At o’dark-thirty on Saturday morning, Dave and I left Long Island with our bikes loaded in the back of his pickup. We were heading three hours south into the sandy wilds of New Jersey for Meteor MC’s 2010 Ride in the Pines dual sport event.
Starting from the Wading Pines campground in Chatsworth, the route for Saturday was 70 miles of sandy lanes and trails that made their way through the Wharton State Forest. I knew the Pine Barrens were sandy, but never having been there before, I didn’t know just how sandy.
I make no allusion to having any idea what I am doing on a motorcycle once it leaves the safety of the pavement. So far it seems like it has been luck that safely carried me through to the other side of the trail as opposed to skill. I expected this ride to be much of the same.
One noticeable difference though was that I went in to the ride without the sinking feeling of defeat. This time I tried to take a different mental tact. Instead of psyching myself out I figured, hell – if those guys can do it so can I. Maybe I can’t do it with as much grace and speed, but if I take my time and don’t pressure myself too much, I should be fine. I really think that was the biggest favor I did myself.
Did I mention that the Pine Barrens are sandy? Near the tail end of the first half of the ride, we came upon a pocket of deep sugar sand that seemed to go on forever. This was the first section where I felt like I was not really in control of what I was doing. This was also the scene of my first drop. And second… and… third.
By the point that I’d dropped the bike for the third time in less than 300 feet, I felt hot and tired from picking it up. I sat there for a few minutes with my flooded bike, collecting my thoughts and taking sips from my camelback. I was frustrated but, still I didn’t feel deflated. That in an of itself was progress.
We motored on to the Wawa at the halfway point and grabbed a bite to eat. I was feeling generally good about my riding. It was a gorgeous fall day, the company was good and I was loving life.
Pete and Dave gave me some tips on how to deal with the deep sand which I tried to put into practice on the second leg of the ride after lunch. I was up on the pegs, keeping my speed up and allowing the bike to move around much more easily underneath me. I started to settle into my own comfortable rhythm going through the sandy whoops. That feeling of being out of control subsided.
In hindsight, maybe I felt a little too proud of myself. One minute I was cruising along at a good clip (for me) and the next minute I was on the ground seeing stars. You know that feeling when something hurts so bad that you can’t make any sound at all? Yea. That’s what I felt.
I lay on my back rocking side to side thinking OMG did I just break my hip?!? F*CK that hurts! I lay there for a few seconds trying not to freak out. I lifted my legs, wriggled my toes and when everything seemed to be working as it should, I rolled over onto my hands and knees and stood up. Yea, that’s was going to leave a mark.
I looked over at my beached whale of a bike and saw that I managed to find and fall on what seemed to be the only tree root stretching across the sandy trails of Pine Barrens. There we were in miles and miles of soft sand trails and I fell on something hard. Figures.
With my hip smarting like nobodies business, I just didn’t have the strength to pick my bike up again. Before long 3 guys from Meteor came up behind me and righted my bike and waited with me until I could get moving again. I felt kind of bad that they were obliged to babysit me until I could get my shit together but they were really kind about it.
That fall took the wind out of my sails. I rode the remaining 15 miles or so at a snails pace, wiping out once more for good measure. I felt really gun shy when I saw the sand getting deeper. My thigh and hip were on fire and I just couldn’t stand up on the pegs anymore so I wobbled my way through the remaining sand pockets.
It was such a relief to find Dave napping on the side of the trail waiting for me. I think he grew a full beard in the time he was sitting there. I felt bad that he was there for so long but it sure was nice to have the company. We rode back to the campground together.
I feel like I learned a lot on the ride and that I did the best that I was capable of doing at the time. So I’m happy about that. I can’t wait to get back out there and try again.
[EDIT February 26, 2011]
Just thought I would share some of sexy photos with you all. This time line covers about a 12 hours span following the day I fell.
My thigh began to blow up and was very sore. The lump was HUGE. Looking down, the lump stuck far enough out to rest a cup of coffee on. Kind of like my own portable side table.
It is now 5 months later, my thigh still has a visible lump on it.