The Single Track Mind

We are kicking it in Tansen this week, the town where we will eventually move.  Dave has found his own little niche here in Nepal, complete with awesome photos, and I’ve been trying to get him to blog about it for a while now. He’s finally had a chance now that we’ve had a minute out of the city. Enjoy!

Of all of the adjustments we’ve had with living in Nepal, there is one difference that has been an enormous perk for me. The mountain biking. There are world-class trails within a 30 minute ride from our front door. They are the kind of trails people from home, would buy  tickets to fly across the country and pay a guide hundreds of dollars a day just to get a glimpse of.

I’m a little bit of a nut when it comes to bicycles. I’m sort of obsessed. It is the most efficient machine ever built. It is environmentally friendly. It combats obesity and sloth, and is so so much fun to ride. Back in Rochester, I had 3 bicycles. 1 for commuting to work, one for riding on roads, and one for riding on trails. I would often justify my 2 wheel “investments” to my wife by comparing them to the cost of her car repairs and gasoline. Not sure that was fair since she worked 60 miles away, and I only worked 2 miles away, but hey, I already admitted, I have a problem. Getting rid of these bicycles before I left was hard for me.  I had spent countless hours working on them, and many more riding on them. My mountain bike was the first to go to my friend Chris, then my commuter to my brother-in-law, and finally I had to return the road bike to Dave (who had graciously lent it to me for 2 years).

I was without a bicycle for the first time, well, probably since I was 5.  This was made more painful by the fact that we are living in a cycling city, and I did not having a mode of personal transportation when we arrived in Kathmandu.  I would ogle the bicycles that cruised by as I bumped along in the back of the tuk tuk, hold my hands in front of me as if I were holding handlebars while walking on trails, and make my children hold their urine so I could get a few more minutes in the bike shops. So it was no small deal to me three weeks ago when Hannah gave me the green light to buy a bicycle. I had been shopping around, so when I found a Giant Talon 1 that fit me at a good price, I bought it the next day.

I got hopelessly lost on my way home from the bike shop on my new bicycle, but I didn’t care. Now I was that guy passing the tuk tuks. I hopped right into the lane with the motorcycles, and weaved through traffic right on their tails (wearing my helmet of course). I felt like I was free. No more of that inefficient walking! I rode it to work. I rode it to the supermarket. I would even put our daughter in her child carrier on my back and take her for a spin (also wearing her helmet, of course). “Weee” she would squeal in my ear. Or at least I think she was, because I was squealing too. It was so good, but I wasn’t pushing myself. It was time to ease into the next level. It was time for some trails.

Martin is an avid runner here who I had been out with a couple of times for a jog. I knew he also enjoyed mountain biking, so I checked in with him to see if there was any chance I could join in for a ride. He eagerly said “yes!”

My first clue there would be no “easing” was the hard-core start time of 5:30AM on a Wednesday. It was still dark when I arrived in my shorts and t-shirt. By 5:45 we had a quorum of 6 riders (2 visiting pastors from the States, another doc working in Kathmandu, Brian who had been in Nepal for 3 months, Martin, and myself). Soon we were off through the streets. You had to squint through the darkness to see what was coming at you. And there were numerous perils to be dealt with. There were pot holes, random poles, other cars/ motorbikes/ bicycles without lights on, people, dogs, goats, chickens, and cows just to name a few. We were out of the city in about 15 minutes and making our way down a more rural road, and things started to thin out.

We ascended out of the smog and were greeted by a clear morning sunrise, with views of the Himalayas in all of their glory. We came to the first hill, and since I felt like I was pretty hot stuff on a bicycle, I decided to open it up a bit. This is an aspect of me that my wife cringes at, and she thinks I’m a horrible person for saying things like this, but I’m sure there are a few of you who will understand. I cranked it up I was pleased to see others dropping off behind me, first the 2 pastors, then the doc, and soon I was leading Brian and Martin by a fair distance. My lungs were burning at this point, but I felt I was close to the top of the hill. But I rounded a corner and found only more hill. The next corner showed still more hill.   I backed off, and Brian and Martin cantered past me, not looking like they were working at all. Eventually we came to a level spot and stopped. The pastors had been done in and were pushing their bicycles and the other doc was waiting up for them. We regrouped, and then the revelation came. We had not even reached the hill. The hill we were intending to go up was the massive valley wall in front of us. I was exhausted, and had only completed the warm up. The pastors decided to call it a day and rode the down hill we had just climbed, and the doc went along to show them the way. So it was Martin, Brian, and me.

The road went from an easy uphill, to a steep uphill. Then the pavement ran out. Then the road started to do switchbacks. Now it was Martin and Brian’s turn to drop me. Demoralized, I continued to downshift until there were no more gears. I proceeded at about 2 miles an hour, winding up this hillside, wondering if I should continue, quit, vomit, or some combination of those options. After much suffering, I somehow found the energy to make it to the top of our climb. We had gained more than 1000 feet in one stretch.  And we were only half way up the valley wall.

I found Brian and Martin well rested waiting for me. They politely let me recover until they were assured I wasn’t going to choose the vomit option, and then we descended. It was glorious. Single track through villages, people’s back yards, and between terraced rice fields. At the bottom we found a tea shop and enjoyed some piping hot glasses of Chai, which was quite good after the quick ride down. I was back home by 8:15.

Since that first ride, I’m glad to say my legs and lungs have started to acclimate. We did one ride to the valley rim with a total of 2500 feet of climbing, much of which was compressed within a 4 mile stretch. Today we were able to ride the best single track of my life, with views for mile after mile of villages, rivers, and forests.

So as much as we complain about cultural stress, funny showers, and bad cheese, please know that we are blessed to have the best bicycling, possibly anywhere in the world.  To all my other 2 wheeled buddies out there, you know the way to get a busy doctor and language student out on the trail, so start saving up for your plane ticket and your guide fee, since I think my rates are about to go up.

More Pics on the Smugmug page  or check the Photos tab!

1 thought on “The Single Track Mind

  1. Can’t wait until Dave sees your blog. Just looked at all you photos. The mountains are breathtaking. This summer I went to Mt. Rainier. I made a few covered jars to commemorate the trip which I have never done before. My brother sent me ash from Mt. Mazama, a volcano that erupted 7700 years ago near Portland, Oregon & am I using it to glaze some of the pots.

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