Once upon a time, there lived a girl named Stretch.
Stretch had just finished a long day at work, but knew that the kickboxing class at her gym would burn some calories and give her the energy she needed to accomplish her projects at home. Unfortunately, she'd been standing at work for about four hours and something about the class just didn't agree with her feet. No problem, she thought. She was already in workout clothes, so she would just go home and ride her bike for a bit.
Now Stretch lived in a little apartment on a quiet street. Down the street was a lake that, according to research she'd done previously, was a 3.5 mile loop around. Stretch had wanted to explore this trail and decided there was no time like the present. And off she went, armed with her helmet, watch, house keys, and iPod. She'd only be gone 40 minutes, so she left her phone and water at home.
Stretch loved it. It was perfect biking weather and the trail was fantastic.
I forgot how much fun this was, pondered Stretch. I haven't done this since I was a freshman in college. I like it!
Then, she discovered the real mountain biking trails. Well, real in that they were narrow and had rocks, roots, and little dips to conquer. That's where the real fun began, even with a little Eep! that escaped her lips as she rode over a bridge with a snake on it. Whether she rode over the snake, she'll never know, but she's certainly glad she didn't have long enough to discover what it was and potentially let it bite her. That would be bad.
As she rode, she took a right fork and ended up at some ball fields.
This isn't right. I'll turn back and take a left. I lost sight of the lake a while ago, but I think that will keep me on the correct trail.
And so Stretch did. She rode and rode. She rode until she came upon an exit to the trail that was on a residential street, with a name she didn't know.
Well, there's got to be a main road around here somewhere. It's going to get dark soon, I haven't seen any distinct trail makers for awhile, so I think I'll stick around here and find that main road.
It didn't take long to see a road rising above the trail. An overpass. An intersection of the Beltway and a main road that Stretch was quite familiar with, but was astounded to realize she'd left the lake park a LONG time ago. She didn't want to take that main road (it's BUSY), but decided that the side street looked familiar, and would take her back in the direction of her house.
It did, but then it looped back around and took her right back to that same intersection.
Back on the trail, she went under the street, hoping there would be a safer entrance on that side. Not so much. She debated asking the people she passed where she was. Or stopping at the nearest residence she found and asking for help. Whenever that happened. Knowing her friend Mr. T lived off that main road she thought about just riding to his place and surprising him and asking for a ride home, but since she hadn't seen him for awhile, she figured that was no good.
The first building she saw was a swimming pool. There was someone there!
As surprised as he was to see a very tired biker, he gave directions to that main road. The one she'd passed so long ago. The directions were a little sketchy, and she stopped a few times, catching her breath and hoping someone would pass her and stop and ask if she was okay. But, just as her new friend had promised, there was the main road.
She turned left, and headed east. The good news? She knew exactly where she was. The bad news, this was a CRAZY busy road, she was going to have to go through/over a freeway entrance/exit, and she'd already been riding for 90 minutes.
Stretch hugged the right side of the road, since her life truly depended on it. The ride over the entrance? Fine. She knew how fast the cars coming up behind her were going (she'd taken out the earbuds some time earlier). The ride over the exit? Possibly some of the scariest five seconds of her life. Cars exiting the Beltway are quite speedy and not expecting a biker. And it was getting darker by the second.
Completely winded, Stretch decided to walk her bike up the next hill, conserve some energy. Of course, it was during this time the cutest male biker pulled up alongside her and made sure she was okay. She assured him she was and off he went. Stretch hoped that he saw her when she rode up to the intersection he was waiting to turn left at, because she didn't want to look like a total failure.
Stretch kept riding. That's all she could do. She stopped at a fast food joint for some water, but quickly got back on the road. The long, long road. She turned right, and decided to stay on the sidewalk, since the road wasn't well lit. Finally, she turned right again. A mile later, she turned left.
Oh that glorious left was her street, but she had another mile to go.
I've made it this far.
She climbed the last hills, and cruised into her driveway. Home rarely looked so good.
Once inside, she downed a glass of water and tried to map her ride.
What Stretch thought was going to be a 40 minute 4.5 mile trip, turned into a 2.5 hour tour and was probably at least 18 miles.
Stretch was exhausted, dripping in sweat, but completely proud of herself. She'd accomplished something big, and knew the next time she tried such a distance, she'd go faster and have a better idea of where she was going. Though, she was pretty sure she'd never be able to retrace that same exact trip again. Nor did she want to. Stretch wanted a shower, dinner, trail maps, and a bike lamp.
Stretch is going to be very sore in the morning.