I didn’t ride Saturday, I went shopping with my wife. I don’t like shopping, but sometimes a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, and if that means wandering around a mall for 2 hours then so be it. In all fairness it was actually a pretty fun day, Shaundo and I have always been big fans of “Slug Bug” where you punch your opponents shoulder and yell, “slug bug” whenever you see a Volkswagen Beetle on the road. Well we took the fun inside the mall and created the Game “North Face Chase”
The game is fun and easy. While North Face jackets may look exactly like a 20 dollar sports fleece they have both a front and back label in a highly contrasting color so its very easy to spot. In an hour walking around the mall I had scored 11 and Shauna 7 then we lost count.
I’m sure you’ve noticed but North Face jackets have this winter become ubiquitous of the middle class. They are everywhere! Now this isn’t the first time I’ve spouted off about North Face jackets, and I know some of you own them, let me assure you, dear readers, that my goal isn’t to mock you, only to explore this phenomenon of 200 dollars jackets become the de facto uniform of the Middle Class Yuppie. (And anyone with the mental fortitude and curiosity to read this blog is definitely not a yuppie.)
So in Southern Illinois, being the backwater that it is, we don’t see new things until they’ve made the circuit around the country (and most of the rest of the world) and finally arrived here in the arm pit. I think perhaps the first time I saw a North Face jacket was around the year 2000 when I went to my first Fat Tire Festival. There was a mountain bike hippie there with this big puffy North Face jacket that looked like it had been around the world, twice. On the very cold late October morning I asked him with chattering teeth if that jacket was as warm as it looked, he told me that it was warmer and that it was the last coat he ever needed.
So undoubtedly the jackets are of high quality but this is high quality sports wear, designed to keep you warm while scaling “The North Face” of Half Dome not keep you stylish while you parade around the mall. I’d like to draw a comparison with the explosion in popularity of the oversized 4×4 Sport Utility Vehicle explosion. See being middle class isn’t easy, you’ve got to work hard, put in long hours at the office, watch enough TV to know what’s cool and make sure you’re kids have the newest Playstation and Grand Theft Auto. You’d love to put the SUV into four wheel drive, head out into the wilderness and have adventures, but you never find the time.
Now you don’t need to, you can just wear the jacket of someone whose had adventures.
Sunday I got in a ride with the crew, our new go to place for soft conditions in winter is The Back Nine of High Knob. Every area we ride has a back nine, which confuses people sometimes since they think the back nine is a specific place. There is a 25 mile ride at High Knob, it’s not even close to riding everything but it’s a good loop. With the slow winter conditions and shorter days we’re just doing the back half which is all benchcut and has some gravel in the soft spots. It also has a very high density of switchbacks.
We were pressed for time on the way out with darkness hitting the hollows around 5 PM. Eli was worried about Panthers, Wolves, Bigfoot and Vampires. Almost everyone swears that they have seen a black panther, wolf, or bigfoot at some point in the Shawnee. Having spent a great deal more time in the woods then most people and never seeing one of these mythical creatures Eli has grown scared that they are stalking him.
With about 2 miles to the Truck my rear tire exploded. A 6 inch section of sidewall was just gone along with a similar section of the Slime tube. Everyone made Predator and Alien comments about the glowing green slime that covered my legs and bike was beginning to pool up underneath me. With the encroaching darkness, only two miles to go and no way to fix my bike I just kept riding it. I got over a mile then the tube came out wrapped around the wheel. Eli faced his fears and came back for me. We had to cut the tube out and I jogged the rest of the way to the truck. I swear I saw glowing eyes in the hollowed out trunks of dead trees.