Trailblazer and the Biffmaster
In mountain biking terms, they call it the calm before the yard sale. I was up out of my saddle barreling down a short, steep singletrack section channeling my inner Ned Overend when I somehow planted my front wheel deep into the soft scree of Big Bend Ranch State Park.
The bike came to a complete stop and I was sent flying ever so gracefully through the hot and humid southwest Texas air. One leg pointed north and one pointed due south before I landed face first in the prickly desert brush. My brand new Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Carbon Hardtail 29 landed to my left while my hotel key, sunscreen, water bottles, bike tools, a silver foiled covered two-pack of Pop Tarts — the world’s most desired endurance food, by the way — and the pilot were left scattered all over the crash site. Hence the term yard sale.
I had been invited to be part of the Warrior 100K Mountain Bike Ride, the inaugural event for the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Social Enterprise Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to highlight the bravery and strength of the wounded warriors and the organizations that support them. The W100K was held in April and the guests of honor were 14 servicemen and women who had been injured or had lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mountain biking with the group during the three day adventure would also be representatives from four charities who raise funds to support the needs of our injured troops; Wounded Warriors, Ride 2 Recovery, Challenged Athletes Foundation (which I co-founded) and World T.E.A.M. Sports. We would ride about 12 miles on day one, 30 miles day two and 20 miles day three. All of it off-road in the 90 degree heat and sauna-like breezes of the desert.
The idea was to ride 100K with President Bush and the group known as Peloton One, which was at least two zip codes in front of me at the time of my first solo circumnavigation of Big Bend attempt. Over the three days of mountain biking I found myself, in so many different ways, falling and flying off my bike and into each one of the 1,200 species of plants while also getting up close and personal with the majority of the 3,600 types of insects that call the area home.
The Secret Service folks who attempted to shadow Mr. Bush — code name Trailblazer — during the ride knew all too well that they would have their work cut out for them. The guy with the number 43 plate on the front of his stead can definitely ride the mountain bike. If you’re not ready to rock and roll, he will leave you in the dust. Or, in my particular case, in the cacti.