Embarrassing Moments from Pinkbike, volume 2 – Sunday Comics with Taj Mihelich

The parking lots in Pisgah these days make it hard to remember the simple times of not so long ago, somewhere between elastomer forks and the creation of down country, when it was relatively rare to see other runners in the forest. If you didn’t stop to say hello because he was a friend of yours; it was also certainly nice to stop and say hello, and welcome a stranger to the undercover territory. On a weekend separate from Memorial Day, my good friend Tommy and I decided to hike Avery Creek, a longer trip that fits a camel full of snacks and more than a bottle of water.

It was a nice day; the forest had just woken up from a long winter sleep, the birds were chirping and the squirrels were running along the paths in front of us. The forest, although unpopulated by today’s standards, saw a sharp increase in the number of vacationers for the long weekend. As we came to a poorly marked intersection, we encountered two strangers, with bikes and kits that looked like it might be their first time in Pisgah. Knowing the twists and turns of Pisgah well and easily spotting someone who was lost, I politely offered some tips to complete the map they were arguing over, and asked the two ladies if they needed any help finding their way, as I would for anyone. A response of “we’re fine, thank you” – in a more than stern voice let us know that we should continue. So, have a good trip!

Now everyone who knows me knows that I have had gastrointestinal issues for years (it turns out I have celiac disease and a lot of food allergies). This sometimes led to unexpected stops at the edge of the track before I learned how to handle it. Halfway up the hour-long climb things weren’t going well. At the top of the climb, at an intersection that has 5 options, one of which leads to a dead end, I said to Tommy “man, I have to get off as soon as possible”. We still had some climbing left and riding more was not going to be a success for me. Not wanting to waste the hour-long gravel climb, Tommy encouraged me to just take care of it in the woods … not ideal but, he was right. Knowing that no one in their right mind would continue on the gravel road, which quickly ends in dead ends, I walked up the road out of sight and sort of into the woods, telling Tommy to keep an eye out for me. while I was dealing with my intestinal distress.

As I was told, a few minutes later, after Tommy had taken a quick and more normal bathroom break, our two “friends” from Eariler completed their climb. Tommy said “Hi” – they growled a no response, then to his surprise passed him, passed the first track option, the second … the third … and onto the gravel road No Exit. Frantically, he shouted “Hey! This is the wrong way! Trying to talk them out of seeing something they didn’t want. “We told you earlier, WE UNDERSTOOD IT,” they barked. He said he felt bad for ditching his watch on my behalf, but at this point he no longer felt bad for not preventing their day from being ruined. (I’m still not completely convinced that he tried so hard to talk them out of it.)

Let’s face it, cross country shoes and bibs have never made anyone look good using the antlers on a cool spring day, or any day for that matter. I had more or less finished my business but, since I was wearing bibs, I was practically naked. Now I wasn’t in the middle of the “road” but, I wasn’t really that far to the side either. It was more or less a field and the edges were full of brambles and too thick to be much further out. Nobody comes here anyway, do they?

There you go, I heard about it and then I see the two ladies walking towards me as I’m there crouching on the floor, bibs at my ankles, the rest of my clothes three meters away. I did a sort of panicked crab walk, I ran to try to hide and cover myself, wondering if I should yell something about them the wrong way or just try to hide . They turned around … everything was a blur to me, really. and by the time I got dressed I waited a bit to make sure they were walking up the trail and went back down to Tommy, I had convinced myself that they had just realized they were going in the wrong sense and came back down and up the trail.

Come find out, the ladies had pinned him straight through the intersection and into the gravel climb we had all just struggled with for over an hour. Tommy tried to yell “sorry, I tried to tell you this was a dead end”, but I think it fell on deaf ears. They apparently slowed down just enough to scream, “You didn’t tell us your BROTHER was up there,” which answered my question as to whether they noticed me.


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