The Trial of Lucas Lee Day 2

High in the desolate mountains a bunch of white guys get together loaded up on beer and gasoline fumes with the intent of conducting their own version of "trials". At this point, any self-acknowledging demographic would be running for other hills. Fortunately this was the second day of El Trial de Espana when the professional riders would run their bikes over the rocks and whatnot. Still, I was a little nervous having been raised a poor black child.

It was yesterday all over. Somehow the planning team managed to unload another round of shock and awe where yesterday stood boulders and hillside. It's amazing how a little caution tape can make danger out of serenity.

For the same reason fans bring a baseball mitt to a professional baseball game, this didn't make sense either.

There is a subtle nuance about the boundary tape for the course. By rules it defined the course for the professionals to navigate. In practice it was an inviting recommendation for spectators. Kids on motorbikes ramped up rocks and jumped down near the line. Avid fans weren't phased. These were professionals! Of course we can get closer!

At least I picked somewhere that wasn't in a direct line of acceleration. At this point in the first course, riders had to twist their bikes a quarter turn to the left after crawling down a narrow crevice.

After that, it was gas, gas, gas to literally climb rocks. The spotter cried no fear. I wasn't sure who he was advising, but I had a hard time relaxing.

Somehow, they all made it up. My first trial for photographing was underway.

If Batman had a trials bike, you wouldn't have seen him and Robin scaling buildings with the Bat-rope. Even Superman required a single bound. Cody Webb just needs more throttle.

I saw this once at a circus.

Everybody went through the first course twice. They were scored on both attempts. This meant that you had another chance to get it right if you slipped the first time... but it also meant you had to do the whole thing again. Thankfully there are brave professionals like this one to ride these trials so everyday people like you and me can relax on our weekends. Support your local trials rider. Vote yes.

There were two major ascents on the first course. This was the latter and the steeper and the taller.

All riders were generously reminded not to run over the spectators crowding at the top of the landing strip. Again, probably not the best place to stand.

If I was a rock, I'd also play dead if a guy on a bike wanted to run me over that stare. Luckily, I'm not a rock and he would have some pretty stiff litigation waiting for him after he turns 18.

This is a majority of the second course. We're standing up right on a platform. Riders have to fall with their bikes onto an angled rock several feet below.

I almost forgot to mention how they actually got to the elevated platform. First both the riders and the bikes were fixed with cabled harnesses which were then fastened to helicopters normally reserved for the coast guard...

...AaaaHhhh! I mean, they jumped several feet from the left before jumping down to the right. For those not paying attention, it was something on par with Jaws erupting on the surface from calm waters... Jaws on a trials bike.

Yea, it really was a long way down. My trial was going to have real drama.

Like cats slung out from a tree, every rider managed to land upright.

The the last obstacle was more spectacle than obstacle. Riders started down by the green capped cameraman and just kept feeding rock under rubber until 20 feet higher to a flying finish.

Cody and Keith really were in a league of their own -- not only with their athletic abilities, but with the extra sneakiness of their spotters. Oh? My foot was in bounds? Oh? I pulled it out of the way before the bike, pulling the tape with me? I don't know what you're talking about.

I bet he could really go for one of those smoking TNT cigarettes that his sponsor promised.

While in the lower level, Cody found a secret star and gained star power. He was then able to jump from brick to brick like a Mario brother without getting hurt. That's why he wears red. That's also why they don't make trials overalls.

This is a caravan sport. There are no scoreboards, ring card girls, or even cheerleaders. Instead referees raise their fists to count the number of faults a rider has accumulated during the run. The act also doubles as a heavy metal tribute for excellent riding.

For a cult following, this is a pretty scary cult.

The third course was loosely in the shape of an upper case M as the riders climbed up and down a short boulder series. This was the last stretch to end up on the big rock on the far right. Take this seriously, they say.

I only hope there is a medal waiting for me someday if I ever look like this.

OK. It's game time. This is an action shot. It also doubles as an accurate 10-second video clip of trials riding.

I used a 3D lens for this shot. The third dimension isn't depth, but smell. If you scratch the front tire and put your nose against the screen, you'll smell rubber. I wouldn't recommend scratching the rider: it was a warm afternoon.

Trials observers are fairly incidental. There are no observed trials chants and there is no wave. Mostly people just stand around and applaud if someone makes it through the course pointless. No double entendre intended.

It's rare that I get to strap on the "danger" filter for my camera. UV filters remove ultraviolet light from a shot. Likewise, "danger" filters remove danger from a scene to make it look safe. It's great for sending pictures to family.

Kathy had already earned her stripes yesterday, so she spent much of today enjoying puppies. Sometimes it seemed like the dogs were having the most fun in the sun. Dogs love observed trials. This is why she should have a cat -- and very soon.

Not-so-much-action-but-atmospheric shot #1.

Having an uphill-and-mountain lens is great when you find yourself shooting things coming uphill with a mountain in the background. No photographer should be without.

The last course was intended to be the hardest.

While Kathy was now a certified observed trials observer, there is also a class system to the observers as well as the riders. For added complexity, you should try observing with one hand tied behind your back.

Only three riders were able to make it through the first direction of the last course. One kid from Oregon managed to hop a very tricky and dusty patch where most others wiped out. Only after some heavy blowing did Keith and Cody pass through. Coincidentally, there was a lot of heavy blowing after this incident as certain rules encourage riders to attack the course without tweaking it in their favor.

I always wondered if my vertical-bike lens was worth the money.

During the first pass, riders had to skirt down the boulder on the right and balance in the dusty path between the jagged edge. Cody launched his bike over both and gave John a scare sitting ringside. Running the course backwards for the final run, every self-inspiring rider took to the sky rather than the handicap-accessible ramp.

Kathy was still looking for more puppies. She's quite insatiable when it comes to furry friends.

A roundhouse lens renders very kick-ass shots.

The roundhouse lens in action.

When Keith finished his clean run, or flight, it was up to the last rider who was now tied. If you turn up your speaker, you can hear the output of my murmur lens: There might be a ride-off. They're tied. How do you break a tie? Where's the bathroom? I could do better. Aw snap she's fine... oh that's not a she.

Hold your breath... that's what we were doing at this time.

It was a clean run. The course planners had been busy cooking up a tie-break special. We trekked through the mountainside first to the lair of the hydra. Several course planners had died trying to fix caution tape down the third head. After they gave up on that idea, we all walked back to the second course which had been modified for extra challenge. Stupid hydra.

Both riders took a long walk through the course to plan their approach. I didn't think I'd need my long-walk lens. I usually save it for the beach and Sunday mornings near college housing.

The riders used rock-paper-scissors to see who would call the coin toss. Rock beat scissors. The coin was heads. Keith would go first. Somewhere in the distance, a Meatloaf cover band sang Bat Out of Hell. It was that moment.

The bike was spooked. Keith's spotter calmed the winds being the amazing bike-whisperer he was.

Health officials were on call in case of danger. The fire department was on call. Physicists were also on call: rumor had already gotten out that the law of gravity was being defied.

Keith made it through with only one point against him. This is from my just-before-getting-one-point lens. Terrible, I agree.

Cody made it up.

Good thing he had experience delivering newspapers in hell. All he needed was cerberus chasing him down the block with a hoard of locusts to remind him of those early adolescent years.

He didn't make it up the rock. Keith had won. They were definitely going to Outback tonight -- at least that's what his dad cried. The rest of us jumped rocks with our fake throttles pretending to be our newfound heroes. I had 1500 photos and a handful of decent shots. I was happy. Kathy was happy. John was happy. Trial done: case closed.