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Running With The Bulls? More Like Biking With The Cows

October 26, 2015

They were big, and black and directly blocking our path. And there were a lot more of them than there were of us.

I spent much of Saturday straddling a torture device known as a mountain bike. Oh, at the beginning I didn’t consider it a torture device. The scoutmaster and I took 7 boys out to an old railway line that had been converted into a biking trail. One brave dad accompanied us. We were there to make a 22 mile mountain bike trip. It was the final requirement for the Mountain Bike merit badge

The day dawned cold but clear. It’s late October here in Utah (and everywhere else, of course) and while winter is still a few weeks off, the thin high desert air doesn’t hold the heat and especially in the mountains it’s chilly. It was about 32 degrees at the start. 

As we pulled off the highway outside Park City, UT, we started unloading the bikes when one of the boys shouted,

Oh gross! Look at that.

That deer obviously didn’t make it across the highway. The same one we had to shepard 7 boys across. 

Don’t touch it. Just ignore it.

It wasn’t the last dead deer we’d see that day. 

But, first the cows. As we made it on the trail it looked like the trail went right through a bunch of cows. But, this was an old railway. Did the train have to dodge cows? As I got closer, I noticed the gate. Yep, the trail went right through the cow pasture. Most of the cows wanted nothing to do with us. At least one started acting like a dog that wants to catch your spinning bike tires. 

A little faster boys.

It really was a beautiful ride. We were going out 11 miles and then coming back over the same trail. 

As mountain bike trails go, it’s a pretty easy trail. The trail map we checked online it said the elevation change was 300 feet over the 11 miles. A walk in the park really. Well, except we were riding. And we were out in the Utah mountains instead of a park. Compared to the challenging rides we did in preparation, this was not a great challenge. Just long.

Like most people, I learned to ride a bike as a kid. But, I don’t ride often. In fact, we have three leaders over the scouts; the scoutmaster, me and another assitant scoutmaster. The other assistant really should have been on the ride. He actually does mountain biking in his spare time. He has a beautiful bike. It has features I’ve never understood. 

My bike? 

It’s pretty simple compared to many. We had the boys bring their bikes to our Wednesday night meeting last week to prepare for the Saturday ride. I ddn’t bring my bike on Wednesday. I didn’t need to. I was one of the people checking out the kids’ bikes. I could check mine whenever I wanted. Except that I didn’t. 

Anyway, the other assistant’s niece was getting married on Saturday. She wasn’t interested in changing the date to not conflict with our ride. I don’t know, maybe he didn’t even bother to ask her. 

As we started across the cow pasture and the Utah landscape started slipping past, I noticed an issue with my bike. The front derailer was frozen. It meant I was limited to six gears instead of 18. Except that the back derailer only went up to the five gears. 

So, why didn’t I check my bike? Because I stink at time management and my son had some work needed done on his bike and someone at work pushed a computer change through that broke a bunch of stuff. On Wednesday my son’s bike needed a new tube, the rear wheel switched out and new brake pads on the back. I decided I’d do the repairs Friday after work. Unfortunately, work had other ideas. Our system issues started at 5:00pm and continued until about 10:30 pm when we finally resolved everything. Too late to start on a bike repair. 

Saturday started at 5:00AM for me. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to make sure his bike was working. During the time I was fixing his bike I got three more calls from work about the previous night’s outage. We needed to be loading up the bikes at 8:00am at the scoutmaster’s house. My bike check? It’s probably fine without a check.

So, the cobbler’s child had shoes, but the cobbler was going barefoot. 

The ride was nearly perfect. . .except for one thing. The internet said the starting point and the midway point were 300 feet different in elevation. That was true. It’s also true that you can drown in a lake with an average depth of 3 feet. The trail, even though it was graded for a train, had some pretty severe ups and downs. Someone’s fitbit, or droid, or something electronic told us that the maximum vertical change was about 1100 feet: lots of up and down. 

Unfortunately we started at the “uphill” point. So, 11 miles downhill. Then, uphill for the return trip. At about the 15 mile marker we finally decided to split up. 

The scoutmaster took half the boys and continued on to the vehicles. I took four boys with me back down the hill back to the halfway point   which had now become the finish line.


The goal was to do 22 miles. The requirements didn’t say you couldn’t retrace your route. . .twice. It was also silent on riding with the cows. 

But, that was yesterday. The ride was fun. Tiring, but fun. Today? I’m having a little trouble finding a comfortable position to sit. Like I said, it’s a torture device. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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