Mountain 10 Speed

Training for the Iditarod, I mean to ride my bike in Leadville, is going pretty well. I haven’t had any problems adding a bunch of “miles” to the “travels” on my bike to nowhere. I’ll be getting my actual bicycle out as soon as the yard is under control and yeah; I know that might never happen. I’ll get out the bike anyway.

I don’t know out how involved I really want get with my sports equipment. I want new bindings on my skis. I want to get my bike tuned up for REAL. That would be a lot simpler if I could ride it to the bike shop, but I can’t. It’s 18 miles away and I don’t think they give people rides back home.

Sometimes I miss city living. It was great in Denver when I was going to grad school and commuting — by bike — to my job at the University of Denver law school which was then downtown by the art museum. There was a bike shop around the corner from my apartment. I could carry my 10 speed Raleigh Record ❤ down the stairs and to the shop if it needed anything. It was pretty snazzy having that level of convenience.

One bored Saturday afternoon, I took my ten speed (road bike; mountain bikes didn’t exist yet) up to Waterton Canyon outside of Littleton. I wanted an adventure, and the dirt road that penetrated that lovely place along the South Platte River seemed plausible. It NOW has a bike trail, so I was clearly ahead of the curve (ha ha).

It’s a gentle 6 mile climb along the river. Everything started out great but about 2 miles up, I got a flat and had no way to fix it. OH well. I turned around and started walking my bike down the canyon. It was a goat head thorn…


It might have been May that year, or September. The day was warm but not blistering. I walked along with my crippled bike and encountered others walking up or down the trail/road. One of them was a friendly old guy (maybe 50, but don’t get your knickers in a bunch; I was 25 or so at the time. It’s all a matter of perspective…) who walked along with me. He was good company, and I thought it was kind of cool that just by going OUT there on an otherwise lonely Saturday I could end up in an interesting conversation with someone who knew the canyon and where to look for bighorn sheep.

Waterton Canyon is part of Denver’s water supply. At the top is a dam and reservoir. That was a lucky thing for me that day because, about the time I was getting sick of walking and chatting, feeling hot and thirsty, a water truck came by and picked up me and the old guy. We put the bike in the back of their pickup and rode down with our feet hanging over the open tailgate.

The next day I wrote my first short story. I showed it to my boyfriend who was in the creative writing program. He read it and asked if he could take it home where he read it again. I don’t have the story anymore, but I have his comments engraved in my mind. “Your story is good. It has energy and it MOVES.” He made some disparaging comments about his fellow creative writing classmates, but I don’t remember them.

I finally found a photo online of a bike just like my actual bike!!! It was a wonderful bicycle and I wish I’d never sold it, but I had to go to China, right?

P.S. I just looked up the history of the goat head thorn and learned they grow all over the world. Their Latin name is “Tribulus terrestris” which is absolutely perfect.

30 thoughts on “Mountain 10 Speed

  1. Funny the perspective on the ‘old’ guy. Nowadays when I read about someone my age dying, I think “But they were so young.”

  2. Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with goat’s heads, only sand burrs. They made running around barefoot a dicey proposition when I was young. Didn’t stop me. Made a mental map of where they grew and didn’t go there.

  3. Funny how objects can trigger memories. That was a bit of bad luck getting a puncture, but at least you had some good company as you were walking until you were rescued.

    But I have to say those goat head thorns look just like caltrops! I’ve never seen a thorn like that, but they’re just like the historical sabbotage instruments designed to thwart the progression of any moving thing. Good luck with the training, Martha, but whatever you do, steer clear of those pesky thorns! 🙂

      • That’s strange, Martha – that’s exactly what I was thinking about caltrops being modelled on those evil-looking thorns. 🙂 I don’t know how long the plant has been around, but the thorns really do resemble caltrops, so if they were around back in the Roman times it would be easy to believe they were the inspiration. When I first saw the picture I thought they were them!

        I didn’t know you could get thorn proof tyres. I could have done with some of those on our walks when my kids were in the off-road pushchair. We were always getting punctures! 🙂

        • I think those nasty thorns (which grow close to the ground on vines with pretty yellow flowers) have been around forever. I just looked and they grow all over the world. Look at their awesome Latin name! Tribulus terrestris. So accurate!

          • Oh that’s wonderful Latin name, and you’re right – it’s incredibly appropriate! If, as you’ve discovered, they have been around that long and grow everywhere, then maybe we really have uncovered the inspiration for caltrops – how fascinating! 😀

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