Photographs by Jamie West McGiver
By the time I reached the first climb of the Over Easy Mountain Bike Route, the whole canopy bowed with the weight of the rain. My single-track ribbon had become a river full of frogs. This is not an exaggeration. My back tire was leaving a wake. Turns out frogs stand their ground. Their eyes glowed in the light of my head lamp as I pedaled toward and then around them. Lesson 1: Be the frog, unbothered and unwavering.
The Over Easy Mountain Bike Route was dreamt up by Keegan and Shane Kramer, two bicycle-loving locals. It connects Bark Eater Trails Alliance trail systems in three separate communities—Lake Placid, Wilmington and Elizabethtown—and is miserable by design. It’s about 93 miles, give or take (depending on wrong turns) and gains 11,500 feet. The route is a patchwork of technical single-track, pavement, a seldom-ridden, boulder-strewn creek bed and seasonal dirt roads. I completed it in 2020 and decided to give it another go in 2021, this time starting just after 2:30 a.m., in the middle of a torrential downpour. It’s a DIY-style challenge, so riders can start at whatever time they’d like, and can enlist friends for support, or attempt it solo, stashing water and food along the way.
Around 5:30 a.m., I popped out on Route 86 at the end of Cherry Patch and ate a banana—the first thing I’d had in hours. OOPS. Lesson 2: Don’t stop eating. I spent the rest of the day trying to catch up, unsuccessfully. In fact, for the sake of brevity I will say that miles 30 to 60 are a blur, but I do recall crying while eating a cold piece of pizza on a trail in Wilmington appropriately named “Good Luck.”
At mile 70ish, amid peak-bonk, I lay on the ground while my husband, Justin, force-fed me plain spaghetti, the only thing that sounded remotely appetizing and didn’t require a lot of saliva to get down. My friend Chris had joined at this point and his quiet encouragement was the perfect balance to Justin’s “put this in your mouth and eat it.” Lesson 3: Be strategic about your support crew.
Onward, reluctantly—which brings me to my favorite lesson of all, Lesson 4: Quit. Maybe even say it out loud—and then keep going. I’d read an interview by Daniel Jordan, who had completed the OE the year before. I didn’t know him but thought of his words as lightning lit the trail in Henry’s Woods, again during the Cooper Kiln hike-a-bike and as I cursed the sun switchbacking up Styles Brook Road. He said, “At some point you might want to quit, but you’re in the middle of the woods, so what are you going to do? You put your head down, sweat falls off your nose, and you realize: right now, quitting and continuing are the same thing.” So that’s what I did. I quit and then continued five or six times before reaching mile 80, the summit of Blueberry Mountain in Elizabethtown. Some folks were hanging out up there, and in a welcomed twist of trail magic I realized one of them was the guy whose words I had repeated for the last 11 hours. Lesson 5: Embrace the weird.
It wasn’t pretty, but I pushed through the next 15 miles to the finish, where there were friends, food and beers aplenty. After a plate of macaroni and cheese, I softened from “never again” to “probably not.” The regret, defeat, euphoria cycle is what hooked me the first year because you think your tank is empty, and then you reach the height of Jay Mountain and realize it’s a good, long coast for awhile. Until it’s not. Climb. Crest. Euphoria. Coast. Repeat. Lesson 6: If not for the climbs, there would be no coasts. And finally, Lesson 7: Never say never. See you again someday, OE.
IF YOU GO: The Over Easy Mountain Bike Route can be done as a DIY challenge, but a group ride, ending with a party at Otis Mountain, is planned for June 18. See @over_easy_mtn_bike_route on Instagram for details. Find trail information at www.betatrails.org.