Remember those little caplets that would turn into “dinosaurs” when dropped in water? I know of a person who is sort of like that (though he didn’t have the shape of a dinosaur after the expansion, and I don’t think it was just water that caused this transformation). His name is Mark.
Before about the age of 15 Mark was like the little caplet. He was small for his age. He had glasses that were about half an inch thick and his hair always seemed to be rather disheveled and a little greasy. In the middle of his teen-age years Mark remade himself, apparently as a sheer act of will. He became incredibly strong, capable, cleanly, and still amazingly nice.
Once Mark committed to something, he refused to betray that commitment. It was this trait that allowed him to change his appearance so much. However, in Mark this trait also created a level of honor found in only a rare few. Betrayal was not an option for Mark. He stood up for what he believed.
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Mountain biking was an excellent pastime on the ranch. There were steep slopes that made it hard and eventually gave one a sense of accomplishment. There were also forests to obscure one’s totally embarrassing falls.
To make things more exciting we would start our rides from many different places on the ranch. Due to the size of the ranch, this meant getting places on the ranch with the bikes but without riding the bikes. Such an enterprise often entailed stuffing the bikes into the back of our 1992 ford explorer. As much as I liked this car it was not quite optimal for bike transportation. Since there were three of us we could put down only one of the back seats. We took off the wheels and seats of the bikes and stuffed them into the awkwardly shaped space that wrapped around the one backseat.
For some unfortunate reason Mark always seemed to be the one who sat in the back next to the bikes. As we bounced across the ranch the bikes tended to become rather rambunctious. They would honestly leap a foot or two into the air when we went over hills and come crashing down slightly after the explorer itself did. It could be argued that this was, in large part, a result of the driving style employed. However, right now we are focusing on the funny situation in the back seat, not about the driver or on determining blame.
The fact that the bikes leapt into the air and moved towards Mark with ruthless force was regrettable. However, the real kicker was that when the heap of metal landed it would lock together. One piece of twisted metal would loop over the next and so forth. This locking prevented Mark from pushing away the attacking bikes and over time resulted in a continual loss of space to the bikes tireless invasion. By the time we arrived at our trail-head Mark had about half the personal space that he stated with and about ¾ of what he needed. Upon arrival Mark also had a bike fork pressed firmly into his thigh.
* * *
At the end of the bike ride we went down a final steep section. We lost enough altitude going down this final slope that we were able to zoom down it. This section was long enough to convince us that we could totally handle flying down it. If it were steeper, I think we would have slowed down more. But, on this particular hill we just leaned in close to our bikes and felt the air go past us faster and faster. Due to our speed we spread out a bit, so that if someone fell there would at least be the possibility that the person behind them could avoid hitting them.
Mark was the final one to come down the hill and we were able to watch him flicker between the trees on his descent. He was going fast. Then, Mark and his bike charged behind one particular tree. When he appeared on the other side of the tree he was no longer riding his bike. He was sprinting with all his might and leaning forward like someone who couldn’t quite keep up with their speed.
* * *
As it worked out Mark had hit a deep pothole in the path. This particular pothole was so deep that it was able to violently and completely stop his fast moving front tire. However, the pothole did not stop Mark or the rest of Mark’s bike. This resulted in Mark and the back end of the mountain bike gracefully pivoting around the axle in the middle of the front tire. Mark pivoted towards the ground at the same speed he had been biking. While he was looking straight ahead at the seemingly vertical earth coming at him Mark was somehow able to do a series of extremely helpful actions. Mark was able to get is feet out of the clips that held them to the pedals of the bike. Then he was able to get his feet up to the height of his armpits and over the handlebars of the bike (before these same handlebars collided with the ground). From this awkward fetal position Mark was able to break into a full sprint. A sprint so fast that few could have sustained in the best of circumstances. This sprint turned out to be just fast enough to prevent him from performing a painfully unexpected cartwheel.
I am not a completely ignorant man. I have watched the Olympics and the world cup. However, this is honestly one of the most impressive physical acts that I have ever seen. It is so impressive partly because he did it completely without warning, and partly because it would have hurt so much if he didn’t pull it off.
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Mark slowed down at the bottom of the hill with his bike far behind him. He stopped and leaned forward, placing his hands on his knees. After looking up the hill at the bikes he looked at us and panted “Looks like I got back at the bike for the car ride”.