89-Don’t Be That Guy…

“Excuse me, do you know much about the mountain biking trails up here?” Gary pronounced in my direction in search for some local insight.  Never passing up an opportunity to engage with a stranger, I turned my attention toward the voice.  I was a little surprised to see a man standing with his purple Schwinn bicycle that appeared to come straight from the late 80’s, complete with mechanical rim brakes, street tires and a big ‘ol cushy seat for those long leisure rides around town.  The middle-aged man was not wearing a helmet, nor held one in his hand or hung one from his handle bars like the mirids of other thrill-seekers who have traveled from afar to Copper Harbor to experience the best mountain biking single-track this side of the Mississippi.


My personal bike did not even qualify for these trails, containing steep rock slides that will ensure you go over your handlebars if you don’t lean so far back past your saddle that you feel the knobs on your rear tire tickling your pants.  Berms, rocks, logs, gaps, bridges and other obstacles lay intentionally on the trail to bring the satisfaction of a trail well earned through discipline and training in the way of downhill mountain biking.  Adopting the ratings from downhill skiers and snowboarders, Copper Harbor had trails anywhere from a green loop, to a double black diamond which made my heart pound each time I rapidly negotiated the terrain of a trail which never seemed suitable for a bicycle.

“Is there a trail map?  I figure I have to try one out since I am here,” Gary continued as I finished my initial assessment.

“Do you have a helmet?” I asked thinking that he would quickly change his mind with a little more insight into the biking scene.  Most riders came equipped with shin and elbow pads, gloves, and personally I felt safer with a full-face mask helmet.  He’ll change his mind in a few minutes…

“Nah, I’ve been riding for years.  I’ll be fine,” he spouted with confidence in his voice.

“I really don’t feel comfortable guiding you in any direction on these trails if you don’t have a helmet to wear” I replied, proud to take my stance as a professional guide, looking out for the welfare of my fellow man.

“I understand, but I’m going to just pick something if you can’t help me out here.  I’m riding a trail today because I only have a few more hours before I lose my window.  I hear there are some trailheads up Brockway Mountain?”  As my self appreciation for my guiding capabilities were challenged by Gary’s indignant desire to get himself thrown off his bike headlong into a rock, I decided that I had two options: If I say nothing, there is a probable chance he’ll get himself on a trail he is sure to leave parts of his bike or body behind as he hobbles out in the dark to get to the nearest hospital, or I guide him to the easiest trail up there and pray that he survives the ride back to town.

“There is a blue trail up there that is pretty good, nice long ride” (the longer rides are less steep verses the double blacks that nearly shoot you down the side of the mountain).  “There’s a sign that says ‘The flow’ on your right.”  Feeling like I negotiated the best I could to offset the sheer stupidity of this guy’s decision to ride a 1980 something Schwinn bicycle down a serious mountain bike trail, helmet-less… I turned to my guys who watched from afar, not desiring the interaction I craved.  We said a prayer for Gary as we parted ways and headed back to town for another round of the best fish tacos I’ve ever tasted in my life.


As I thought about Gary and his Schwinn adventure in Copper Harbor, I realized that he was simply an example of human nature.  God tells us one thing but how often do we find ourselves saying, “I don’t need to do that… I’ll be fine.”  Or, “I’m doing this either way, so Lord help me on my way…” This may very well be our nature, but it’s not our calling.  If we are going to be God chasers then we have to deny our nature, “and take up our cross daily and follow [Yeshua]” (Luke 9:23). Well, as it turns out Gary did survive the ride and shared with us that he ended up riding his bike up Brockway Mountain, then hung a right onto “Overflow” the double black diamond.  He came back in one piece, so either he was straight-up lying to us or he was spared by Gods graciousness for another day to live.  Do us all a favor, don’t be that guy.