A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
I can’t say I really remember much of that first jump, sure I remember throttling through the gears as fast as I could to get enough speed to be airborne, and I remember hitting the ramp and pulling up on the bike as hard as I could. But the time I spent in the air and how far I actually traveled were a blur to me. I do remember the one constant thought in my heard “Don’t crash, don’t crash, don’t crash.”
My only real physical memory from the jump was the landing. I hit the soft sand and my front wheel decided it would rather turn to the right than stay straight. I fought it with all my might while pulling in the clutch and applying the front and rear brakes simultaneously. As the bike slowed to a stop I sat back down on it and turned the machine off. I could hear my fellow riders screaming a racing towards me and I got off the bike and watched them approach. Kevin was the first on to me.
“MAN! THAT WAS AWESOME!” he screamed as he shut his machine down. I barely heard him over the din of the oncoming bikes. I looked at the riders and noticed everyone was smiling but Mikey.
One by one the pulled up in front of my and shut off their bikes. They congratulated me on the jump in a rushed flurry of voices. A couple of the guys patted me on the back and the girls gave me hugs. I was speechless. That is when I noticed Mikey had not gotten off his bike, I walked over to him and nodded. He nodded back and said “Not bad. Not bad at all.” He then kicked his bike to life and sped off.
I turned to look at my new friends and it was as if they all knew what I was thinking, “Don’t worry about him, he thinks he is King of the Dunes and you just beat his jump record by at least five feet.” Big Pi said.
“I didn’t know there was a jump record.”
“He’s an ass.” Steve said.
“Don’t worry,” Teresa said, “He’ll get over it.”
I shrugged my shoulders and walked over to the Suzuki and climbed back on it.
“Hey, let’s play follow the leader.” Big Pi suggested and tore off in front of us leaving a rooster tail of sand to fall on us. Kevin followed after him and so did everyone else. Once again I was almost dead last. I barely beat out Little Pi for a spot.
We rode most of the day, changing leader positions and only once did we have to ride up to the gas station for fuel and snacks. We learned a lot about each other on those dunes, what our limitations are, what we were willing to do, and how fast we were ready to go. As the sun began to wane we headed back to the neighborhoods to retire the bikes and refresh ourselves.
Everyone met in the backyard of Kevin’s house. We were all tired and in good spirits and like most teenagers, we were starving, thirsty and ready for any opportunity that would appeal to us. Kevin had fired up his folks grill and was in the process of placing several packages of hot dogs on the heated grill. The aroma of the cooking tubed meat was making everyone’s mouth water and as we impatiently waited for our dinner to cook, Big Pi went next door to his house and brought out a cooler filled with cold sodas.
With all the fun and camaraderie I lost track of time and as the glowing embers of the grill brightened the day darkened and turned into evening. I became aware of the night with the glowing of the first fireflies, “Guys, I’ve got to go. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to find my campsite by the time I get out of the neighborhood.”
“Don’t worry Skip, we’ll take you back. Besides, I already asked my folks if I could camp again tonight and they said I could.” Kevin said.
“We’re coming too.” Big Pi announced.
“I think most of us are coming out there with you Skip.” Kevin said with a smirk and he closed the distance between us “Besides, I think Teresa thinks you’re cute… better make room in your tent.”
“Well, if we are going to we better head out soon. It’s gonna be a bitch setting up every ones gear in the dark.” I stated.
Kevin chimed in with “Ok, everyone who’s going, head home, grab whatever you need and meet us at the intersection at the entrance to the neighborhood in twenty minutes.” And with that everyone split up. Kevin and I headed into his garage where we filled up my canteens and water jugs. We then raided his folks canned goods cabinet and then I went and grabbed two rolls of toilet paper from the bathroom. When I got back to the garage, Kevin was holding a black large black trash bag over his shoulder.
“What’s in the bag Kev?”
“Some blankets and other stuff we might need.” He replied with a grin and a wink.
“Okay…” I said and wondered if I should ask what the “Other Stuff” was but decided to let it slide.
“Hey, we better get going, it’s almost time to meet everyone.” He said as he opened the pedestrian door to the garage and stepped out into the night.
I followed Kevin to the end of the street, the sound of crickets filled our ears. As we approached the corner we could make out the shapes of the rest of the gang. They were all there, ready and waiting for us with their backpacks, tents and sleeping bags. One by one they all turned to look at Kevin and I and then greeted us by telling us we were late and chiding us for our tardiness.
We all got situated and everyone picked up their gear we headed out into the night. Kevin and Big Pi assured us they could get us to the campsite in the dark so we trusted them to lead the way. It was a short hike, less than a mile but it took us almost forty-five minutes to get there. We had to walk slow and our flashlights cast shadows in the woods showing us false trails. On three occasions we almost went down one of these false paths, but we quickly discovered our mistake and backtracked to the main fire road.
By the time we got to the campsite we were all tired, frustrated and more than a bit irritable, I quickly went to work getting the fire started as the rest of the group helped each other set up their tents. Within an hour of our arrival at the site we had everything set up and were sitting around the fire telling each other lies.
Kevin, who was sitting next to me nudged me on the shoulder and placed a bottle in my hand. I held it up to the fire and read the label “Barcadi Light Rum”. “Go ahead man, take a swig and pass it on.”
“So this is what was in the bag?”
“Yup, and we have more too. So don’t be shy.”
I unscrewed the cap, took a sip and felt my throat burn as I swallowed a mouthful of rum. I handed the bottle to Big Pi who was on my left as a new warmth was introduced inside my body.
“It’s looking to be a real fun night.” I heard Mike say.
And he was right.