When the cop showed up I didn't know what to say.
Jordan and I arrived in typical fashion the morning of the 2014 Monkey Knife Fight. We were late, unfed, and in search of a parking spot and public bathroom. The ride start was at South Mountain Cycle and we were relieved as we pulled into a spot just around the corner from the shop in downtown Emmaüs, PA. Then a meter maid informed us that the truck would be towed if we left it there. Scrambling, half-dressed and hungry, we pitched our stuff back into the truck and drove a few blocks away where we found a shady spot on the street along side of a church. It was unknown to us at the time that this detail would manifest as a startling situation later that day. After we finished pulling on the rest of our kit, stuffing our pockets and adjusting tire pressures we managed to roll up to the start just in time to miss all pre-ride direction. Luckily, fellow Field Marshal and seasoned Monkey Knife Fighter Dave Q. Pryor's blaze orange POC helmet was within sight. Jordan and I hopped on his wheel and fell in. The first ten or so miles seemed to fly by at a surprisingly high pace. The group was moving well as we floated rollers on an unseasonably warm April morning. I looked over at Jordan after a few miles and asked him why we were hammering so early.
Then we turned onto the first gravel section and I immediately flatted.
Jordan pulled off to wait for me while I fished for a tube and knocked the rear wheel out of my frame. Several more groups passed us by with rushes of crushed stone dust and taunts from friends with inflated tires. Before we knew it the SAG wagon had showed up and we found ourselves in familiar territory this early season. I turned the rear caliper quick release down and hopped back in the saddle. We started off again and Jordan pointed out that we were hammering before because we were riding with the hammerers. Soon enough we ran into another friend and LWC Brigade member Briana. A few miles later we met back up with Pryor and were relieved to have his experience on our side. Following his lead we arrived at the Mountain Mary climb around mile 30 just as a few friends who had heckled us earlier did. Mountain Mary Road is a fun two mile mixed surface road. It's one of those climbs that makes riding a road bike in good weather a great experience. Unfortunately, the Goat Hill Road climb was next and it was an entirely different experience.
Goat Hill is one of those climbs that makes riding any kind of bicycle in any kind of weather frustrating. It is a steep half mile of loose gravel that feels steeper than it is long and longer than it should be as you tire and begin to serpentine.
As with most tough climbs the reward was finding the top on two wheels. And ice cold beer. A generous soul had established an oasis with buckets of Pennsylvania's finest suds, a thermos of dark roast coffee, stroopwafel, and other snacks just past the peak of the Goat Hill climb. We stopped for a while to make it clear that we appreciated this kind of generosity, commitment and discipline. We started off with renewed spirits and big grins as we enjoyed the descent we had earned a few minutes earlier.
The weather steadily improved as the four of us spun along the dirt roads, long paved climbs and gravel strewn bumps that followed. Our early season had been defined by long days spent enduring all sorts of lousy weather. We felt entitled to the mid-60's sun on this Saturday and we made it known in the moment with hoots, hollers and yips are we tore down dusty double track.
Just when things seemingly could not get any better we spotted a large group of Monkey Knife Fighters ahead. From a distance we could see a group of dismounted riders gathered in a clearing made for a run of high-voltage transmission lines. Their collective posture could mean only one thing… beer stop! As we approached Pryor informed us that this stop was sponsored by local brewery Weyerbacher and that one of the owner's driveways only a few yards away. Fresh beer was enjoyed, stories were swapped and sun was soaked up.
Our ride was nearing its end when one of the most strange interactions I've had while riding a bicycle occurred. Through the years I've experienced many cyclist/motorist interactions—shouting matches, bottle squirts, and the (thankfully) occasional carpunch. So when a sun-beaten red, mid-90's Civic sedan paced me on my descent back into Emmaüs I wasn't sure what to expect. As I looked to the left at the car rolling next to me an arm shot out of the passenger's side front window toward me. Before I could make out what was clenched within that outstretched fist, I took a harder look at the Honda's occupants. I was surprised to see that it wasn't a couple of dudes who wanted to criticize my Lone Wolf Cycling kit. It wasn't a geriatric couple wheezing that bikes belong on the sidewalk. It was four giggling teenage girls. Looking back at the hand in front of me, I saw that it was holding a note. "Take it!", rang the screams from the car. I quickly grabbed the slip of paper and stuck it in my teeth as the driver pulled away to an eruption of high pitched yelps.
Pulling the note from my teeth and unfolding it on my bars I saw:
I had just gotten digits. Score!
Jordan and I headed back to the truck to change into street clothes. We were happy to find that the shady spot next to the church we discovered earlier had kept it from baking under the early afternoon sun. The meter maid hadn't ticketed us, either. Back at the shop, Pryor couldn't believe the interaction that I'd had with the car full of girls. I showed him the note. It was written on the back of a beauty salon receipt. Stay classy, Emmaüs. Then things got really weird.
After the laughter had died down, word made it to us from the front of the shop that someone was looking for me. Every person that I knew in Emmaüs was currently right next to me, staring at me. It was alarming to hear my name called out as the din of the shop chatter died. My mind was racing. I stepped out from my group of friends to get a look at the man calling my name. It was a police officer. If my mind was racing just seconds before it had now cracked, flatted and gone ass over teakettle, rag-dolling down a rocky slope. I'd been in town for less than five hours. Why was a cop looking for me?
"We had a complaint about a naked man over by the church."
At once I was horrified and relieved. Yes, technically, I had been naked while getting changed behind the tailgate of my truck. But I have a beach towel the size of a bed sheet and the inhibitions of a middle schooler getting changed for gym class for the first time. I've gotten changed while wrapped safely in a towel hundreds, maybe thousands, of times before. As I explained myself I saw the stern look on the officer's face wash into a smirk and then a grin. I was off the hook. A free man, I walked back toward Jordan and Pryor and without a word we knew it was time to leave. Before heading back to Philadelphia, Jordan and I stopped at the post-ride hangout and crushed some pizza and a beer from Funk Brewing, yet another local brewery. It was fantastic.
We sprawled out on a sunny patch of backyard grass. I stared up at the budding tree limbs swaying in a high breeze while the air was still around us. It had been an exciting and rewarding day. We had a lot of fun, a little bit of trouble, and we had escaped by bike.