two-way talkabout in my backpocket.
It was the voice of Chris.
Two can play at this game. And my radio also had a talk button. So I pressed it and politely shouted “Popo’s already lapped you”. From there, the shouting, the exchange of insults continued for a few more miles.
So that is why we have a two way talkabout radio pamphlet in the back of our car. You see, they are not just a communication device but also a great way to scare the heck out your future spouse in the middle of a Wisconsin forest or shout insults at them to get them to ride faster. And when they do pick up the pace, and meet you in a parking lot, they are likely to beat you silly with the radio or throw glacial outwash at you for suggesting that you’d get dropped by grandma Popo on a really big hill.