BACK TO MY OLD STOMPING GROUNDS

BACK TO MY OLD STOMPING GROUNDS

Richard J. Cunningham


I spent most of my life behind the orange curtain. That’s a popular phrase used to describe Orange County by snooty metro-types from the East Coast or the Bay Area in Central, California. I moved North, and way from this bundle of coastal cities when I took the job here at MBA. I was pretty hooked up with the local mountain bike scene while I was a resident, but when I left, I rarely found the time to ride back in my old stomping grounds.
This day was an exception. I had committed to ride with some of my Orange County mountain bike pals who were on the softer side of the fitness pendulums arc. It was a chance to cruise up the shins of majestic Santiago Peak–a distinctive mountain that dominates all views of this verdant coastal plain like a lesser Mount Fuji. It was three glorious hours of chatting with my buddies and taking in the view without the pressure and pain associated with racer-boy rides.
In sharp contrast to the arid and unpopulated singletracks that I now frequent, the Trabuco trail was teeming with activity. As we unloaded our bikes alongside Old Mojeska road, the still morning air was punctuated with the thud of car doors being slammed shut, clicking gears and idle trail head chatter. A young man, struggling to fix a chain at the gate politely refused our help as the five of us pedaled our way up the rocky mining road in the hot April sun.
We met a wide variety of trail users. Mountain bikers ranged from spodes on department store junkers to serious racers on World-Cup look-alike machines. Hikers were out in force too, and we threaded our way through families on parade, power-striders, runners, and manly men clad in Price Club camouflage. What struck me was how well everyone was getting along.
Riding up the mountain was a string of pleasant greetings which ranged from quick waves off the handlebars to small talk with a couple from New Jersey on the edge of an overlook. I got the distinct sense that mountain bikers were accepted as another user group here–not simply tolerated like we are in so many other places. There was reciprocity among the mountain bike community as well. Downhill speeds were often quick, but cyclists rode with an eye out for other users and braked early. I never witnessed an impolite pass this day.
On the way home, 90 miles to the north, I reflected on the day’s experiences. The fact that trail users coexist in Orange County is no coincidence. User groups and land managers who have traditionally opposed each other have begun to realize that joining together to acquire open space, to build trails and to maintain these precious community assets for all users–is far more important than getting into a pillow fight about who should or shouldn?t be allowed in the back country. Sure, there are some anti-everyone jerks out there, but in this community, their voices are muted by reason.
I guess what made riding behind the orange curtain so great was that I didn?t have to think about political rubbish. I could ride my bike, hang with my friends and take in the scenery–alongside a whole bunch of folks doing the same thing in a slightly different way.

 

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