Icy Trails: The Ups and Downs

I had waited too long. That was particularly and painfully clear, now that we crested the hill into an area where the sun had been shining all day. It was too late in the season, and too warm of a day for this ride to go very well. We were snow biking, a fairly new sport built around mountain bikes with incredibly oversized tires... designed to ride over the top of the snow, nicknamed: "Fat Bikes." 

My brother-in law had been inviting me to take an afternoon off all winter long and join him on the trail, and I had procrastinated right up until the very end. The snow melt was on in full force, and what was left for a base on the hard snow packed trail was quickly deteriorating. With 60 degree weather forecasted for all of the following week, this was definitely the last fat bike / snow biking day of the year. We had to ride... today.

Fat biking trails are groomed in the winter, much like cross country skiing trails. There is a machine that comes through the network of paths that tamps down the snow, and gives it a solid 4-6 inch frozen base that ranges from 24-36 inches wide. If you wait too long like I did however, the melt narrows the trail tighter and tighter, until all that is left is a 8-12 inch wide balance beam of ice... 

I recently read a chapter in David Jeremiah's "Shelter in God," about the North Yungas Road. It's a mountain highway in Bolivia that offers drivers breathtaking views of the Andes mountains as it descends 11,000 ft from the mountains into the adjoining rainforest. The North Yungas road is not famous for the scenery however. It is famous for danger. In fact, that particular stretch of highway has earned the terrifying nickname in recent years: "Death Road."

What makes it so dangerous? For one thing, the road is unpaved, which forces drivers to ascend and descend the mountain on nothing more than loose gravel. Also, the road is only 12 feet wide. The entire road. In the United States, 12 feet is the current standard for a single lane of traffic on our interstate highways. A single lane! On my fat bike ride, I was constantly falling or sliding off of the 10-12 inch wide base, and walking the bike because of the ridiculously narrow trail, often landing quite uncomfortably on the top bar of my bike frame. I had definitely waited too long. This wasn't what I signed up for. This trail wasn't fun to ride today, to be sure. In fact, it was downright painful.  

And on the North Yungas Road, while the entire road is only 10-12 feet wide, it negotiates around hairpin turns and dangerously steep grades with what is truly the most terrifying factor of all: the lack of guardrails. There are no barriers, fences, or barricades to keep drives from plunging up to 15,000 ft to the valley below. In contrast to my silly bike adventure, the North Yungas road is not just uncomfortable, or painful. It's tragic. Up to 300 people will lose their lives this year alone, on Death Road.

In many ways, our lives can be a lot like this road. There are days the road isn't any fun to travel. We can experience breathtaking views and peaks of joy, but we can also experience terrifying days through dangerous descents. On top of that for many, this pandemic, this Covid-19 crisis was a removing of the guardrails from the sides of the road. And yet, the road of life continues on.... 

What lies ahead will rise to many more peaks, and navigate through many more valleys. Fellow passengers will offer deep friendships, and companionship for the journey. For those engaged in biblical community, we will laugh together and we will weep together; but we will seek solace and refuge in Christ... the author and finisher of our faith. 

All in all, my bike ride was a success. After the sun went down, and the temperature dropped, we were able to find a frozen loop of trail to ride by the light of our headlamps, with glint of moonlight coming through the tree branches high above. The day's events In total are a peaceful memory for me now. A moment of stillness and beauty in the midst of greater chaos and concern. I was reminded Jesus is always my refuge and strength! He is the place of stillness and peace I can go to, when the road of life is difficult to navigate.

Perhaps the words of Pastor David Jeremiah summarizing The words of King David in Psalm 30 could encourage you today like they did me? Here's how he put it: 

"Lord, I've been taken by surprise. Life has thrown me a curve, and its a hard thing for me to cope with. Even so, I praise Your blessed name. Whatever comes my way, in sickness and in health, in joy or in sorrow, I will stubbornly and confidently praise your name! You are my refuge."

May you find rest in the Lord today. If you need encouragement for the journey, if you need a companion for the trail. Please let us know. I'd love to help. 

Pastor Milo



Post a Comment