1) Riding bikes with my wife and friends.
2) Road trips with said people.
3) Sushi that I cannot afford.
4) Utah landscapes.
I am sure I had more items on that list as I piloted the Black Max across the desert Saturday night. Right now though those are on the forefront of my mind. The last four days were stellar.
It is easy to identify and list things that don't suck when immediately juxtaposed with something that does. Air travel is certainly on the list of things that do. As I write this I am sitting in the bar at the airport sipping a glass of overly expensive red wine waiting for my flight.
I was determined to not let a business trip rob me of a weekend day, I desperately wanted to race Cyclocross today but despite my best efforts it just wasn't to be. Between a ticketing SNAFU and trying to unpack from one trip, pack for another, and sleep a little, all I was able to manage was a 1 hour ride with my wife before reluctantly driving off to the airport.
Rewinding a bit, I took three days of vacation to properly execute a plan for Allison's birthday that had been hatched four years earlier while sipping beers in the parking lot of Bootleg Canyon after a full day of shuttles and giant grin inducing shreddage on big DH bikes.
Interesting how one road trip in 2007 birthed another in 2011. We were sharing a Stone Brewery 11th Anniversary and Stone's Vertical Epic series spurred some discussion about Allison's birthday in 2011 being a unique opportunity to do something cool. 11.11.11 with an 11th Anniversary @ 11,000 feet of elevation was born.
Wednesday, the first day of the vacation, we lazed a bit in the morning before a nice ride around Lake Elsinore. This is a main staple of winter base training for us as it has a very flat profile. Post ride nutrition out of the way we packed up the truck and headed 4 hours north to Las Vegas where we would rendezvous with Jeff, one of the original instigators of the trip. After picking Jeff up at the airport we headed for The Hard Rock Hotel where we first enjoyed a cervesa at the Pink Taco, and then Steph and Dan joined us for an incredible sashimi dinner at Nobu. Now that we had the full compliment of friends and our tanks topped off, the five of us sped late into the night arriving on a nearly full moon lit Gooseberry Mesa in the early hours of Thursday.
An all too brief night's sleep yielded a great deal of excitement around Thursday morning's french press coffee from the Jet Boils.
After sufficient caffienation and a hearty bowl of oats I revelled in introducing three of my closest friends to slick rock riding on The Goose. We spent the better part of the day playing connect the dots, steep ups and downs, fast single track, techie fun heavenly riding with spectacular vistas of Zion and Little Creek Mesa and massive vertical drops to the desert below.
By the time we were loading the bikes back on the cars for the evening jaunt to Hillsdale every one of us had smiled, laughed, hooted with joy, and were ready for food and rest. At the little house beside the road a roaring fire in the potbelly stove kept us warm, a delicious dinner of steak and vegetables satiated our appetites, and sweet sleep fell on our weary eyes (after some libations and clowning around of course).
Friday, 11.11.11, four years in the making.
A ride on Thunder Mountain was the order of the day. Conditions were uncertain as there was some patchy snow still on the ground in the valley from the previous week's storms. As our group pedaled up the bike path the snow became more and more dense, eventually shrouding the path entirely.
Our mountain bike tires groaned and hissed as they pressed their way up through untracked snow. Turning right onto the dirt road the snow only got deeper and before reaching the single track the snow was several inches deep. I have to admit that at this point I was a little worried. Between Allison's Black Death Foot and navigating the trail with 4 inches of snow covering it, it was going to be a long and fairly stressful day.
Fortunately it takes a bit more than some frozen precipitation to dampen the spirits of our little crew and we proceeded to shred snow covered trail with reckless abandon. Traction was hard to come by and the riding experience was a polar opposite to the previous day's slick rock. The views again did not disappoint, snow provided jaw dropping contrast amongst the red rocks, ancient gnarled pines, and hoodoos.
Unfortunately the next activity of the day was cut short by the white winter decorations. The road to Brianhead Peak was not passable in our truck and Allison deemed it too far to hike. Night had fallen and our energy levels were depleted. We did our best but came up 560 feet short, enjoying the aged 11th Anniversary at 10,420 feet.
Our failure to summit was not without celebration though as the duo-MC set about making snow angels and writing giant birthday wishes while Allison tilted back the brew.
Back at the cabin the evening's feast consisted of Mann-style grilled pork chops and S-Mac's magical vegetables, followed by Reese's Peanut Butter Cup encrusted brownies with 31 candles alight. Surely it didn't measure up to Allison's mom's famous Boston Cream Pie birthday cakes, but it was quite tasty.
Sometimes the drive home can be a drag after such a fabulous few days of adventure with friends, a sensation of crashing down off an amazing high. This trip however brought us back from the high nice and slow. After winterizing the house and bidding farewell to Dan and Steph MC who were headed home through picturesque Zion National Park, Allison, Jeff, and I drove through Toquerville for a blissfull trip on the flowy serpentine single track above the cliffs of Hurricane (always pronounced Hurkin in these parts).
Even a violent looking crash by Allison did not derail the pleasure train on this day as our slightly smaller group of mountain bikers flew through the desert landscape on perfect buff one track.
Dinner consisted of the highly touted Cafe Rio in St. George followed by a "Concrete" (think DQ Blizzard but made from frozen custard) at Nielson's.
Sitting here on an Airbus, flying to Chicago, these memories warm my heart and bring a massive smile to my face. I close my eyes and it isn't just the turbulence that moves me. I can hear my friends brapping and shouting and laughing as we ride. This is the reason mountain biking is so important to me. It is the polar opposite of suck. It has brought us great friends that will travel from far and wide to full fill a crazy whimsical idea for my beloved wife's birthday celebration. I love riding and I love these people.
Till the next time, may your adventure be full of joy and love...