I have a close-knit group of guys that I ride with, but it’s more than that. Well, a lot of it revolves around riding, but it is indeed more than that. Outside of my family, these guys are my support system. My extended family. My brothers. And if it came down to it, I’d be there for them through thick and thin.
In addition to support, we give each other a lot of grief. It comes with the territory, I guess. We often razz each other about any number of things, but a recurring theme among them all is one about “priorities”. In our circle, priority is defined by not letting anything get in the way of riding. By that definition, and by relative comparison, I have my priorities pretty straight.
So, when I informed the group that I was not going to make the Wednesday group ride — the first ride in I don’t know how many months that all four of us had confirmed we’d be attending — I knew I was going to get a rash of shit.
But let’s back up. I decided some time ago that I needed to give back. It wasn’t even so much need, but want. I wanted to help. I wanted to be part of the force that maintained and built trails. The trails that I love to ride. I decided that my time would be best spent at Pocahontas State Park.
Over the last couple of years, I have slowly gotten involved. I’ve joined the Friends of Pocahontas group, I went to a monthly meeting, I helped reroute/build a new section of trail, I helped with Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day for two years, I helped with the massive clean up necessary after Irene, I’ve done woodsplitting a couple of times, and most recently, I helped re-build a bridge and do some minor trail clearing.
I’ve learned a little bit about the history of these mountain biking purpose-built trails (think about that), what it took to build them, and what it takes to keep them. In addition, I have learned over that same period of time, both from my experience at Pocahontas and from observations of other trail systems, that my contributions to date are but the tiniest fraction of the countless, selfless hours of hard work and passion that others have put in to make these trails possible. I’ve also learned that the number of people who truly take care of our trails – the ones that make it a priority – are a mere fraction of the people who use them.
So today, I received notice that the Pocahontas Trail Boss needed some help with a couple of things on the Lakeview trail. My first thought was, dang, too bad. I’ve got plans to ride with my buds. Throughout the day, it ate at me and I was this close to bailing on the ride and committing to help. Then, I read a perfectly timed “rant” on a local bike forum by a well-known and, from what I can tell, highly revered trail builder (among other things). It put everything in perspective. I knew what had to be done.
After the ribbing is over, I am confident that my buddies will truly understand that this is something that I need…um, want…to do. And that I am not only doing it for me, but I am doing it for them, and our kids, and for people I will never know. And maybe, just maybe, in the future I’ll spend time with my riding buddies not only riding the trails, but building and maintaining them. If not, that’s okay too. They are my brothers.
A new definition of priorities: when there is no one left to take care of the trails, there will be no more trails. Priorities. Nobody rides for free.