The weather was still pretty cold and wet when we arrived in Oxford, Alabama mid March. Our RV park was pretty close to a freeway but also pretty close to some national forest, which is what we prefer when looking for a spot (since we can rarely stay in the forests themselves). Other than some random map searches for off road trails, we didn’t have a lot of other reasons to be in the area.
Luckily, on Sunday of our only weekend there, it was finally dry enough to get out and ride. We researched the area for something nearby and found the Kentuck ORV Trail within riding distance of the RV park (ORV = Off Road Vehicle). We rode there not really knowing what to expect or what the difficulty would be. The only trail I’d been on (kat), I was on my vintage bike and horribly underprepared for both the difficulty and in the fact that my bike was too old and heavy for something that technical – also, I had no padding, only a helmet. Despite the general situation, I actually broke my leg just trying to get my bike turned around when I met up with a giant log in the path of the trail.. Nevertheless, ever since I’ve been wary. At least this time I wasn’t alone on the trail, we had much more experience since 2012, and we had all the padding we could possibly want – minus riding pants as I’ll mention later.
On the way to the trail we found an old logging road and drove down that a bit. The ground was pretty loose and wet from previous rains and a puddle looked like fun . We both rode through and made a fun little splash, causing Ross to suggest that we should get a pic of my riding through it. I go up the hill in preparation to come back down for the photo, this time chosing a different part of the puddle, much to my dismay, it was a really deep part and I was simultaneously shocked and soaked while Ross took a pic – before the worst of it.. but you can get the idea. It was warm enough to just stay that way but I was pretty much soaked for the rest of the ride.
Soon after the puddle incident, we found a dead end, so we turned around and kept looking for the ORV trail. We came to a part of the trail that crossed the forest service road, but not the beginning. It seems like as good a place as any to start so we headed north into the forest. The trail started out on fairly even ground, some ups and downs, some tree roots and lots of little “jumps” with giant puddles on the other side. This made for lots more splashing and soon enough my feet were getting soaked even more with every puddle. Then… the trail started to descend, and quickly. Our tires are really knobby, great for mud and loose ground, but having a lot of experience riding in that going down a steep hill is another thing. We got to an especially steep part that I barely wanted to go down, but at that point had no choice. It started to remind me of the trail I was on when I broke my leg. I never fell on that trail and luckily it wasn’t wet, but the feeling of “no turning back” hit me on a “lets avoid pain” level. This is actually terrible because once you’re riding with thoughts like that in your head, you’re pretty much doomed to something going wrong. I went down first and about half way down, my brakes skidded and tires slid sideways in the mud. Nothing hurt since the ground was so soft and I was going about a mile an hour but unpleasant anyway. I still can’t really get the bike off myself by myself very well (some major working out needed) so Ross came down the hill as well, found a precarious place to park his bike and helped get the bike off my leg.
At this point we’re noticing that the trail just keeps going down the mountain, and we don’t know where it goes from there. Are we going to have to try to climb up meters of muddy, steep grit to get back to the top or will it loop back around via a less steep way? When I broke my leg/ankle by rolling it on a rock, I could still walk. I thought it was only sprained. My old bike (a 79 Yamaha) had a really picky first gear that required a lot of revs to get moving, which was really hard while pointing up hill on a narrow steep trail with jack-knife turns. I was shaken from my injury, and confidence pretty much crushed, so we were having to push the 350lb bike up the trail, a few feet at a time. After about the 3rd of 4th turn and a lot of sweat, it almost seemed flat enough for me to give it a shot. I finally got the bike going and escaped the mountanous pit.. a pit much like the one we were headed for, but less wet.
We decided to tediously turn the bikes around and power back up the hill. On the way back my tire slid at least one more time, and while avoiding a rut in the trail, my back tire slipped in (lesson learned, don’t avoid ruts?). Once you’re in the mindset to stumble, you do (I do?). On the second tip over, all of which were like falling in marshmallos due to the softness of the ground, some of the hillside had come with me, exposing dozens of red centipedes, which luckil don’t mind. I put my outside leg down on the engine for .05 seconds and learn quickly what the disadvantages of wearing wet jeans on a ride are. My leg got a nice steaming, no warning like there would have been if my pants were dry, and I ended up with a week long blister on my leg. Basically, we went out and bought pants with heat protection the next day – now I just need knee pads before I learn the hard way about knees. Getting riding protection has been a one step at a time endevour, sometimes it took sprained ankles, stubbed toes and burnt legs for us to go spend the money, but we’ve basically learned that you need it all if you’re riding off road, no skimping.
This was just one of many trails in the area we could have done but we were happy with our mostly successful experience and short time in the area. It took us a while to realize that in off road riding , falling is pretty much a given (hense all the mandatory padding that exists) and that if you don’t fall, you’ll never learn. It’s been useful looking at videos and pics of other riders, with more experience, falling on their butts. However it can be really easy to get hung up on avoiding physical pain, even though your skills inprove and you’re less likely to get hurt, you’re your own worst enemy.