Up In The Air

Torrential rain returns to Northwest Arkansas on Tuesday. I’m beginning to think it was Noah himself who named this state after an ark he saw. The volume of water draining from an aphotic sky is biblical. Gloom is the actual word used in the National Weather Service forecast and I deliberate how I’m going to shuttle all of my contemporaneous possessions three soaking wet miles to Boss Hawg Offroad. It’s too early to start drinking.

My first flight out of XNA on Wednesday is on a Brazilian-made Embraer E-170 regional jet. The overhead storage bins are microscopic. Another fun-fact entering into this equation is that I’ve never successfully flown through Miami without losing at least one checked bag. If you went to the University of American Airlines and majored in geography, you already know that you can’t get from Dallas to Boston without going straight through Miami. Pushing my luck now seems like a very bad idea. 

The pile of items to remain in Arkansas grows exponentially as I pair down to only the most essential articles. I’ll be bare bones when I meet the girls in New England, but hopefully the weather will be good and I won’t need much of what I originally brought. I get more or less ready to go and stare out the window. Identical four-bedroom one-story brick homes bathe in a heavy rain. It’s 10 am. 

I’m simply not going to get through the day without working in a mountain bike ride. Too many hours separate me from the now to the later. Digging through the “leave in Arkansas” pile, I grab some pre-soiled riding gear and get kitted. It’s going to be slog, but I can’t imagine idling through the day. Whatever doesn’t dry I’ll hang from my bike bag in Bryce’s back closet. There is so much water that the meticulously built singletrack trails become small rivers. I’m saturated clear through the skin, but it’s warm enough that I’m not cold. 

I’ve totaled 188 miles of riding dirt in 8 days. Of all the places across this part of the country to be grounded, I could have done a lot worse. It’s a trail-rich cycling-crazed community, I’ve made some new friends, and people here are genuine. I roll back into my driveway and strip down. I pressure wash my bike, my clothes, and my shoes. Brown rivers of mud wash into the lawn and I do my best to wring out as much moisture as possible, but there is no way to get things completely dry before I load them up for the trip across town. It’s 2 pm and I need to make my deposit before the shop closes at 5. I look at the local radar and see a potential break in the weather.

At 4:15 the rain stops and the pavement quickly dries up. I grab my massively overloaded day pack and jump back on my bike. It takes me about 15 minutes to pull the bike apart and reassemble it into my travel bag at Boss Hawg’s. I check in with Bryce, make a tentative plan to return sometime in Late June or early July, and toss him my keys. It’s a leap of faith, but I’m left with no other option. I’m now on foot, nothing on my back, and I’ve got a three-mile return trip. Luckily there is a brewery along my route and I’m able to replenish some fluids. Dinner is whatever I’ve got left in the fridge, meaning a hard-boiled egg, broccoli, and an apple. Tomorrow, I trade Arkansas for points east.

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