The following is an account of a damned fine weekend involving family, friends, and bikes down in the Mark Twain National Forest outside of Steelville, MO. Read on for some serious inspiration!
Words by Sam Botts. Photos by Petey Botts.
"Picked up Petey Friday night. Saturday morning, met Nate at the gas station, headed for Bass River Resort for a weekend of friends and bikes and friends on bikes. Had my dad's Westy (he's very generous, it has been on many bike adventures) packed with two mountain bikes, two cyclocross bikes, two guys and all our stuff. Got to Bass River around 11am. Petey DJ'd, playing some old Memphis rap, eventually winding up with traditional music of India. We got a camp site and set up, anxious to get on the single-track. It was a little cooler than we expected so there was much consideration in regards to gear selection. Fortunately, the gravel climb out of Bass River warmed us up within a mile. The trail awaits!
I will simply skip ahead here. I mean, Nate loves mountain biking, Petey loves mountain biking and I love mountain biking. We were like kids doing our favorite activity, so naturally, magic happened. It wasn't long before we encountered forest that had been burned, either that day or the day before. Some things were still on fire! The entire forest floor was burned except for the trail. It was a wonderful site, a bit otherworldly, really. This was the case for maybe a third of the time we were in the woods. Unforgettable.
Our planned route took us to Brazil Creek where we turned onto the pavement of W and rode to the top of that long hill. We began to hear what, at first, sounded like dirt bikes but the distinct sound of turbo pop off valves made us realize it was rally cars participating in the 100 Acre Wood rally. At the top of the hill we stopped and watched several cars race by. Unexpected and very cool.
In between was nothing less than the best kind of casual interaction of riding, talking, snacking, resting and riding some more, that only comes on these sorts of rides. I ride because I love bikes. I ride for fitness. I ride for the pure thrill of speed and achievement, and I ride because of friends. Friends who are ready for whatever happens when the cranks start turning and the wheels start rolling. And this was just Saturday!
Slept so good Saturday night. I think the white noise of the space heater helped. Got up about 6:30am to catch a shower.
Sunday started off with bacon and eggs. We eased into the morning, possibly a bit too much. After breakfast, a casual query of the time set us all into mad action! Serious Injury by Gravel was set to start at nine, it was 8:21 and we still had to break camp, change clothes, load up and drive to the Steelville pool! We were late, but Tyler and the gang were still there when we arrived. Surprisingly, it was cooler and misting, so Nate and I rolled out a bit early, expecting Petey, Tyler and the boys to catch up. Took a climb or two to get warmed up. My hands and feet would remain cold all day.
Some seven or so miles in, nature called and then we saw the crew and joined. Their pace was brisk and I was a little worried my legs wouldn't last the day. After another several miles of this brisk pace, I got a flat rear tire. Repair, snacking and foolishness commenced. Greetings were given to many passers-by until such time as we were ready to roll again.
The gravel around Steelville is that wonderful Ozark creek type rock and the base of most of the roads is rock. For the most part, it made for easy, fast cruising. There are some respectable climbs from beginning to end. I'll be glad when my low gear goes from a 40x36 to a 40x42! We were able to roll pretty steady all day, but we would get spread out on some of the climbs. The big, stupid climb before the train culvert had a large group gathering to rest at the top. Then, as it was last year, I bombed the descent, very nearly crashing in the ditch! What can I say, I like to go fast!
Approaching 36 miles we took an extended stop at the Cherryville store. Ham sandwiches, soda, Tom & Jerry, the wall heater and shared experience ruled the moment. There was only one woman working the store! She did a great job making a bunch of sandwiches and cashing people out at the register. I tipped her ten bucks, I hope everyone else was nice to her.
Cold again, we hopped on for the last 14 miles. It's a great roll from there with the last gravel road being the most scenic and beautiful of the day. I felt a great appreciation for the whole weekend as we were finishing this road.
Another great day in the saddle with friends. I look forward to Death by Gravel (Serious Injury in my case) every year and 2018 did not disappoint. I rode with friends, pushed myself, slapped five with a kid and saw a dog eating a rabbit. Life is good!"