About every 5 years I would say I have to declared a particular ride the worst I have ever had. Usually that is about how long it takes for me to forget just how crappy a previous ride was. And I don't mean a bad ride like the trail was no good and it just wasn't fun. I mean disastrous.
The ride started as a slight detour to get to St. Louis. I had to go for work and I thought I would drive and take a couple of bikes. I took out the car seats. Folded the back seat down and fixed two fork mounts to a board. Both bikes fit inside with only having to lower the seats. This would keep them safer than hanging outside the truck in a parking lot for any length of time.
I researched my trail options. I found a 24 miler billed as the best thing (by some mag) between the Rockies and the Appalachians. It was in Missouri which was good because after a big ride I want to be relatively close to my destination.
The trail was the Berryman trail in the Mark Twain National forest. This is in the the Ozarks. After many two lane roads I got there around 4:30. I kind of had it in my head that it's Missouri and probably flat. I can kick out 24 miles in a few hours. The trail head is at a camp ground with a picnic pavilion. So I gear up and hit the trail. It is recommended that you ride it clockwise which I thought I was. I'm in such a hurry to get the ride in I forget lights and to start my GPS.
The trail is not hard packed. Loose rock like gravel. When it is not that it is peat covered in pine straw. A lot of power is being lost at the ground. It is a tough pedal and kind of sucks at this point. I hit some climbs and then get fast flowing down hill runs. Ahhh yeah now we're talking. There are some humped up areas that provide fun little launches down the runs. Now I am excited about it and looking forward to the next climb to get the pay off. Oh I need to mention how absolutely miserable it is to run through spider webs every 50 ft. My face became raw from wiping it with my gloves trying to constantly get the webs off. Anyhooo on one of the down runs I went into a turn pretty hard and kicked up a softball size rock that smashed into my shin. The mother load of pain welled up and I knew that stopping to look at it would make is worse. I kept riding figuring that the amount of bleeding it was doing would cause any dirt or bone fragments as the case may be to run out. Ran out of water by now. Going down behind any of the hills made it apparent that I was seriously running out of daylight and only halfway into the trail. The map I had was worthless. Later it became physically worthless due to sweat. It was saturated and fell a part in my pocket. I decided when I came up on another fire road or cross trail to take it out. I took an ATV trail and pointed back to the direction I came from. Eventually right as it got dark I made it back to a fire road. I took it for some time and then came to a fork. Of course I went the wrong way. I doubled back and took the other one and eventually it turned into black top and ended up back on the highway or state route. I wouldn't call it a highway. I found the road that lead back to the campground. At that point I am looking at a mile and a half climb up the road to the truck. It is dark, dark, night time now. Half way up the road I pass a trailer with a bunch of junk cars in the yard. If you could call it a yard. And then I hear them. At first I thought it was just one dog and I would get off if needed and kick the stink out of him. NOPE. Three. They started circling the bike as I was riding. Mean bastards. I had no water to spit on them so I geared down and started to crank as hard as I could. My inner thighs cramped up and I was just smoked. I didn't out run them. I went just fast enough that they could not get a bite. I out lasted them and they finally peeled off. Arriving back at the trail head was a great feeling for sure.
A couple days later I road the Chubb trail. Maybe about 20 minutes outside of St. Louis. Super fun. This trail was hard packed and not since Switzerland have I ridden anything with the amount of boulders. Platforms to launch off of and lots of natural kickers. Of course I arrived late again. So this one I rode out and back. I got in about 8 miles. Mtbr has it listed. So, if you get the chance to ride it you should. It gets a little burley. That's what makes it so fun.