Off-Season: Adventures of The Unknown
By Jenna ‘Jammer’ Kowalski
When: Monday, November 19th, 2012, three days before Thanksgiving; Where: Pueblo Bonito Resort, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; What: Christmas music AND a Christmas tree; Why: Why?! Exactly what I want to know. Christmas music is supposed to wait until AFTER Thanksgiving. Don’t they know that Christmas music means Thanksgiving is over, which means, December is here, which MEANS the end of the ‘off-season’ and the start of slow cadence, one-legged, it’s time to stop eating cookies, intervals for us SoCalers?! Let’s not rush it here, I am still not sure if we have even observed ‘Fall’ yet. I am obviously in denial that December is only a day away and the 2013 season is right around the corner. To be honest, I am enjoying my off-season lifestyle, living each day by the seat of my pants/chamois/cut-off jean shorts, unsure of what form of activity will satiate my ever growing drive for speed, adventure, an adrenaline rush.
Not to say that the upcoming season doesn’t have the ability to provide similar excitement, but there’s something about the unknown adventures during the off-season that provide a new dynamic. For example, trading in the comfort of a 25lb, 5 inch travel mountain bike, powered by yours truly, for a 200lb motorcycle, powered by a 150cc four stroke engine. To the average dirt biker, that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for a pint-sized girl like me, that’s a fair bit of unknown going on there. Mountain bikes don’t have a clutch. Thankfully, I have years of experience practicing driving a manual transmission in my head, and it only took me a few times to ease the motorcycle into gear, then gas it, then shift, then gas it again, and successfully ride 100 yards down a flat fire road. After riding around in circles for about ten minutes, it was time to hit the track with the big kids, or rather, the big kid’s little brothers, riding their 50cc bikes on the mini track. But hey, I had to start somewhere and I am grateful to have an ever patient and enthusiastic instructor. It wasn’t long before I got the hang of the rutted berms and table tops, and was able to move on to the bigger tracks. And with each day, it was another unknown, as I learned different tracks, with different dirt, obstacles, riders and unfortunately, what happens when a motorcycle malfunctions at 40mph, going into a table top. The latter is an experience for which I do not wish to get to know better. That being said, I will not so subtly transition into an even more frightening experience. Me, in a bikini, tanlines, tattoos and all, belly flopping into the Cabo San Lucas waves of the Pacific.
‘Mexicana or Americana?’ Was the question of the week, as ‘spectators’ were not sure, whether to be startled, confused, curious, or amused by the small girl who appeared to be wearing white shorts. It may have been just as obvious to them, that this was another adventure into the unknown for a girl who wears lycra 365 days a year. To the average tourist, vacationing beachside and basking under the hot Mexico sun doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for a cycling fanatic like me, again, that’s a fair bit of unknown going on there. Traveling without a bike is one thing – I know it’s the ‘off-season’ but still…tampering with my perfectly crisp tanlines, they might downgrade my USAC license. But, in all honesty, I was a bit apprehensive going on vacation, with plans to do nothing but lay in the sand; most will probably think I am crazy, but the idea was terrifying. So, I resort to what I know best, playing in the dirt. And what better way to experience the Baja than to drive a Baja buggie! Again, this is where the years of practicing manual transmission in my head come to fruition. Talk about unknown; off-road driving, into the middle of nowhere, Mexico, dodging donkeys, horses, and a minivan full of nuns (no joke!) through a creek crossing, while fully extending my leg to engage the clutch, shift into fourth, and remember to not overcorrect as I drift through a sandy sweeper at 50mph. Phew, my heartrate shoots up just recalling the adventure!
Now you can understand why I don’t want the ‘off-season’ to end, as it leaves me here, in Los Angeles, pondering the unknowns of the season ahead. To me this is the most terrifying, yet most exciting adventure yet. Typically by November, I am settled with plans to race for a team, target specific races, and make the necessary steps to achieve my goals as an elite cyclist. However, this year, as I begin a new chapter in what I have so unoriginally titled ‘The Jammer Show,’ it is blank. Blank, yet full of possibilities and smudged with dirt as I turn the page into the next unknown adventure.