"Epic ride", I don't use that word very often. When I think of an epic ride I think of 40-50 miles in a back country environment. A ride where you don't just bring water but a whole pack full of snacks and maybe some tools or first aid equipment. Usually there would be some wrong turns maybe even getting lost and not getting back to the trailhead before sunset.
I wouldn't call my ride yesterday a ride of epic proportions, not for me at least but I would call it that for my dogs. All week I had plans to explore some of the trails not normally ridden at Steele Creek Park in Bristol. Alan and I are working on a project for NETTA where we provide trail descriptions and video footage for all the local "legal trails" in the tri-cities in an effort to help promote tourism and earn a little $$$ for our local club. The plan was for Alan and I to ride Steele Creek @ 1pm yesterday but in true Scooby fashion he manged to back out on me in favor of riding the Erwin Greenbelt, a paved path for old folks and kids on training wheels. In his defense we did have to document this one as well but it was not in our plans for Thursday riding. I had a feeling it was coming when he started complaining about riding Steele Creek, I've seen it before and I'm sure I'll see it again. No offense Alan, I'm just telling a story here and you're part of it.
Not really wanting to ride alone and since they were needing the exercise I decided to take the dogs with me not really knowing if they were allowed. I knew the trails we would be riding were not used much so I didn't figure it would be much of a problem. While we were gearing up I grabbed the leashes something I don't normally do and shoved them in my jersey pocket. The dogs and I started out on the usual familiar trails out of the Rooster Front side and began filming. I did take a map not really having a route in mind, I just wanted to hit a few trails I've yet to ride. After crossing over the ridge that surrounds the lake we took a left and headed to the backside of the park. Not all of the trails,... wait I mean most of the trails are not marked by signs. Most are marked by a colored blaze on a tree. The park really needs to use more than 3 colors since there are alot more than just 3 trails out there. I quickly realized that not all the trails in the park are on the map and that I was wasting my time even looking at the map. After riding/pushing up and down some hills I was surprised were even called trails I decided to give Fat Tony a call in hopes that he could tell me if I was going the right way. He told me it had been a while since he had ridden out there and the details were a little fuzzy. It didn't help things that I couldn't tell him exactly where I was. There were alot of dead ends and everything was either straight up or straight down so the thought of having to do alot of back tracking was haunting me. Normally I wouldn't have been too stressed about the situation because I've been in worse predicaments but I had the dogs with me and they weren't used to the mileage not to mention we were running low on water. Back in the day it was nothing for Moonshine to knock out 20 miles at Tsali but that was in her younger days and Jackson, well he never was much of a long distance runner. I knew I could find my way back the way I came but I was hoping that would be my last resort. After taking a few chances on some trails that ended up being wrong turns or dead ends I finally turned around and started back tracking to a more familiar place. I found one last turn off that I thought had to be my turn so I took it and it was all downhill. If this was not it and I had to turn around I would have had to carry Jackson out of there.
When I reached the bottom the trail took a sharp right and at the end I could see a gravel road. I thought this has to be the way. When I reached the road I didn't recognize anything. To my left went down further than I could see and to my right went straight up. I could hear something that resembled traffic going down so I took that choice hoping I wasn't too far from the trailhead. As it turned out I was on private property that belonged to a cell phone company. The gravel road dropped me out into a neighborhood but nothing looked familiar. I could tell I wasn't far from the main highway that cuts through Bristol. This was good because I could figure my way out via the highway but bad because I had 2 dogs in tow which meant I would be walking with bike in one hand and 2 dogs in the other vs. riding out in a matter of minutes. One last call to Fat Tony for some directions. He found my location, gave me the directions home which included a dead end street than ran into a creek. All I had to do was cross the creek and I would be home free. I can do that, the dogs needed to cool off anyway so I thanked him again, hung up and headed down the road. Well the map didn't say anything about the dead end stopping in front of a residence before the creek and with no way around I had to back track once again. As you can guess I was attracting alot of attention, here's a quiet neighborhood in the middle of the day and you've got some strange guy with mud and lycra on walking a muddy bike in one hand and two weary, muddy dogs in the other. We got alot of funny looks not to mention the attention of every dog in that neighborhood. I decided my best course of action was to head for the parkway which I knew with out a doubt which way to get home.
When we reached the parkway we came out at one of the local car dealerships which luckily had some water spigots out front so we were able to refill the bottles and cool down a bit. It probably took us a good 45 minutes to walk down the parkway then to our turn off that lead to the trailhead. A couple of times I thought Jackson was going to quit on me, he had about enough and I was having to give him words of encouragement the whole way.
When we finally arrived at the trailhead I let the dogs get in the creek to wash off and cool down. After a few minutes I told them let's go home. Moonshine came right out but Jackson didn't budge. He wasn't going anywhere with me. I went ahead and loaded up Moonshine in the truck and went back to the creek to retrieve Jackson and I found him hiding behind a tree still in the water. I don't think he realized where we were but he did know one thing he wasn't going anywhere. After some more words of encouragement he finally came out and I was able to load him up.
Four hours later we were headed home to a shower and dinner. Melinda met us at the door and wouldn't let us in the house until both the dogs had a bath in the yard. After their bath both dogs got treated to some dog food and green beans, their favorite. I don't think Jackson will be asking to go with me for a while, Moonshine on the other hand is ready to go now.