Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

Finding home – on the bike trail


Community and relationships are as important as anything else on earth. Last weekend I discovered a priceless, strong, fit, and unrelenting community. 

When our kids began college I quickly slowly learned to listen more, encourage their own decision making and be grateful anytime they told us where they were going.

So when our son said, “I’m going to Jarrod’s Place this weekend.” I gave my default reaction: “How fun!” and began running through my mental Rolodex of our son’s friends and scoured my brain for a “Jarrod”. No luck.`

Well, if it’s not someone’s home, it sounded like a great place for a hoagie and a cold beer, nope Coke, or maybe a place you’d stop on a long drive to grab a cup of coffee and rest.

Turns out it’s better.

Sitting on the side of a mountain in Summerville, Georgia, is  Jarrod’s Place. Not a diner or coffee shop, but a shuttle-serviced bike park, the location of our son’s Enduro Race and home to one of the strongest, trusting, and daring communities around.

The only way I can describe this group is to have you think of the feeling you get on a snowy day when everyone seems to get along and life seems a little easier, or the feeling of home where there’s no need to explain who or why. You can just be you.

First off – “shuttle-serviced bike park” sounds like an oxymoron, so let me explain. There are a few definitions of “Enduro racing”. If you are a parent of an enduro rider, it is basically code for “Insanity”. If you are an enduro racer (any age), it is the thrill of a lifetime. 

According to the Liv-cycling website, Enduro is a form of mountain bike racing, with an influence from European car rally racing and motorbike enduro racing. 

“The concept was simple: get yourself to the top of a mountain and race to the bottom time-trial style. In general, modern enduro races involve anywhere from 3-6 timed stages. The timed portions of the race are mostly downhill but can vary in steepness, length, and difficulty depending on location. Between each stage, there will be untimed “transfer stages” that are mostly uphill. Depending on the race, transfer stages can involve sections of hike-a-bike, a chair lift, and/or good old-fashioned pedaling. Enduro combines elements of all racing disciplines from the physical fitness necessary for cross-country racing, the mental stamina necessary for XC-style stage races and the bike-handling skills to navigate technical gravity-fed singletrack.”

We arrived on Sunday after he had started the race which involved five “runs” up the mountain. The riders take the shuttle for the first run, and for the next four runs, they pedal up the mountain which takes 20-25 minutes. They then double back down in approximately 2 minutes, yes 2 minutes!. 

If it wasn’t enough to see our son fly down the mountain with leaps and bounds, it was just as shocking to see multiple-aged riders zoom back to the bottom, take a swig of water, grab a hotdog or banana, and pedal back up. 

One by one, they came down: each covered in mud and each with their own animated story.

One barreled down the mountain and announced to all of his teammates (at least 10 times) as they descended behind him, “Dude! My gears broke, let’s do it again!” 

Followed by a group of high school kids whose lead rider yelled “I landed a huge whip!” 

Then there’s the nine-year-old boy who slid into the finish down the mountain, declaring he “hauled a–!” “I mean, did you see me? I completely dominated and hauled a–!!” (There’s poetic license in this community – what is said on the mountain stays on the mountain – no matter the age.)

Or the 50-something dad who declared he “cased it!” (back tire clipped the top of the landing).

It was clear every single rider had conquered whatever comfort zone they had and pushed on to the next. They tweaked their technique and seemed to almost thank mother nature for the remote unforgiving terrain. With no phone service at the top of the mountain and watching the riders, each made me feel more humble about my own place in the world. All of them help the other no matter the issue.

Friends fix each other’s bike chains, patch their tires, share bikes, and stick together. As I observed, I thought cycling may perhaps be the answer to all divisions between age groups and cultures. Trails don’t care about differences, pain will come, problem-solving will happen, and they will all find an alliance beneath it all. Because truly, if we don’t have each other and community to cling to, what is there?

I’ve heard riders say when you are nailing a section of trail, the feeling of flow comes and you barely have to think. The ride heals worry and exhaustion from the world.

So is you’re longing for community and true connection, grab your courage and head out to “Jarrod’s Place”. It feels like home.

What I learned: 

The idea that we are all self-reliant is bogus. Social connections are all related to happiness and satisfaction and good health. So when you discover a community you love, dig in, even with people that make you nuts – maybe…just maybe…you can find common ground on a bike trail.

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