You’d think by now I’d know better, but it turns out when it comes to bikes and climbing, you never learn. You might get faster, but you never get smarter.
And so when John and I decided to take a day away from our keyboards and internet tethers, I naturally decided we should go ride the Figueroa Mountain Loop, one of the local climbing rides. I’d done it before, but John never had. I’ll admit it right now: It was all my idea.
I wanted to ride to where the world couldn’t reach me. That part was easy. It was getting home that was the hard part.
We packed the bikes in a rented Honda Accord. My secret superpower: packing bikes into rental cars. There was a parking spot in the shade, a sure sign of a lucky day. We changed in the parking lot. The tourists looked confused.
We rolled out at noon, pushed along by a screaming tailwind. We knew eventually we’d pay for that, but for now, we felt giddy like kids let out of school for the day. We were out for a bike ride. We were going to climb some hills. What could possibly go wrong with this?
There’s a deep, blue pool and a rope swing hangs over it. You can picture it in your mind. You can almost feel the cool relief of the clear water, as you and your best friend follow the overgrown trail, the tall grasses dry and bleached in the beating sun.
You’re hot. Uncomfortably, disgustingly hot. Sweat drips down the back of your shorts. Your drenched t-shirt clings. Your toes squelch in your shoes.
It’s an essential ritual of summer, this hike to the water. Maybe it’s a rock quarry or a high-altitude lake or a pond you pass by every day. Summer transforms them into magical escapes.
You head out to the trail with the annoying climb because there’s a perfect swimming spot on the way home. You travel three miles out of your way because there’s a hidden pond laying in wait in the trees. It becomes an all-consuming quest — always to be swimming, that’s all you want.
Your shoes send up dragon puffs of dust as you walk. You’re tired of the sun and the heat and the walking, but you’re tantalizingly close now. You glimpse the glimmering blue through the trees and imagine the fresh caress of the water on your skin.
We both saw the lake at exactly the same time. We were just riding along, and suddenly there it was, winking at us through the trees.
Read the rest at Adventure Journal.