Friday, March 20, 2015

Lost River: A Fish Rides the Mountains

We descended into Moorfield 2,500 feet in clean morning air. "Smells like Old Bay," I said. "That's the chicken plant," said Jay. Moorfield is the chicken processing capitol of something-or-other. It wasn't the smell of Old Bay, though; it was the rotisserie department of Safeway, an oiled, turned 6-month roaster thrust into the nostrils.

Maybe that's what that white ghost giant was on the mountain range to the north: the souls of the million processed hens. Our start to the day.

Nineteen riders sailed through chicken Auschwitz chatting and looking to the mist where we were headed. The ringed mountain range to the north and west led into rain, mist, cloud--it would be a wet start to the planned eighty miles and nine thousand vertical.

Up through clouds on Williamsport Twin Mountain Road we slowly lost each other until we were mostly alone in the dripping trees and dormant and dead growth. Distant gobbles of turkey. Peeling down arm warmers, off gloves and sunglasses.

Near the end of the climb the low clouds parted and we could look down and see where we had passed, but the sun still lay hidden behind a thick layer above.


Then we descended back through the low hanging vapor.

video
video by Mvkel

From there we turned into the Nature Conservancy's Greenland Gap. Greenery bloomed on rocks around the North Fork of Patterson Creek and the aptly named Cold Spring, where the temperature dropped mysteriously as boulders and rock walls formed in the "Age of Fishes" 300 million years ago rose so high above us that we hardly noticed them, obscured by our helmet lids.

If we had the awareness and tools, we could have found within that rock 25-foot tall fungi, the tallest plants of that era, or maybe Dunkleosteus, not one of Dunkin' Donuts earliest promotions, but rather a  30-foot-long fish, a "hypercarnivorous apex predator."


Our own hypercarnivorous apex predators had already attacked and the rest of us schooled behind, hoping to confuse. When we hit the base of Mount Storm, they struck, and for four miles shreds of flesh and suffering cast off from their strikes fell backwards to me as I spun upward with the original apex predator, Jay.
I tried again on the next climb, and again on the 2,200 final climb home, but my Dunkleosteus days, it's clear, are done.

Thankfully, this, among other things, awaited us back at the Barn:
pic by yoni_abooty

Sipping Japanese whisky, eating kale and perfectly cooked and seasoned flank steak, gathering around to hear filmmaker Jørgen Leth make an innuendo of a bike race (e.g., "Merckxx's fluid thrusting rhythm) in his 1973 Giro documentary Stars and Watercarriers. No surprise that Leth later attracted controversy for his memoir, in which he describes having sex with young girls abroad, and for his film, Erotic Man, also about his experience having sex with poor under-age girls, a work critics labelled "dirty old man cinema."

We didn't know offhand that Jørgen was indeed a pedophile, but much of the weekend in West Virginia was spent in the vernacular of Jørgen, because it was indeed disgusting, and appropriate for a cycling team to use when trying to disgust each other.

Which, after all, is the point of going into the woods in the cold and wet Spring and riding all day: achieving complete misery to the point of disgust.
A bike ride can sometimes be a trip into the deep past.  It can take you through the 300 million year old fish earth or through your own 300 million year old fish brain. It can reconnect the two.