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ODDS & ENDS
The Steep Hill Lesson
Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke.

by Hal Evan Caplan
August 5, 2009

The Steep Hill Lesson_Hal Evan Caplan-Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke.You have heard me mention many times that I learn or I am reminded of lessons that my tyke teaches me. He certainly brings these lessons to the surface anywhere and everywhere. Some of the lessons are "ah-ha" lessons, others are created from stressful situations, and as I now realize can stem from any situation. My tyke is my teacher and I do learn from him, even if the lessons are at my expense... some more so than others.

My teacher and I went to ride the mountain bike trails offered at our local state park. I have mentioned this park in the past, since we frequent it often. Oak Mountain State Park offers a wide range of activities and is even home to the XTERRA Southeast Cup. The park is located in the southernmost part of the Appalachian Mountain Chain and is praised by competitors as being one of the most fun, fast, scenic and difficult on the XTERRA competition schedule.

These trails are all single track (narrow paths) that weave and curve through the trees, steep hills that go way up... and of course that also means... "way down" and intersect with several little creeks. Riding across the creeks are my favorite part. As we crossed the second creek, I heard him repeating my words after crossing the first creek, "That's what I'm talking about!" came echoing out of his mouth. Later, I learned that crossing the creeks was also his favorite part of the single track.

In the past, my teacher and I have enjoyed quick little jaunts on small portions of the mountain bike trail system... until now. I'm not really sure what changed; however, my teacher was gung-ho about continuing on the trail at the point where we would usually turn around. The other difference was this time I actually rode my own bike and he rode his. In the past he rode his street bike on the trail, and I would run behind him making sure he didn't fall and was there when he needed a push over the tougher portions of the terrain. This time he did great and didn’t even need my help.

We finally got to the first steep hill and he dismounted his bike and was ready to push it up the hill.

"Dad, you need to be fair." He expressed.
"Fair?" I repeated.
"Yeah." He replied.
"About what?" I asked.
"If I have to push then you have to push." He explained.
"I don't mind pushing my bike, too."
"Thanks." He responded.
"... but usually experts don't push their bikes, they ride."I was quick to point out.

I consider myself a fairly advanced mountain bike rider; especially since I grew up in the mountains of Colorado doing this sport my whole life. So, what I'm about to say next is somewhat embarrassing. Luckily I won't be able to hear you, the reader, snickering and laughing.

As my teacher and I were nearing the summit of one portion of the trail, I stopped as he continued to push his bike up to the top. He and I agreed that he would wait for me at the top and watch as I would ride to meet him there. This particular section wasn't too long and it was perfect because I could watch him as he made his way up and in turn, he had a clear view of me for my ride up the steep hill. He was really excited because he wanted to "see how it was done"... peddling up a steep hill that is...

Once he arrived at the top, he called to me that he was ready to watch. This section happened to be a pretty technical one that required a lot of skill. Normally, I nail this section when riding with friends, but Murphy's Law stepped in and decided otherwise. About half way up, my front tire got caught between a medium size tree root and a rock. This stopped my momentum and me on the spot. I did not have time to get my feet out of the pedal clips (the clips keep your feet on the bike pedals so you don't slip). To the right of me was a steep hill that was not part of the trail system, and yes; I tumbled part of the way down this steep embankment. When I came to a stop, I yelled to him that I was okay, but I don't think he heard me, due to the fact that he was laughing so hard.

I grabbed my bike and began the long climb back up to the trail. I still had to get to the top of the trail where my teacher patiently awaited my arrival. What I did not know was my teacher had a plan for me... a lesson to be learned. For the record, with my tail between my legs, I pushed my bike all the way to the top, where I met my teacher, who was sitting on the ground giggling.

"Thanks Dad". He commented.
"For what"? I asked.
"For that show". He explained.
"Ummm, what show are you taking about"? I questioned.
"You going down the other mountain". He pointed out.
"I didn't do that on purpose, I fell". I expressed.
"... but Dad, you said you were an 'ESPERT'". He reminded me...
(No comment).

In a nutshell; The Lesson that I was reminded of that day is: As tempting as it might be to brag, it's more appealing to others, and probably safer to your pride, to just be humble.

About the Author:
Originally from Colorado; now residing in Alabama. Hal is married and has a son. Hal loves the outdoors, especially snowboarding and plays ice hockey on a weekly basis...and of course, always learns from his son.


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