Zen On Dirt

Milking it

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As a mountain biker in Colorado, there’s an impending doom that comes with the fall: The knowledge that winter is just around the corner. Now, this doom can be somewhat alleviated with the sport of skiing if living in the mountains, or road riding if living on the front range, but for all practical purposes, honest-to-goodness mountain biking gets shut down around here for most of the winter.

I’ve spent many a years riding on the road, bundled up in a million layers and still freezing. I spent several years backcountry skiing, much of the time terrified of the avalanche dragon. I spent the past two winters barely skiing and riding my fat bike in snowy places learning how to stay (relatively) warm and (relatively) comfortable, but it’s never quite given me the satisfaction of a good piece of singletrack. I’ve been mumbling about moving to Tucson for the winter ever since I first started road racing over a decade ago and learned about roadies going down there for winter training camps.

This is about the time of year that the mumbling starts. Regular storms. High country snowed in. Mud. And cold. The inevitable Facebook status update: I’m cold. I’m moving to Tucson.

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But, it’s not quite time yet. With a few more orders of business to take care of next week in CO, we’ve been milking Salida for all that it’s worth.

Lee and Joan dropped by for a visit during their final visit to Leadville. They’ve been taking advantage of the Tucson winters and Colorado summers for several years now and were the final reality check I needed: I’m going to be warm this winter!

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Scott had ‘work’ to do their first day they were in town (I know, he works, I didn’t believe it for years either based on reading his blog), so we went out for an afternoon cruise on the backyard S-Mountain trails when he was done. North Backbone – Sand Dune – Backbone – Frontside. Still definitely not even remotely bored of these trails. The evening light has a special way of lighting them up that makes me never want to come down off the side of the mountain. Well, at least until the sun goes down and the temperature plummets.

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With a full day coming up with no real obligations, other than making the most of the day, we headed up to Fooses Creek, yet another section of the Colorado trail that I hadn’t ridden (up) without bikepacking gear and the only time I’d descended it, I was chaperoning a bunch of middle school boys. That trip ended up with one of their frames sheared in half and a totally unrelated broken pinkie. A part of me misses working with kids, another part…not so much.

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It always amazes me how much easier it is to climb without being loaded down, and I guess without being on Day 3 of the CTR. The steep parts really weren’t that steep, the technical parts still had me on the edge of my discomfort/how did I not crash on that? level, but there wasn’t the frustration of the on-again-off-again that I remember so well from racing the trail.

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We knew that there’d be snow at the top, but when we hit mud after two hours of climbing, it didn’t take much persuasion to convince all three of us to turn around. Scott didn’t want to get his bike muddy, I didn’t want to get my toes cold, and while Lee had the brilliant idea of climbing up through the snow and descending Greens Creek, he didn’t seem too fussed about flipping it.

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That descent is nothing short of brilliant. End of discussion. And apparently you can loop it with a dirt road that goes up to the Crest to avoid the dreaded out-and-back.

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But that’s a project for next summer because after a few more rides around here, it’s time to point the cars south (well, north first to visit the good doctor, then west and south to hang out in the desert until our lease begins, and then finally south to the land of saguaro forests).

I’m going to Tucson! Talk about a decade-long dream coming true.

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