Mountain Biking – How it changed my life

This topic has been a long time coming. I have thought about this on and off for the past couple years. Mountain biking really has changed my life for the better.

It all started with my response to a newsgroup posting at UVic. Someone was looking for someone to go mountain biking with. I thought it would be something new, and something fun. It would be a great way for me to meet some new people, and get outdoors.

I should back up a little bit here. This first occurred in the summer of 1995. A few years earlier I was in high school. During this time I was not interested in physical activities of any sort. I only ever watched T.V., did my homework, and played on my computer. I hated Physical Education in school, and stopped taking it as soon as I could. I was starting to gain weight, and I was not liking it. I was just not motivated enough to do anything about it.

Skip forward to 1995. I met up with Mike (who later turned into a great friend of mine), and we went riding. Back then I was on the crapiest of crap bikes. Yet that one day turned everything around. Off road riding was difficult, muddy, and lots of work. I was hooked. That summer I bought a more sturdy bike. It was made for off road.

Time past, and Mike and I kept riding. While I was in school, I only got to ride on the weekends. However, I made it a priority to ride on the weekends. First it was one day a week, then it grew to two. I began a work term in Victoria. Soon I was riding after work. I had really been bitten by the biking bug. Three and four rides a week.

Large portions of paycheques were put aside for new biking equipment and gear. It soon became an obsession.

I rode for many reasons.

Soon my riding took a turn for the worse. I began to love the adrenaline rush! I would try to ride the steepest, gnarliest obstacle I could. I couldn’t get enough of this riding. Soon my abilities began to exceed the capabilities of my bike. I began considering buying a new bike. I finally decided on the Santa Cruz Bullit. I was in the process of saving my money for it. Then the unfortunate happened. I found cracks in the frame of my bike. I was forced to buy my Bullit earlier than I had inteded.

This new bike opened my eyes even more. I loved speed in the past, but this bike just begged for speed. It loved air, and I soon began to warm up to jumping. I was still obsessed with riding, but my obsession had now changed from long XC rides to short but super technical DH/freeriding.

I got myself a good set of lights, and discovered the magic of riding at night. Even trails that I know like the back of my hand can be completely unrecognizable at night. The cool crsip night air coupled with high speed trail bombing was a new twist on an old love.

I think back on my evolution of my riding style, and it brings a smile to my face. I had come a long way since high school. I never liked sports, and since I started riding, I got involved in a few other sports. I played soccer for a summer season, I took up Ultimate which I played for several seasons. I go for more walks now, I hike more. In general I tend to enjoy the outdoors much more than I used to.

I am not ashamed of what I used to be like, but I am sure proud of what I have accomplished.

– Decisions –

I find it pretty amazing how one decision can affect the rest of your life. Quite often I think back to certain profound moments in my life, and ponder the decisions I made then. I wonder how events would have progressed had I made a different choice. Would my life be better? Would it be worse? I ponder the course of events following the decision. Those events usually lead to other profound moments, and the cycle continues.

A prime example is back in second year University I was pretty unhappy in my Engineering studies. I needed to make some life changes. I decided to transfer to Computer Science. I also decided to move out of residence. Those are two life altering decisions that I think about quite often.

My decision to move off campus lead me to answer a usenet posting at UVic. I moved in with two guys who I had not ever met before. These two guys became really good friends of mine. Through them I met countless other people. I gained immeasureable knowledge from them. Hell one of them even helped me get the job that I currently hold.

I often think back to these decisions. What if I had stayed in Res? How would my life be different? Would life have turned out as good as it has?

– Sept 11, 2001 –

This was the day of the World Trade Center attack. I remember laying in be that morning hearing that a plane had just crashed into one of the WTC buildings. I thought to myself “What a weird joke”.

I began my day like normal, had a shower, got dressed, ate breakfast, then went to work. I began checking my daily webpages, and it began to feel like the world was ending. Every website I visited I saw pictures, video, or eyewitness testimony to what was happening.

The horrible acts of a few have hurt so many people. I am happy that the ones I love are safe from this, but I can’t help but feel sad for those that have been affected.

I sat at work all day long scanning various news sites in some attempt to comprehend what just happened. I tried to make sense of something that made no sense.

Sure the perpetrators had their reasons. But I can’t comprehend hating a culture so much that I would take my life in the attempt to destroy that culture.

In the aftermath I can’t help but wonder if the devastation that was caused was intentional, or was the falling of the two WTC buildings something that was planned?

Slowly the world around me bagan to return to normal. I think back to Sept 11, 2001 and think to myself that the world has changed. I read newspaper stories about the war on terrorism. I read explanations as to why the WTC buildings collapsed. I watch countless news stories on “America Under Attack”.

Since Sept 11, 2001 I have been growing increasingly disgusted with our society, and the society of the U.S.A. There have been reports of Mosques in Canada and the U.S.A. being defaced. People on the streets of Canada and the U.S.A. have been attacked, and injured. These are reactionary actions perpetrated by people not thinking, and that to me is disgusting. Just because some people have the same skin color, accent, or even religion to those who may have conducted this atrocity (at this point in time it is still not 100% sure who commited the attack), does not mean they are terrorists.

There are some people who are trying to capitalize on this tragedy. Selling FDNY hats, t-shirts, flags, NYC paraphenalia. Some people are scamming others who are trying to help victims. This is truly Disgusting.

One of the more disturbing stories I have read about is the so called Banned Songs List created by Clear Channel. If I have my information correct (and it is possible I don’t), Clear Channel, which owns several radio stations created a large list of songs that station managers may want to no longer play dues to the tragedy. The songs supposedly include references to New York, Terrorism, Tuesday, plane crashes, etc. This is distrubing on so many levels. First off what gives this private company the ability to censor the airwaves because of what happened? Many of their so called banned songs have nothing to do with that days events.

More censorship is occuring in the movie and book industry. Movies involving terrorist activities are not being released until a more approtpriate time. Video games are being edited to no longer include images of the WTC buildings. A new Tom Clancy novel is being re-written because it’s story line may have included a scenario similar to what happened.

I am disgusted by these actions because it seems like everyone just wants to block out what happened. Forget that it even occurred and just go on with life. If nothing reminds me it happened, then it never happened. What happens when the next terrorist attack hits? Will we forget that one too? Maybe eventually someone will stand up and say “Hey, we need to do something here!”. I am rambling now.

I say, never forget. Remember how many lives have been affected by this disaster. Think about it daily. That is what I am going to try to do.

– Being in a Bad Mood –

You know, I am beginning to hate the question “How are you doing?”

It is just one of those innocuous questions that everyone asks. They expect to hear good things. When it is not, they want to know why. Some days when I am in a bad mood, I just want to be left alone. Besides, how do you answer that question when you aren’t in a good mood?

Q: How are you doing?
A: Pretty crappy actually.

That usually doesn’t go over well. Just yesterday I was in an absolute foul mood. I have had some stupid personal problems on my mind, and they have been weighing pretty heavy on me. As a result my sleep patterns are all out of whack, and I just dont feel like myself. My friends can recognize this. A couple people asked me yesterday how I was doing, and I replied with something like “I’ve been better”. Friends being what they are immediately want to know what is wrong. I wanted to tell them about it, but at the time I couldn’t. I politely declined. It all started with a simple question to which they got an answer they weren’t expecting.

Normally I am a pretty mellow person, and not much changes. When something does change for the worse, I think that my friends just want to help me return to normal. I appreciate that, but sometimes I just want to wallow in my self pity, or whatever bad mood I am in. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. If I want help I need to learn to ask for it, not have it thrust upon me.

– Napster –

What are ethics? Who do some people seem to have them, yet others seem to lack them?

For instance, Jan 9, 2001 I downloaded an album off of Napster. It kicked ass. I went out and bought the CD on Jan 10, 2001. Part of it is to support the artist. I just don’t like how some people will download 100’s of songs, some even 1000’s of songs. To me that isn’t ethical. I couldn’t do it.

I think that many people believe Napster is just plain bad. I truly believe that it is all in how you use the service.

I use it to preview bands. I use it to get songs that are rare and hard to find (if I could buy them I would). I use it to preview albums. If I don’t like the music, I delete it. I have some songs that I like, but would never buy the album (very few though).

As long as it isn’t abused, I think that Napster provides an excellent service. I guess that is the problem, Napster is easy to abuse, so many people do. Stupid people.

Spinout – A Driving Lesson Learned the Hard Way

The date was March 28, 1999. My friend Mike and I were in Nanaimo for a boarding trip. It was to be our first rides on our new boards. We were heading to Mt. Washington. We were stoked to get on the mountain to try out our new gear. Washington has had a record breaking year for snowfall. We departed Nanaimo around 7:15. We were both in good spirits, and desperately wanted to be on the mountain.

The weather was being kind of weird on us. It was raining off and on. Then there was snow mixed with the rain. The roads were completely clear of any slush, so we didn’t slow any. The rain picked up a little. As we approached a slower vehicle, Mike turned to me and asked if I thought the left lane was clear. I looked over, and the left lane was as clear as our own. No slush, just wetness.

I told him I thought it looked clear, and he started to make the lane change. There was slush between the lanes, but it was a very thin layer. Less than a quarter inch I would say. It was more than enough. The back end wobbled a little, and the first shot of adrenaline was pumped. Mike, yelped I think, and corrected for it. The rear end snapped back over to the left side, and I knew we were in trouble.

Mike tried to correct for this second swing out, but it was too much. The rear tires grabbed again, and the rear end swang out to the right. Just as I thought that the Jeep was going to straighten out again, it started to swap ends. I could hear Mike saying ‘Holy Fuck, Holy Fuck’ over and over again. I looked over at Mike, just as he looked over at me. Here we were hurtlin along the highway, at close to 100 km/h, backwards! The front end came around again, and we completed our first 360. The back end continued around another 135 degrees (approximately), and that was when we hit the ditch on the left hand side of the road.

At this point, I realized that this situation felt like a bad dream. It didn’t really seem like this was happening. It wasn’t some out of body experience, but it certainly was an interesting sensory experience.

As we went into the ditch, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 90 km/h, we continued spinning. I had this strange sense that we would be all right. Somehow I just knew we would not be hurt. My biggest fear was that the Jeep would flip, or rollover. Continuing its spin through the ditch, I remember hearing rocks and dirt hitting the side of my door. I was convinced as we were sideways that we would flip, but the suspension soaked the bumps up pretty well. We finished a second 360, and rotated another 90+ degrees.

It was at this point that I saw a large mileage marker headed straight for us, or rather us straight for it. It was the kind with thick metal legs that looked rather solid. We had slowed enough that when we hit it, the Jeep took all the impact force within the body. We hit with the rear corner on the passenger side. What I heard from the impact was a large crack along with a deep thud.

After we came to a stop, there was a stunned sort of silence. Mike and I checked to make sure each other was unhurt, then we got out of the vehicle. We were both shaken pretty hard. That was the first major accident I had been in. Apparently the same could be said for Mike. He was starting to freak out a little, so I did my best to calm him. I really had no clue what I was supposed to do in that situation. It was completely new to me. The whole thing probably took about 5 seconds, but while it was happening, it truly felt like slow motion. I have felt that sensation before, and it is very disconcerting when you aren’t expecting it.

Mike grabbed the cell phone from the glove compartment, and began trying to call someone to get some help out to us. I think he called 411, but the reception was poor, and he kept having to repeat himself. As he was doing this several cars drove by, gawking at what happened to us. One guy did stop by to check on us, and to see if we needed to use his phone. We talked with him for a few mintues, and assured him we were alright. A few minutes later he left since there really wasn’t anything he could do.

The next person on the scene happened to be a Police Officer. He was pretty nice. He made sure we were OK, and called a tow truck for us. He wrote out the accident report, got the details from Mike, and waited with us until the tow truck arrived. We talked with him for a bit. He pointed out to us how lucky we were, something we already knew. He told us that there were five other accidents in the previous half hour. One involved a family flipping their SUV. Apparently one child was slightly injured. While the officer was talking to Mike, I grabbed the cell phone, and called my mom to let her know what happened. She was shocked I could tell. I kept reiterating the fact that we were in fact alright.

We sort of inspected the Jeep while we were waiting for the tow truck. The rear quarter panel on the passenger side was mangled, and the rear window shattered. Neither of us remembered hearing that happen. The rear doors, while closed, had about a two inch gap at the top of them due to the mangled body. The rear bumper was mangled beyond belief. The passenger side front wheel was almost pulled off the rim, and the driver side rear wheel was flattened mess attached to a broken rim.

The tow truck arrived, and the operator got to work. He pulled the Jeep towards the road, and as he was doing so, we noticed the rear axle was broken. This was pretty evident, since the wheel was definitely not pointing straight. More examiniation of the wheel well produced a noticable fold in the frame. I guess from where we hit on the passenger side, enough force was put on the frame to cause it to fold over on itself.

While the tow truck dude was hooking the Jeep up, I kept pacing back and forth over the scene. I noticed a large rock that was out of place, so I walked up the ditch a ways. This rock was about three feet in diameter. We had dislodged this half buried boulder, and pushed/carried/moved it about ten feet along the ditch. It was soon after that I saw a tow truck headed south towing a mangled Pathfinder. It was the vehicle of the family I mentioned earlier. The driverside looked unscathed, but the windshield was smashed, and the roof was cumpled. I couldn’t see the passenger side.

From there the tow truck took the Jeep to its impound lot. We snagged everything we could from that vehicle, and the tow truck operator drove us into Qualicum, where I called my mom to come pick us up. She drove us to the bus station in Nanaimo, and from there we caught a bus to Victoria. On the bus I kept reliving the experience over and over. I kept thinking about all the things we could have done differently to prevent this accident. There are a million different little things. What if we left at 7 instead of 7:15? What if we were travelling slower? What if we were travelling faster? What if I had said to Mike not to change lanes? ‘What if’ became my favorite question on that bus ride. I knew that this examining of what happened would eat me up, so I tried to stop, but I just couldn’t. My mind naturally wanted to research what heppened with different endings.

I came to one conclusion about that big rock. I think we caught it with the trailing wheel, as we were sliding sideways through the ditch. The broken rim had a chunk of metal pushed to the outside of the vehicle. I think that rock was what broke the rim and bent it out.

I got back to my home in Vic around 4. I laid on the couch, and flicked on the TV. I channel surfed for a couple hours, all the while my brain was reliving that experience over and over again. Sometime that evening it really hit me what had happened. I was in a serious car accident, and I walked away completely unhurt. I truly believe that if we had flipped, things would have been a whole lot different.

I went to work on Monday, my mind in a weird sort of haze. I sat at my computer, and rally didn’t get too much done in the morning. Then I had the idea to get this out, to put it down somewhere to remind me of how lucky we were. As I started typing, I was reliving the whole experience over and over again. I can still remember all the sensations running through me while it was happening. It is almost some form of out of body experience. I wanted to do this as much to remind me as to warn others. I wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone else at all. It is not something I would ever want to go through ever again. I realized a weird thing as I was typing this up. The CD we were listening to at the time of the accident was ‘My Own Prison’ by Creed. I think track number 6 was playing, but some of the lyrics to track 3 go as follows:

Should have been dead
On a Sunday morning
Banging my head
No time for mourning
Ain’t got no time

These aren’t terribly profound lyrics or anything, but damn that is freaky. The day this happened was a Sunday, in the morning.

So whatever you do, if there is any form of bad weather, slow down! I don’t care if you are driving a tiny little compact car, or a big-ass Dodge Ram, the lesson to be learned by everyone is to slow down. We were driving a pretty big vehicle ( a Jeep Grand Cherokee ), and less that a quarter inch of slush caused us to spin out.

We came out extremely lucky. You may not. Please remember this.

Some pics of the Jeep are here.