Celia Rivenbark

From the Belle Tower | Mountain bike ride quickly goes downhill

While I often joke about my commitment to “a completely sedentary lifestyle,” I was oddly excited to take a 17-mile bike ride while vacationing in the mountains recently. The Virginia Creeper Trail brochure promised scenic bridges, panoramic views and, most important, a downhill ride with little effort required. Yay!

Our affable van driver chatted the whole way to the “drop zone.” “It’s a pure-T miracle we don’t have more people having accidents up here,” he said, chuckling. “A lady did break her collarbone last month … ” He chatted nonstop as Duh Hubby sat beside him up front.

“Did he just say someone broke a bone?” I hissed from behind the passenger seat.

“It’s just a figure of speech,” said Duh. “Like “shot the rapids. She “broke the collarbone.”

The driver gave Duh a funny look, but I was satisfied. Outdoorsy lingo is funny, I thought.

I was reunited with the orange bike I had picked earlier because it’s my best color. The driver said the ride would take “2, maybe 2 and a half” hours. He said we should make it a point to stop at the little restaurant at mile 10 because it had world-famous chocolate cake.

Fitness is awesome, I thought.

I was shocked to see so many people at the drop zone, considering the remote location. I’d seen sparser crowds at Six Flags.

Excited to begin, I pushed off. And into a mud hole. Shin deep in gooey mud, I was mortified.

“Watch out for that mud hole,” Duh said brightly.

For the first 30 minutes, the wind whistled past and the scenery was spectacular as promised. I hadn’t felt this “alive” since I found a vintage Chanel purse at a Goodwill for three bucks. Amazingly, I barely had to pedal. This exercise thing wasn’t so bad.

Along mile 4, the trail flattened, and I suddenly had an ominous premonition. If this were a movie, it would be the part where George Clooney ignores the weather report in “The Perfect Storm.”

“On your left!” shouted a cheery gaggle of cyclists, using recommended bike etiquette. For the next 13 miles, I would hear it approximately 5,365 times.

My bike seat had broken, badly, and I was hitting the handlebars with my knees with every pedal. We stopped at the chocolate cake restaurant, and Duh asked if I’d like some. I told him I wanted a divorce.

“On your left!” shouted another group of happy tourists with working bikes.

“On my nerves!” I hollered back.

Around mile 12, my legs gave out, and I wiped out on the gravel trail, causing a little kid behind me to follow suit.

The kid burst into tears, and so did I. I told him if we were lucky, a bear would charge out of the woods and eat us.


My leg was bleeding, and I’d torn a few really useful ligaments.

Four and a half hours later, it was over.

The bike rental folks apologized and gave me a “free pass” for next time.

Only time I’d laughed all day.

CELIA RIVENBARK is a New York Times best-selling author. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.