Sunday, August 21, 2016

My friend Paul.....

9:22 pm - Saturday - I met Paul Hood back in 1992 while mountain biking in Chino Hills State Park when I was a mere 42 years old.  He was just 29 at the time......he and his pre-teen son were riding together.  I was by myself as I usually was.....I since have become smarter.  Not a good idea to go mountain biking by yourself when you might find yourself miles from civilization at any given point......what if you injure yourself and no one knows where you are?

Well, anyway, Paul is a very outgoing guy.....some might even say brash.  I was  a little offput by him at first blush, but he invited me to go riding with he and his son the next weekend, and I was always looking for someone to ride with, so I accepted.  That was the beginning of what is now a 24 year friendship and well over a thousand miles of mountain biking.  

In 1994 I introduced Paul to the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, and that was the beginning of many adventures.  This was at the very beginning of full suspension mountain bikes......I began riding in 1989 right at the beginning of the mountain bike boom, and my first bike was a Specialized Rockhopper......ridged fork and tail.  Over the years we have both spent thousands of dollars on the latest technology updating, and upgrading our rides......and over the years our riding group has grown.......

1993 - Chino Hills State Park - Paul took this picture of me on my first full suspension bike....a Proflex 752 (Proflex was later bought by K2).

 2007 - Mammoth Mountain

 2008 - Mammoth Mountain

2013 - Claremont Wilderness Park

2012 - Chino Hills State Park

2007 - Mammoth Mountain

2006 - Mammoth Mountain - lunch at the Yolder

 2014 - Mammoth Mountain

 2005 - Mammoth Mountain - it snowed

 2005 - Mammoth Mountain - the weekend after Labor Day!  We began our ride in a blizzard!

2014 - Mammoth Mountain - riding the gondola to the top

2016 - Mammoth Mountain.....the two old guys have still got it!

......Paul just turned 54, and I will be 67 in less than 2 months......we're both 24 years older.....our bodies are beginning to display the ravages of time.....we don't ride as fast, or as recklessly as we once did.  We used to say to each other when out riding trails that we referred to affectionately as 'HIGH CONSEQUENCE' if you made a mistake.......if our wives knew where we were riding they would not have let us out the front door that morning....sometimes there were 500 foot sheer drop offs and the trails we rode were just 12 inches wide with no room for error.

We have shared hardship, danger, and adventure together always having each other's back.  We have ridden some epic rides together.....some as long as 75 miles in a single day......a lot of miles for a mountain biker.  There were times when we overextended ourselves and were so exhausted we wondered if we would make it back home that night......literally......when one of us was down the other would always get the other going time Paul pushed my bike and his for 3 miles until I could recover enough physically to get back on my bike.  One time we literally pulled into his driveway on our bikes after a 14 hour ride just after sunset.

If I was in trouble and I called Paul, I know he would be there as fast as he could, and the same goes for me.  Most of the people I rode with prior to going fulltime are at least 13 years younger than I (Paul), or younger than my oldest son, Chris, who turns 44 this year (Brenda, Richard, Ryan, know who you are).  I have always been the old guy in the that I am gone, Paul says he has taken my place as the senior citizen.  His knees hurt him more as he gets older, and he cannot ride as many miles, or hours as he once did.....I'm just getting older and think more about 'what if'.......what if I have a bad crash (my last bad crash was 1999 when I broke my left collar bone) takes longer for us older guys to heal now, so we go slower, and ride fewer miles.  Paul is one of those friends who will always be a friend, even when we are too old to ride mountain bikes anymore.

This weekend was kind of a celebration of our mountain bike friendship, which has spanned 24 was just Paul and I this weekend riding the 'Off The Top' trail (begins at 11,052' elevation.....way above timberline) one more time.........stopping periodically to take in the wonderful views, and reminisce about our long friendship and all the great epic days we have had together.  We didn't go particularly fast today, but we probably had the best time we have both had in young guys pushing us to go faster.  We only covered 22 miles today, and only did two runs.  Back in the day we would have covered 22 miles by 10 am, and been aiming for 50 for the day.  Those 50 mile days are now in our collective rear view mirrors, but the memories are strong, and the friendship even stronger.

Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Clarke,

    This is a well written and moving narrative. You have a knack for writing and I think your inner person shines through here. Nice job.

  2. What a wonderful long term friend so many memories you have created. Keep on riding carefully now.