Sunday, April 12, 2009

Little Miss Blue Sky……or Sunshine? MTB Training Camp Blog.
Well, what can we say about this adventure!?! Waking Wednesday and Thursday with much anticipation and awareness that we faced risky odds, for both journey and destination, we carefully loaded our engined transports with quivers of two-wheeled spirit-seekers and pointed our intentions to the Western Plains.

With varying degrees of visibility, we cut through snowy mists and raced across icy roads that tempted us to turn and flee back home, reaching for our snowboards and skis, and giving way to the temptations of the ocean of white fluff and all that is promises. But, our bikes looked down on us from above and pushed us from behind, whispering and inviting us to join in on endless hours of freedom, joy, and everything that mountain biking stands for. We moved on with attention and intention balanced precisely on our purpose, steadfast on our journey to a place we all seek and too infrequently experience. 18 warriors in all, we faced light and life, our peaceful weapons held by handlebars and knobbed wheels.
A few of us remained trapped behind a wall of snow, ice, illness, or a path that simply led to another adventure, but most of us arrived in Fruita with a smile on Wednesday and Thursday. The first BSV training riders headed out for welcome, if not warm, trail conditions on Rustlers Loop in Fruita (Loma) on Wednesday afternoon while others stayed behind and set up camp. A blast on Moore Fun closed Wednesday riding as the wind died down and the last days of sunlight and blue sky hinted at wishes playing themselves out, and dusk fell onto the horizon offering us views of mist-ridden buttes and spires that faded into darkness and invited us to glimpse our only experience of the starry heavensabove that we would see for the next few days…..

Thursday was an incredible day. It was the kind of day that makes you feel invigorated, alive, joyful, present, and fulfilled all at the same time. Knowing we faced a dance with the weather, we harnessed the golden, life-sustaining rays of sun and sent three groups toward the Book Cliffs for a waltz with wonderful, flowing singletrack - the thin kind, the kind we dream about, talk about, aspire to ride, and can never quite capture with words. But, our spirits knowits true name and that is all we need. Snapshots from our cameras chase the experience, but the true pictures lie etched in our minds, in our very being, transcending all stills, melding into who we are, and becoming part of the breathe we breathe from that point forward, never quite leaving us the same, but better. A bright red Indian Paintbrush flower, my favorite, greets us at the top of our first climb, lets us know spring is here, and blesses our day as we pass. We allow ourselves to be breathed… we shoot down Zippety Do, back up PrimeCut, tipping our hats to our four-legged brethren that move and moo to a slower beat, then down Joe's Ridge, then Kessel's Run, then up Prime-Cut again, over Chutes and Ladders, and perhaps a bit of Western Zippety with a hint of the Edge. Ridgelines of epic – absolutely and phenomenally epic singletrack - allow us to pass on the brim of the knife-edge ridges and our consciousness, givingway to the depth of the valleys below that call us back home, and at the same time offering up the breadth of naked bliss, of raw experience, and of the unparalleled joy that rolling, undulating, tight singletrack, cutting into infinity on the desert horizon, brings us. We choose to live the story, and we end the day stronger for it.
Thursday night blanketed our Blue Sky with crying sky and gusts of wind blown from the lips of Zeus himself, filling our tents like the sails of Odysseus's great ship on his journey homeward. Half awake or half asleep, our hopes of racing more Fruita singletrack were dashed in a dreamy like state that bled intothe gray of morning. Breakfast in the rain under a man-made shelter was wet butc heerful. Rain and snow pounded the artificial, steel-roof atop a concrete slab, hosting a cold metal picnic table that gathered us and at the same time prompted us to depart. The scrub-brush desert above us in the Colorado National Monumentopened itself to Jack Frost, and a sparse, white blanket outlined features of the desert we had not previously noticed, perhaps because we were not listening, and it bid us a humble and not entirely unpleasant farewell. Some of us broke tents and some of us just left them and walked away. On to a new adventure within an adventure.
We all pointed our warm and for once welcome four-wheeled comrades toward Moab after a call to Poison Spider Bike Shop promised us a more hopeful immediatefuture. As a few of us rolled into Moab and descended upon Red Rock Bakery for a good cup of joe, some classy slop, and companionship – the kind only found in atreasured coffee shop before a good ride - we got a call from Susan Prieto telling us that her VW van had lost a few bolts from its clutch linkage and that she could only drive in third gear, determined by John Perry with his back flat to the grindstone. The Gerbers cheered Susan on at roadside, but teased her with an overfull car, hosting Brianne Marshall and too many bikes inside, but lots ofgood cheer. After a few calls to Moab and Green River, Susan caravanned with the others south to Moab while the Colorado River dared her third gear to outpace italong the highway, and led her away from an almost Stephen King-like experience that only Cisco, Utah can scare you with if friends don't come along and move you gently forward, wherever forward leads.
Susan in the Van

Everyone managed to arrive in Moab at one time or another on Friday, but none of us were wearing or caring about watches anymore. Roger and group headed up to Slick Rock for an anticipated loop on the front end, while Chris, Kevin, Brianne, John, and Phil departed Flat Pass trailhead and sadly left Andy behind yearning for his seat and seat post that lay behind, a Joker in the hotel parking lot. Much thanks to Liz Gerber, a third row seat, three top racks and a quad rear rack on the Madden Pilot that became our shuttle for that ride. FlatPass was a hoot, never letting us down. An initial stream crossing, ultra-technical ledges on slick rock climbs, various insane rock drops and technical descents, and sandy, flowing, bermed jeep roads led us to our final descent into a magical rock-walled canyon blanketed with fins of slick rock melding into a baby head roadway that dove under three more springtime streamcrossings and spit us out on a sandy, gear grinding (for both quads and ears, literally!) climb out onto a road above Moab. This point marked the end of our trail ride, and the beginning of a hail and then snow and rain storm that escorted us back into Moab, leaving us soaking wet and frozen, and dementedly happy. We moaned a bit as we dipped our hands in the hot tub at the Best Western, where we all decided to park and carry on the party. Andy, Darrin, Susan and the Gerbivores railed Amasa Back, Susan and Darrin sharing the same storm, on their return, that graced the Flat Pass group and gave meaning to its alternate name: Steelbender. Brianne M and Jessica P closed the day with a trail run through Negro Bill Canyon which dead ends at the world's longest natural rockbridge. An odd, spring-fed mystical pool beneath the bridge piques curiosity at the landscape and boosted the runners back along the stream by the same paththey had come.

A wet day in Moab
Saturday proved to be an Epic salsa dance within and around the weather. A large cohort of Blue Sky riders headed out for a long, route-finding, quad-pounding, soul searching, endurance ride along Gold Bar/Gold Spike trail,along the northwestern rim above Moab. Half the group decided to turn back as snow welcomed everyone's entrance to the backcountry badlands. They nailed a nice road ride back to town and logged some decent pedal time back to the hotel. The other three climbed to the Gold Bar Rim, phoned the town group a hazy Polaroid lacking text that left us all enthralled, intrigued, and a bit worried. After racing across mounds of giant, house-sized rocks and weathering two snowstorms, the ghost riders next made contact with the townie groupo near the Overlook, just beyond the Portal Trail as they descended on the lost, sandy mesathat tops out the Poison Spider Mesa bike trail. Disoriented orienteers double-looped a section and decided to borrow wisdom for our sometimes deliverance-like trail cousins, the jeepers, who pointed them onward. The riders found their game as they descended over and down PSM toward home, or away fromit? The townie folks loaded head lamps, riders, and trail runners and headed toward PSM trailhead, ready to rise to unforeseen challenges as they had lost contact with the rim riders after the Overlook and were worried. PSM is known for seducing occasional riders into a lost desert, some meeting death, and some meeting with the moon for a night, and all ultimately respecting mother nature's game of smoke and mirrors up there. Thankfully the two groups collided with horns and smiles along Potash Road, and deciding to tempt fate a bit, Jessica M jumped in Susan P's van with Andy W, Chris M, and Sage M for a last call at SickRock Bike Trail.

Chris M ran the Practice Loop, spotting he and Jessica's daughter, Sage, and occasionally giving her a boost up a steep climb while the other three riders joined in the fancy and fun of that wondrous place, and everyone whooped and hollered above the insane wind that carried their glee for all lucky enough to hear it and wise enough to listen, for humor and laughter are forces beyond all measure. As if another exclamation point wanted to sneak onto the end of a sentence that closes out a good poem, but is not really welcome, Susan P's van decided to pull another fast one and welcomed us back from SR with a dead battery. After Susan enrolled and completed a brief refresher course on how to push start a vehicle, all 3 adult child wannabes and one child raced after an 87 VW van that screeched and screamed toward the bottom corner of the parking lot on a diagonal that would either graduate us or park us, a fate that rested in one ironic pop of the clutch. As the engine chattered to a start and therider-now-pushers lost their grips of the bumper, we noticed a lone BMXer acrossthe parking lot who had stopped and was looking on, almost hoping we would fail,s o that he may partake in the action that resurrected past-time memories from high school and college and cheap cars and no cares…..we waved to him as we jumped into the open side of the van and drove off, laughing and sharing high fives.

Saturday night invited everyone for malts and ice cream at the Moab Diner, a modernized, nostalgic 50's diner with a mojo that appropriately honors its historical time. We celebrated our dances with the weather, our tributes and triumphs, and our companionship by a warm fire built in the hotel outdoor firepit. The latecomers grilled salmon, veggie burgers, beans, onions and veggies on camp stoves that were just as at home within the Moab city limits as they werein the dirt. A few good ales brought jolly to the party, and we celebrated with so much more than good food and drink that evening.

Darrin and Kevin on Sovereign

Susan on Sovereign

Blue sky and sun, albeit crisp temperatures, invited us all out of bed early Sunday morning. An early morning group of 5 riders headed out and shared a few hours together on Sovereign, warming up their quads for another day that a few were privy too, or capping off the trip with a nice cool down. The Madden clan and one of Sage's friends tried to hit the trail, but one of the kids could not muster her legs or emotional strength that morning, so all bid farewell at thetrail head as both groups crossed paths at different points on their journeys that day. Kevin VP and Phil M were lucky to spend another day riding, hoping tofind dry trails in Fruita Monday on their trek homeward. Susan P, Darrin S, and Andy W ventured back to Moab to pick up a new battery for Susan's van that once again moaned and groaned and was unwilling to start in the hotel parking lot. I think they headed home after that [Turns out the battery wasn't the problem. But, after another push-start in the motel parking lot, we made a dash to Boulder being careful not to turn the engine off the entire way. -Darrin] The Maddens were out too, returning to Fruita to collect their tent and memories of that day on the Book Cliffs and Loma. Roger had departed Saturday evening, yearning for a brief snow experience Sunday at his place in Winter Park, and Howard and the rest of the Blue Sky folks droveback from rain in Fruita on Saturday, sending us all good tidings and a thoughtful road report via cyberspace. The Gerbivores, Liz nursing a cold, and Brianne M bid farewell to all after a Sunday morning rendezvous at Red Rocksbakery again, our entry and exit portal to and from Moab.

Two wheels, a bike, a spirit path called singletrack, a good friend, all cares left behind. And I experience only raw beauty and happiness as I give myself to a passion that is completely undaunting and uncontrollable. None of us need toname it because the smiles on our faces reveal our secrets as we revel in the presence we are drawn into, no matter where we were before the trip, or where were turn after it. After all, now is all we truly have. And, as I look up while writing this on our way home, I see and am thankful for a brilliant Blue Sky.

Chris M
(Posted by Darrin on behalf of Chris. Thanks to Andy for the photos.)

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