Nepaug

Being a dad is a great job. It requires large doses of responsibility and energy. And like many of life’s paradoxes, the middle age dad shoulders most of the responsibility but it’s the seven year old kid that has all the energy. He’s got a lot on his mind, he likes to talk about it, and I think that’s great. But sometimes when it’s just the two of us, I start to get this feeling like squirrels are running around inside my head. And the squirrels have gotten into some Redbull, and are singing “Old Town Road”. Especially when we’re getting ready to leave in the morning

But once we’re in the car and driving, the squirrels take a nap, and my own thoughts bubble up and fill the void left by their chatter. And on our way to summer camp the other day, I was thinking about how different things are today. And I was thinking about how my mom used to say that travelling to different states isn’t as much fun as when she was young because wherever you go, you find all of the same stores, with all of the same clothes, or food, or whatever. Back before Walmart, Olive Garden, or even McDonald’s, I guess when you used to travel, even within the same country, things were a little weirder than they are now.

In many ways we do in fact live in a homogenized culture when it comes to where we go to shop, or eat, or what movies you see or what music you hear on the radio. But today we have the internet, and all kinds of weird and strange things are a click away, despite how many McDonalds you drive by. I cut my cable a few years back and left the 200 or so basic cable channels I had for the infinite variety of content pumped out through YouTube, Amazon, and Netflix.

Years ago, almost everyone watched Cheers on Thursday nights, well 93 million did anyway, which was about 64% of everyone watching TV on a Thursday night back then. Now I watch a Youtube Channel by a hipster cyclist in Nova Scotia named Spindatt who has 17,000 subscribers. And millions of people are watching millions of other different things, spelunking down rabbit holes of weird hobbies and interests.

Take extreme ironing, for example. Thanks, Youtube.
Cheese Rolling. Who knew

And on my drive to work, instead of playing another Charles Bukowski audiobook on Youtube I let Pandora take over, and play songs curated from an algorithm calculated using my own likes and dislikes and god knows what other data this phone is collecting, playing songs I often would never listen to otherwise. And well, apparently I’m into some weird stuff these days myself.

Eddie, you understand me so well.
Those windshield wipers slappin’ out a tempo,
Keepin’ perfect rhythm with the song on the radio,
But I got to keep rollin’

The narrator and theme song performer of “Dukes of Hazzard,” himself.

I’m sure the internet has a lot to do with the variety of cool stuff we can now buy online or in stores and especially all the weird stuff we “need” for all our weird hobbies. Like my steel single speed mountain bike with plus sized tires. Talk about weird.

On the way home from work, I took my weird bike to Nepaug State Forest, in New Hartford, CT.  I had gone on a guided group ride there 4 years ago and haven’t been back since. I often pass right by the parking lot while driving to and from Charlotte Hungerford hospital each time thinking “I should really go riding there again”.

A few weeks prior, my friend and I were gearing up to go mountain biking at Cowles Park in East Granby when a younger guy in the parking lot, who was unfamiliar with the trails, asked if he could follow us around. “No problem”, we cautiously agreed, my friend and I being somewhat directionally challenged.    I’m guessing he was in his mid 20s. Maybe I had something to prove, being not so in my mid 20s, and maybe I pushed a little harder out of the gate than I might usually. Which isn’t a bad thing. You don’t get faster if you don’t push yourself and motivation is motivation no matter where it comes from.

About 3/4 of the way through our ride we stopped to check our bearings and the young guy was telling about how he had gone on a ride at Nepaug. Apparently there has been a great deal of trail building going on. The tone of his voice modulated louder with what may have been surprise, or enthusiasm,or both, while divulging who built these new trails at Nepaug. “The trail builders there all old people. Like in their 40s”. I think both my forty something friend and I were laughing inside, but we kept it in and kept riding.

Probably 20-30 minutes later when we were weaving through a snaking section of trail headed back towards the parking lot. I was leading, the young guy was behind me and my friend was third. And from the back of our group, like a PA announcement, came “Old guys. like in their forties.” I guess after containing himself for last 20 minutes or so, my friend,s aging ability to hold in laughter finally crapped out. Back in the parking lot, we said goodbye to the young guy. My fellow quadragenarian and I laughed. We laughed at how old we are, as is only appropriate among people the same age. And my friend pointed out that he felt the same way about us old people back before he was one.

So there I was at Nepaug. I had recorded a track when I rode there a few years back. I loaded that track into my handheld GPS and started riding down some of these trails that some old guys in their forties built.

I followed the track from ride a few years ago on my old handheld GPS. I can’t remember the last time that GPS got me where I wanted to go, and it just managed to confuse me again. I missed a turn, and my frustration compounded the irritation boiling inside me at the ill tempered horse flies trying and sometimes succeeding to pass through the air vents in my helmet. I think they had gotten into some red bull also. So I cut the ride short.

The purple line circles where my blue track did not follow the red route as intended
The red line is where I wanted to go. Blue is the route I took. I think I can figure it out next time.

So I’ll have to give Nepaug another shot. I’m pretty sure I can find the trails I was looking for if I go back. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll wait until fall when the flies are gone.

So what did we learn from this adventure? As far as mountain biking goes, it’s a great time to be alive. There are so many places to ride with skillfully built trails, you can find your way around new trails with a smart phone, and the modern gear makes riding so much fun. You also get to meet a lot of great human beings, of various ages.

And, maybe I should buy stock in Redbull.

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