The late summer weather for our trip to exotic Michigan was outstanding. Sunny, clear, not humid, not debilitatingly hot. It had strangely rained in early August, so the grass was green and lush and the trees were happy. One significant climatological difference this summer was that there were very few nuisance insects. Something about the weird weather – late frost and/or spring drought – resulted in nearly 0 mosquitos and 0 aggressive biting flies. That is a remarkably different experience here.

One of the best ways to take advantage of this unusual situation is to go into the forest and not worry about perspiration. While I did want wear clothes this time, I thought the finest way to experience this is by mountain biking.

The oldest cousin in my nuclear clan, the only one older than me, Eric, over in the civilized town of Ann Arbor, is an expert on the Potawatomi trail up by Hell, Michigan. I called and scheduled a run.

Now really, I am a street riding man. But the nature immersion of mountain biking while I am in Michigan is appealing to me.

I have been spending my time body surfing, big wave swimming, and watching surfers on Lake Michigan beaches and climbing gigantic sand dunes at Holland and Saugatuck state parks, also a small secret park with a concrete tunnel thru the dune. So, putting on extra clothing, beyond swim trunks and flipflops was a bit if a concern for me.

Exotic Northern Sand-based Plantlife

Exotic Northern Sand-based Plantlife

1996 Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo with SLX and Rock Shox, improved with steel spiked aluminum BMX pedals, new headset, cassette/chain, shifters, and good tires.

1996 Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo with SLX and Rock Shox, improved with steel spiked aluminum BMX pedals, new headset, cassette/chain, shifters, and good tires.


After the joyful exhaustion, I lay on the pavement, back in electrochemical contact, through the conduction of the liquid sweat, feeling the earth temperature intimately. It is heavy, I feel the mass of the pavement; as my mind drifts on its way to horizontal alignment. My back presses against the side of the planet.

To get here, I had taken the Michigan Flyer bus from East Lansing to Ann Arbor, my cousin gets me in his car, I rent a decent mountain bike at Dexter, MI bike shop, we then hit the Potawatomi Trail in the Pinkney State Park near Hell.

On the second corner, a bit downhill, I slightly understeer and go under a half buried rock instead of riding around it. Tire catches, bike squirts into the forest, I endo in the leaf litter and crash within minutes of entering the trail.

My upside down vehicle of the day is an older Gary Fisher, basic welded steel model. From the era of cantilever brakes, but with 1 1/8” threadless headset. It has a decent Rock Shox, so it’ll go on the dirt. New shifters and drivetrain (7), good tires; I have the shop guy put on some BMX pedals with spikes. The old school brakes work perfectly on this dry day. The old shock could have more travel, but having some makes the ride possible. Those pedals actually make the whole machine handleable.

This trail holds an impressive number of conditions. It is primarily tight deciduous forest, very hilly, some unnecessarily high, mostly single track, some small lakes, some wooden bridges over swamps. The trail itself is usually black dirt with a helluva lot of roots and many big buried rocks and patches of sand. Alternating between technical and fast.

These areas of sand remind me that not all riders know how to go in this strange substance. I learned as a very young man, and added knowledge with dirt motorcycles and snowmobiles. The technique involves shifting down, sitting back, and overpedalling. Put your ass as far back as possible. You want the front tire to just skim the surface, and the rear to spin, ideally making a rooster tail.



Stumpjumper-on Potawatomi-and-adequate-plus-Hoo-Koo-E-Koo

Stumpjumper-on Potawatomi-and-adequate-plus-Hoo-Koo-E-Koo

We stop at the top of a bushy hill. Between barely controllable deep breaths we discuss the human animal. Many good subjects. We diverge on theory-of-evolution understanding,

He reads of scientists explaining that the human brain grew enlarged (with the new consciousness making cortex) first, and then then humans eventually learned what they could do with this. He cites that there are many examples of organisms mutating a new appendage, or physical something, before there was a need for it. He says that evolution driven by need is not how it happens.

What he says is plausible, I pay attention. But really I see it as the opposite. In my model of the universe, mutations evolve to organisms as there becomes need for them.

I can see it as proto humans made only a few sounds to communicate, then needed more. The individuals who evolved extra throat mutations, then learned how to use them, and reproduced successfully, would keep those mutations and prosper.

Is my idea counter to the current science?

Being somewhat wise and diplomatic, I work to see a synthesis of our ideas. Where mutations are continuous and ongoing, and then the ones that stay are the ones needed.

I have seen deer on that trail in the past. This time we encounter ducks, geese, squirrels, chipmunks, and hear some big animals in the bushes. We also encounter hiking couples, a stunningly fit woman in high performance sport clothes walking a huge dog, a rider on a Raleigh with a mustache, and a well dressed strong middle aged dude on an advanced Cannondale. Eric and I both notice the ground-in dirt on the shoulder of his jersey then down his arm, and deduce he had recently crashed; crashed hard with his ass in the air.

Thinking about haste provokes a time check which reveals my quickly approaching bus schedule. We scramble down the trail joyfully taking risks with purpose. The memory of seeing the crashed experienced rider apparently keeps us upright while we go unnecessarily fast.


We make it back to the car in time. Eric changes his clothes again. I lay down, feel the weight of the pavement and meditate. Eventually we pack it up and drive. Oop, no time to return the bike, my cousin generously offers to do it later. We get to the bus pickup with a few minutes to spare.

We talk in the car about more interesting subjects as the bus pulls in. I get a hug before bounding to the bus. The dark and quiet bus is very comfortable except that my clothes are still soaking with sweat. Revving down, I think about the fertile soil in my hair, the plant seeds stuck to my shirt, and the insects in my shoe laces, flying down the freeway, as I smile and write this story on my phone.

  2 Responses to “Dirt ride august 2012”

  1. Always a great State for outdoor activities. Next time you come back I’d love to ride with you. The various bikes in other post are very interesting in design and concept. You always were a very creative person.
    Be safe.

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