UPDATE: Pua Mata
As promised, here is the Arkana part of our trip.
As the sun began to rise and greet us with a beautiful Monday morning in Dripping Springs, Texas, it was time for me and Eboz to jump in the van and make our way to Hot Springs, Arkansas for the Spa City 6 Hour which was the first stop of the PRO UET.
Thankfully, this trip was only hundreds of miles instead of thousands of miles and this time I would get to be the co-pilot.
The drive was as smooth as a babies bottom and after a quick stop at Wholefoods to fill the pantry, before we knew it, we were rolling into Hot Springs and checking into a condo that we would be calling home for the next week, and I have to say that it was an awesome pad to have as a home away from home.
We decided that our first training ride would be on dirt that was not a part of our race course and we headed over to the Souths infamous Womble Trail in the Oauchita National Forest that I have heard so much about. The Womble Trail 37 miles long that I believe is mostly all singletrack and after a 45 minute drive, we were hitting the pedals to find out what this trail was all about.
But first, the camp we ended up parking and basing from was our first impression of this ride and although I have yet to see the movie, I was told that it was almost straight out of the movie “Deliverance.” To give you a quick insight…we drove into the camp, I jumped out of the van to go into the little “store” to ask for directions to the trailhead and I walked in to a dark, cluttered, disorganized room with a table in the center where a women and two men were occupying in conversation. I apologized for my intruding because although from the outside this building was marked to give you the impression that it was a place to go to for information or the purchase of snack, drink or maybe some information, the moment I stepped inside, it seemed to be everything but that.
But, the three individuals paused and told me to come in and not to mind the 2 dogs that were begging to be pet as soon as I entered through the door. I immediately asked about the trail to hopefully get a quick response so it could be followed by a quick exit, but apparently with a glance at a girl asking for directions to this trailhead that is “quite challenging” this was not going to be a “quick” encounter.
The older gentlemen who immediately took the liberty of being responsible for my directions and forewarning was trying to describe the trail in a very hesitant manner and after continuously glancing outside and finally catching sight of our van and a male in the drivers seat, he darted for the door to talk to the guy, not the girl.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little miffed, but I followed him outside and was just hoping to get the directions so we could start pedaling.
After getting outside and seeing the vaan, you could see a small light click on, but he was still determined to give us warning and let it be known how certain he was that “someone is going to break their leg on that trail someday, but hopefully it won’t be you guys.” I was not sure what to say to this statement, but we respectfully listened to his concerns while parking and giving him the hint that we needed to start rolling and we were finally on our bikes heading to the trailhead and away from the awkward encounter.
The Womble Trail was everything that I had been told. It was a perfect singletrack that had some fun fast flowy sections, short rocky sections, a little exposure to keep you on your toes and your heart pounding, a gorgeous view of the river and it was a perfect ride. As I mentioned, the trail continued for 37 miles, but we were short on time and only had a couple of hours to kill, so a quick out and back was our little intro to the Womble, but I would definitely recommend it and head back for the whole experience.
That evening after a raw sweet potato meal, I managed to pull Eboz out for a little centering at a local yoga class. It was a first for him and he thoroughly enjoyed it even after a little failed attempt at a headstand that ended with a boom and a short interruption to everyones chi. After we realized that he would be okay, it was back to the silence…. Namaste.
The next few days were spent training on the course, visiting the bikeshop a few times to get everything dialed while recruiting the mechanic to spend his Saturday crewing out of our pit for the 2 of us.
The weather forecast for race day was a nightmare. There was a 100% chance of water….and a ton of it. Being that this course is mostly single track, twisty, rooty and rocky, rain was not something that I was looking forward to for 6 hours. But the reality was that everyone else out there was going to have to deal with it and I had to just suck it up. So we continued our preparations for rain while keeping our fingers crossed.
Come Thursday afternoon, the sky opened up and held nothing back. It was absolutely insane, but it was not race day and I was just praying that it was getting it completely out of it’s system. The plan was to head out to the course and get a lap in, but I looked at E and saw no reason to trash the bikes, freeze and trash the course. Thankfully he agreed and our ride that day concluded with a spin at the YMCA.
With our eyes glued to weather.com for the next 24 hours, believe it or not, the odds began working in our favor and when Friday night rolled around, it was clear that we were going to be blessed with an absolutely perfect day.
That Saturday morning, we headed over to the venue, set up the pit and got on our bikes. Before we knew it, we were standing at the line and getting ready to make a run for our bikes that seemed to be miles away.
The first lap was pretty smooth and just as I was feeling that the legs were finally warming up, I headed out on my second lap and at about a mile into it, I came to a quick, abrupt and unplanned stop as a tree jumped out into the middle of the trail and completely took me out. It had been a while since I had an encounter with a tree, but I quickly remembered how much they hurt.
I knew that there were people behind me, so I quickly grabbed my bike out of the trail and as soon as I was off to the side, I started taking inventory. There was blood…a lot of blood. There was pain….a lot of pain. The blood was running from my knee and the excruciating pain had me believing that I managed to rip my shin open, but with a glance I was able to breath when I realized that I was still intact and my knee was the only thing that suffered from gashes. Outside of that, my shin and my bicep and of course my back from the whiplash, took the brunt force of the crash, but I was able to get up, pedal and continue moving forward. Every pedal stroke and every bump hurt. It would resonate throughout, but after a lap and a switching of bikes, I was numb and ready to knock out the remaining 4 hours.
This race was anything but phenomenal for me, but I managed to pull off the win and watch Eboz roll through with an excellent performance of taking 4th place to some tough competition. It was his longest race to date and although he had a couple of issues, he learned a ton, was super stoked and was amped for the next one.
With only a few moments to catch our breath, get my wounds cleaned and get to the podium, we ripped down our pit and packed up the van to head back to the condo to clean up and ready to rollout at the crack of dawn. Mr. Driving Machine was determined to get us back in 24 hours and knowing how many miles were ahead of us, I told him I was down to try. Originally I thought we would drive, check into a hotel on Sunday night and then finish up by Monday afternoon, but if he wanted to go for it, I was not going to stop him.
The one thing that I did not mention earlier is the theme of this trip: “google it.” No matter where we were or what we were doing, we were constantly stumping ourselves with questions and one of us would immediately be reaching for our phones to get the answer. Everything from the difference (if any) between white quinoa and red quinoa to why is there iodine in salt to the top 50 facts of Arkansas vs. California vs. Hawaii. And oh yeah, there is no significant difference between the white and dark quinoa, the iodine in the salt goes back in history where iodine was inadequate in the diet and out of the 3 states, Arkansas had the most interesting facts.
Arkansas filled us with lots of riding, useless knowledge, lots of blender usage and hours of driving.
As we rolled into Needles, California with 4 hours to go, I could feel the van stop and Mr. Determined finally decided to give in, call it a night, roll into a motel and get some good sleep instead of literally driving ourselves into the ground. I was thrilled when I got this news and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light.
With no alarm set, we were up by 7:30 and rolling out of there by 8:30 and the timing was perfect. We dodged all the traffic and made it back to Sho-Air semi rested with time to get home at a descent hour.
The whirlwind of the last two weeks had come to an end and it was time to get back to the training and focus on the next race … Sea Otter. It was nice to finally get back home and be back in my own bed, but the trip was awesome and quite successful.
And the last thing that I wanted to mention before closing this was a very unfortunate situation that Sho-Air had to experience. The weekend following our return, someone or some people decided that it would be fun and their right to break into our team trailer and take ownership to the bikes and wheelsets that were residing there. The intruders and products were not yet found, but I am hoping that they will be caught and experience some very bad karma. I could never understand how anyone could live with themselves after stealing and taking from others what is not theirs. There is no room for that. If you know who did this or are the one who did this…give us our stuff back please!
But on a happy note…the heat is back and it is time to go ride!
Until next time, keep pedaling!