Zen On Dirt

Draw of the alpine

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I was completely wasted after the second six hour ride with Jj and Scott. I’ve learned over the years that if Jj says that’s she’s tired and wants to piddle pedal all day, then I should be prepared to ride damn close to XC race pace for at least three hours. If she says that her legs are dead and she’s packing a 5-Hour Energy, I know I need to be prepared to ride at XC race pace for however long the ride is. In Saturday’s case, it was six hours. I finished the ride feeling almost on par with finishing the the Iditarod. No, that’s an exaggeration, I hope I never have to feel that bad, ever again. I finished feeling on par with finishing a Vapor Trail, or maybe the AZT. Either way, I was tired enough that I could barely piece together the new pony when we got home. I’d put the handlebars on, and rest. Then pedals, and rest. Then wheels, and rest. Fine tuning got left till the morning. Any other task, besides building a shiny new silver Salsa pony would have been left till morning, but for somethings, I can rally.

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After Jj left in the morning, a distinct feeling of fatigue set in. Scott and I puttered around the house all morning and I slowly put some finishing touches on the pony. Tubeless wheels, grips, futzed with my derailleurs until I ran out of patience and offered to cook Scott lunch if he could make the new pony shift and the chain not rub.

The activation energy for leaving the house was starting to seem excessively high. But I had a new pony.

“We could go ride Horse Gulch,” Scott suggested.

I was abhorred. I brand new pony deserves a better testing ground than Horse Gulch! (Note how quickly I’ve become spoiled in Durango, Horse Gulch is awesome by any standards, but when there’s high country riding to be done…)

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We tossed some ideas around. We wanted to go back and spend time in the flower explosion up high but knew that we lacked the energy and motivation for steep singletrack or rocky trail. Then Scott suggested a backwards version of ride that Matt Turgeon had written about, or put on Facebook, or something. (See: Please Continue Instagramming Your Amazing Life). A new dirt road climb, Colorado Trail backwards through one of my favorite sections (which section isn’t a favorite section? ¬†Oh yeah, Sargents Mesa), a new contour trail that we’d spied and heard about, and a descent down Engineer Trail for our…5th time on the trail in 8 days?

We loaded the bikes into the Sportsvan, drove to Durango Mountain Resort, and started up the hill.

“This hill is so much easier without bikepacking gear or when not doing a stupid long tempo interval!”

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The storms stayed put behind the peaks as we slowly gained, lost, and gained elevation up to the Colorado Trail where I prepared to experience my first downhill on the new pony. I hadn’t ridden a hardtail on actual trail in ages and I’ll ‘fess up to being a little bit scared. Pony ripped down the trail. I’m not sure if it’s the thru-axle, the geometry, or what, but she blew my mind on roots, steep chunk, and smooth, twisty trail. On the ups, she crawled over rocks like a dually would. I was immediately, completely, and totally in love.

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We pedaled and chatted. Commented on how the climb out of Cascade Creek wasn’t nearly as bad as we’d imagined and hit the contour trail with a couple of hours of daylight left.

It took us nearly all of that time to traverse the next three miles to the top of Engineer Trail, not because the trail was slow, but because we were presented with the most spectacular golden hour I’ve ever seen. When the Universe decrees ‘Stay and play in the flowers. Take lots of pictures.’ I’m not one to argue.

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When we finally lost the light, we bombed down the trail. Faster, faster, and faster, the bike hooking up in corners like nothing else, feeling completely stable at high speeds, I was giddy.

Then I crashed. Pony wasn’t about to let me get ahead of myself and kindly let me off with a speeding warning instead of a full fledge ticket, or a night in jail, which I probably deserved. We pedaled the mile on the highway back to the car in near darkness, lamenting the fact that Zia wasn’t going to be open for tacos to finish off the perfect trifecta of rides and Zia.

I go on a lot of rides, nearly one a day and some of them are pretty spectacular, but there are some that I know I’ll never forget. This was one of them.

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