Faith and Grace

25th of June 2012. It was the day I named my mountain bike. I never had any real intentions to name it but that day – on a Monday at that – I had to.

I went to SM Fairview from our house using my then-unnamed bike to meet up with Pao. We planned on spending the morning going up to Timberland in San Mateo, Rizal. We’ve been there countless times and we just wanted a quick fix for our biking needs. After loading our bikes in Pao’s Revo and as we were on our way, heavy clouds started to appear and it started to drizzle. We decided to push through with our plan hoping that it would stop as soon as we get there. When we were on the vicinity of Batasang Pambansa Complex, the Sun was out and the road was dry. I remember thinking that it was going to be a great ride since the paved road after the basic trail will not be scorching hot. Boy was I wrong! Dead wrong!

We got there at around 10:00am so we decided to start at the clubhouse (hindi pa naman ako nag Wall 1 or Wall 2 e). After unloading the bikes and finishing up with the safety checks (naks!) we started to ride to the trail head. Our dear friend Sun gave up on us and heavy clouds started to settle back in. After the first climb or so, rain started to pour down. We thought that like before, it would stop soon. But the rain did not stop. The Sun did not come out. There we were, in the middle of the trail with nowhere to hide and only one stop to run to which was at the end of the trail. We pressed forward trying to enjoy the wet and wild ride with hearts pounding, body fats shaking and mouth pursed to hide the silly childish grin brought about by biking in the rain and keeping mud out at the same time.

We reached the end of the trail and like clockwork, the rain stopped and the Sun was out again. As we started the ascent on the cemented road leading to Giant, I remember looking up and seeing the road literally give off steam as if the rain that just poured down was evaporating. Sala sa init, sala sa lamig.

Every now and then, we usually talk during recovery portions (flats, no gradient/incline) of the route. Pao asked me if I wanted to try a new route which included fire roads and single tracks. And being the adventurous type that I am (ahem!), I said yes. So we went to this trail called AFP (dunno why). This is where everything started to go downhill (or uphill – depending on your outlook in life). The entrance off the road was covered in soil. The type of soil that is clay-ish, brownish-orange in color and is very sticky when wet!!! It was so sticky that my tires were quickly covered in mud and the harder and faster I pedal the slower I became. Para akong kalabaw na nag aararo ng lupa. My tires were like fat tires. Mud was everywhere: in my rear derailleur, both pulleys, cogs, chain, front derailleur and fork arches. Both Pao’s and my bike were no longer functioning as they should so we had to walk and remove all the mud. Walking was also hard because even our shoes’ sole accumulated mud and made it loose grip. As we were shaking off all the mud, Pao’s chain got stuck between the granny gear and the spokes of the rear wheel. I think it took us more than 20mins just to free the chain since we did not have the proper tools except for an allen wrench which we used to pry the chain off (which we also forgot to pick up sa sobrang excitement pagka-ayos). Once we got the chain to its proper place, we started to ride out once again. And as if some unknown force was trying to keep us in the middle of nowhere, Pao’s rear derailleur hanger broke off!!! There was no way we could repair it so we had to walk all the way to our destination.

When we got to Giant, we ordered our brunch and started talking about how much misfortune we’ve had and it wasn’t even time for lunch. I asked the vendor if there were other bikers earlier that day and to my surprise, she said that we were the only ones (adik lang). As we were eating, it started to rain again. This time, it was seriously pouring down. Since we had time to kill, we fixed Pao’s bike so that at the very least, he could ride downhill. We tied his chain and rear derailleur to the chain stay with straw ropes just to make sure that nothing will get caught in the spokes of the rear wheel when riding downhill. Good thing I also tried my bike and discovered that the second pulley in the rear derailleur was not moving at all due to the mud. The whole rear derailleur assembly was being stressed by the chain coming from the crank. I suspect that this is what happened to Pao’s bike which ultimately led to the rear derailleur hanger’s failure. All we had to do was to clean the pulleys, cogs and crank and I was able to ride it again.

Improvisation after a broken rear derailleur hanger: Downhill free rider!

After “fixing” his bike and waiting for about 10-15mins, the rain turned into drizzle. We decided to start on our walk back to the club house. I remember talking with Pao on how lucky we were because instead of walking under the heat of the Sun, we get to walk on a relatively cooler cement road without the Sun. I can’t exactly remember who said it but one of us joked that God doesn’t love us because of all the things that had happened to us. It was like we were abandoned or something to that effect. Then it rained again – hard. It rained so hard that every piece of clothing that I had on me was soaking wet. Every. Piece. Of. Clothing.

What we did next was to look at the brighter side amidst the gloomy weather. How often can you ride a bike on a Monday? When was the last time you played in the morning rain? When will you be able to ride a bike on a Monday and play in the morning rain at the same time?

We may have been unlucky the whole time during that ride but somehow, we managed to reach the end of the cemented road and the start of the basic trail without any new misfortunes aside from Pao forgetting to put his phone back on its waterproof case! We went inside the guard house and asked for permission from the guard on duty to allow us to wait out the rain before hiking back to towards the basic trail and to give Pao enough time to put his phone inside its waterproof case. As we were about to walk back in on the rain to start our hike, we saw what could be described by anyone who was in our situation as the most beautiful thing anyone would ever want to see. It came almost out of nowhere or maybe we just didn’t notice it approaching. It was a white Mitsubishi Strada 4×4 pickup truck! We asked the guard if he knew the driver and wondered if we could hitch a ride. The guard told us that the driver was known in the area and is a priest.  We had this ridiculous looks on our faces! And even before I could finish my question on the possibility of hitching a ride, the priest was already nodding his head! We were on a state of disbelief!

We loaded our bikes on the truck bed and stayed with our bikes. As the 4×4 was moving up the trail, we could see the torrent of mud water running down. This would have been against us if we hiked back. We estimated that at certain points of the trail where it was flat, the mud water was knee-deep. Thank God for not letting us hike back! Thank God for all the delays so that we would be where we were when the 4×4 was passing by!

As we were patiently waiting for the 4×4 to reach the end of the trail, we decided to name our bikes to remind us that wherever we are, whatever we do, God will always be there for us no matter what happens. The names will remind us that there will always be difficulties along the way but they make the journey much more worth it and that there’s a bright side in every situation. And if all else fails, if everything seems so hopeless, God will send you a sign, an answer or maybe even a white 4×4 pickup truck.

So without further ado, I’d like you to meet Faith and Grace:

Left: Faith with a broken rear derailleur hanger (before “fix”). Right: Grace