By Eddie Rea
Eddie is a good friend of mine and asked to write my column this week. Check it out. RC
On a recent visit back to California, I hooked up with a few good friends for a reunion mountain bike ride. After handshakes and hugs, the gang agreed on a remote trail and we were off for the day. The ride was great, it had all the ingredients to make it an epic: a mild fire road climb, a few hours of single track, a bit of hike-a-bike, a lost filtered water bottle (sorry folks), anxiety of limited water supply, fresh bear tracks, a newly discovered single-track, and a downhill that had my chest in the seat and a foot clipped out as I skied the descent.
I was just riding along when John asked me which I thought was better: riding the trails in Washington or the trails in California. I pondered a bit and without too much thought (because my concentration was on the loose rocks littered ahead) I responded, ?Neither, they?re both really cool, just different.? The following day I boarded a plane destined for Seattle and on my flight home I started to wonder, ?Do I like Washington better than California for riding?? I pondered about it as the plane ascended, and soon became absorbed in recollecting all the trails I?ve ridden over the years and condensed them into a head to head comparison of the two geographic regions.
Smog vs. Rain– I think back to the trails I rode in So. Cal., which I had stumbled upon on my own: Whittier Hills, Sam Merril Trail, and Glendora Mountain Road. I found them by driving along on the freeway and looking at the lines, which zigzagged up the hillside. I just follow the line to the bottom and drive there?pretty simple. Try spotting a trail like that in the Seattle area. Good luck, too many trees! However, the typical white drapes which cover the NW landscape is far more palatable than the frequent white haze that creeps up the valleys and canyons in and around the LA Basin. Seattle- 1 LA-0
Poison Oak vs. Blackberries– I moved from California to Western Washington in late Spring. Just in time for Blackberry super-growth. Immediately I discovered why everybody was donning tights and long sleeves on a 70-degree day. The Blackberry vines grow at an astonishing rate and drape across many of the local trails. Almost as if alive, these vines will attack arms, legs and faces leaving victims with several long thin bloody abrasions. Thankfully, the local equestrian groups trim back all of the offending vines by early June and the sweet reward is an easy access to a quick snack. The only problem with this is that the vine clippings cover the trail and (you guessed it) extra tubes are a must. Perhaps there’s a rant on an Equestrian web-site about how Mountain Bikers in the NW don?t help with maintenance?point is we should help by clearing the trails with them.
The poison oak that litters the trailside on some of my favorite trails in California is a little more lethal. In about the time it wold take for a vine scrape to heal, the after effects of contact with Poison Oak are just setting in (with a vengeance). I still remember my first encounter with Poison Oak. Hours after warning me about it on a San Gabriel Mountain trail, I asked Billy when we stopped for a snack, ?Hey, what does Poison Oak look like?? With a devious grin he replied, ?See where you?re standing?that’s all Poison Oak.?
Based upon the merit that a Blackberry tastes better than a Cortisone shot feels good, Seattle gets the nudge again.
Snakes vs. Frogs– There are no poisonous snakes in Western Washington! Or at least that’s what I?m told. I have had a number of close calls with rattlesnakes in California. I even caught one once. A rattlesnake is even the focal point of ?my worst date,? and that’s a story in itself. I am however much happier dodging frogs on my secret trail with confidence that any snake I encounter will be more scared of me than I of they.
Once again, it’s an easy victory for Seattle.
In review it is quite apparent that my comparisons are a bit skewed rating Western Washington as a superior region for off road cycling than Southern California. ?Unfair comparison,? some may cry and I agree. The reason I let Seattle win is to make a point. The simple point is that I would rather endure smog, poison oak and rattlesnakes to be able to ride with my closest friends than ride solo in what many people consider Mountain Bike paradise. Until my next visit, I shall ride in spirit with my good friends from California?