Zen On Dirt


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Alternate Universes

I never think it’s a good idea to play the ‘What If?‘ game. What if I did X instead of Y, how would life look different?

It’s easy to see, with very minor speculation how single events that we don’t consider significant at the time end up shaping our entire lives.

The cute boy in Y-Riders summer camp when I was 12 who I wanted to impress with my mad mountain bike skills.

Agreeing to race Collegiate Mountain Bike Nationals because CU needed more girls.

Deciding to race the Colorado Trail Race because it sounded like a better proposition than working all week.

I tend not to go back and say ‘What if that didn’t happen?’, but these past two weeks are sort of a interesting to look into what was, and what could have been had I not lured Sparkles in with a Frito and piece of cheese.

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My overall level of stress would have been greatly reduced, that’s for sure.

As it turned out, Sparkles suffers from pretty severe separation anxiety. I can hardly blame her, people pay therapists thousands of dollars to tell them that  they suffer from separation anxiety because someone in their life abandoned them. Good thing dogs don’t read too far into not wanting to be left alone, they just bark and cry.

Our first week with Sparkles consisted of calling the Humane Society and leaving a message and not getting a call back. Then taking her there and getting trash-rejected. Then a call went into the rescue that had adopted her out a year ago and an answer was awaited.

Somewhere in there, I got out riding with Wendy and Shannon for a girls’ single-speed/birthday ride + Seis Burritos.

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Saturday was the Antelope Peak Challenge, one of the better of the AES events. Alexis was coming down from Utah to play in the desert for the weekend, and we’d made plans to ride the ‘race’ together again this year. But first, a warm-up ride at Starr Pass, on our favorite loop. If I had a dollar for every time Alexis and I have ridden 36-Main Loop-Genser in the past few years, I could buy at least four burritos.

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We’d planned on towing the Scamp out to Willow Springs Road and camping with the rest of the crazies. But the dog, what are we going to do with the dog during the 7+ hours it would take Scott to finish the route?

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She’s not allowed in the Scamp for allergy prevention, and I had no clue how she’d tolerate hanging out in the van alone.

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So I decided not to race. Not a terribly hard decision as I still only had a single speed, Alexis had another riding buddy, and really, I didn’t want to be tired for a week from the effort.

Instead, after the crew of 23 took off to race, Sparkles and I went for a run, after which we spent several hours watching birds at the mud puddle by the Scamp.

Shannon arrived late morning after having joined the ranks of the fun-employed the afternoon before. My thought process when I heard the news was something along the lines of “Oh no! That’s really shitty of her boss. What an ass-hat. But wait! That means no more early morning alarm clocks for running so that she can get to work!” Yes, I’m a little bit selfish in that regard.

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With cloud cover and relatively cool temperatures, and the fact that Sparkles had chosen the van as her desired sleeping spot anyhow, we went for a quick spin around the 24-hour course. It was my first time riding it at a semi-reasonable pace. There’s a lot to look at when you take the time.

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We spent the afternoon shooting the shit as racers came in, culminating with an impressive fire, salmon, and some sort of chocolate hazelnut vodka.

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The next morning, Sparkles and I went out for another run. Nearly eight miles does nothing for her, she still jumped around like a mexican jumping bean when we were done.

Another evening ride at Starr Pass with Alexis after packing up the Scamp and heading home.

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A text came in from the rescue during the morning walk the next day, ‘We’ve left a message with her adopter.’

Figuring that my time with Sparkles was coming to a close, I got sad and went for a ride to one of my favorite places. Not allocating full attention resources to the actual act of riding, I nearly hit the deck at least twice.

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With energy from a mellow weekend, I went out for a ride on the AZT mid-week with Shannon and Company, at which point of time she proposed an APC make-up ride the following Saturday. She’d been sick. She wanted to ride the route. I knew Scott would be tied to the computer, and I could think of worse ways to spend a Saturday.

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Schilling, who’d been stung by a bee in the temple the night before APC and also had to skip it chose to join us.

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We started at the same hour of the race.

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We rode mostly the same route.

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I got to have a completely different experience on the route than if I’d ‘raced’ it the weekend before.

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For sure, I was more willing to burn matches trying to clear pitches on the single-speed in a non-race format where it didn’t matter if I blew up spectacularly before the finish.

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In the end, I feel like I cleared everything on the one-geared bike that I could on a geared bike, which is pretty cool.

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On our way home, we ended up trying a BBQ place in Catalina that we’d driven by countless times but never had a reason to stop at. Turns out, there’s good food in Catalina!

What would have happened without the intervention of Sparkles? Who knows, but I could speculate that I would have ‘raced’ the APC and gotten my name on a webpage that only I check, I would have ridden Painter Boy and worn it as a badge of honor, I wouldn’t have spent a lovely Tuesday on the AZT afterwards, and I wouldn’t have been coerced into riding the APC course with Shannon and Schilling a week later.

Given the stress that Sparkles has caused, sometimes I think ‘What if I’d never brought her home?’ My life, at least for the past two weeks, would have taken a completely different trajectory. Better? Worse? Who knows. It just is.

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Either way, we still can’t keep her and haven’t been able to get ahold of the rescue again to get any information on her owners. Which sort of sucks. And is stressful. And something needs to happen as we’re slowly working our way through rescue options here in Tucson. Poor pup. She just wants to be loved. And fed.

 


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Of Scamps and Tucson and Dogs

Our 2016 started off innocuously enough. We left Boulder on New Years, drove through the day, celebrated the warmth of the desert that night.

It’s the time of year where there’s stuff going on pretty much every weekend. Which is awesome. I love this time of year.

We started off with the AZT Jamboree, a fundraiser for the AZT Association. Normally, it’s a shuttle ride on some of the amazing sections of trail south of town, but after a week of moisture, the trail was deemed too wet, so the event was moved to Tucson Mountain Park, starting at a piece of BLM land, Snyder Hill, west of town that Scott and I had been wanting to check out for it’s free camping possibilities.

One could argue that this event was the start of the chain that has led to the slightly crazy dog sitting behind me right now.

Shannon and I split the difference between the 9:30 am start long-course of 35 miles and the 11 am start for the short-course of 25 miles by starting at 10:15 and riding 30 miles.

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Aside from the riding and running into good friends all over the place, the highlight was definitely the empanada and espresso aid station put on my Matt Nelson/AZTA.

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The BBQ lasted at Snyder until the sun set and the temperature dropped.

A few days later, Alice Drobna of Triple Crown of Bikepacking fame and her partner Ross showed up to ride some Tucson trails. Bend, OR, was too snowy, they wanted sun. We were happy to oblige, starting off by getting Ross stuck in the 4-foot culvert on the way to Robles.

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I’m not sure exactly what they thought of our rocky-style trails, given that you have to look hard to find a rock in Bend, but we had a good time showing them around. And introducing them to Seis burritos.

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Then my little brother showed up in Tucson for work. The text message conversation went something like:

Me: Can you run 5 miles?

Him: Iffy. I haven’t run more than a mile in a while.

Me: Perfect. You’ll be fine.

We took him to some of the best views in TMP, and then obviously to Seis for dinner. I should make a tee-shirt: My paycheck and hunger go to Seis.

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Then we decided to go Scamping. Just one night, out at Gilbert Ray, a campground on the other side of the Tucson Mountains. Just a simple test run to see what we needed to learn more than anything. It was also a good excuse to run Wasson Peak from that side, otherwise a bit too far of a drive from town to justify.

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I love that mountain.

We were treated to a spectacular sunset while we wandered the campground looking at other rigs. Our Scamp definitely looked pretty small…but it’s plenty big for us.

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We slept so peacefully, we decided to stay out a second night, but without the $20 campground fee. We were, after all, still paying rent. But not having a busy road nearby or a rooster that wakes up at 3am next door was such a treat.

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So we towed the Scamp over to Snyder Hill, the BLM land that many people use for boondocking just outside of town where we were a week prior for the Jamboree. This was second event that led to the dog.

We let the Scamp sit and joined Shannon for a long ride. She’s training for the AZT and I’m going to get fit chasing her around. This is my plan.

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We got back and immediately spotted a small little dog, tail terribly between it’s legs, hip bones starting to gain prominence, looking absolutely scared shitless of everything and everyone.

I’m a bit of a sucker for dogs. Scott is allergic to dogs. While he went in the Scamp to work, I lured the pup in with pieces of cheese and Fritos. After two hours, she’d eat out of my hand. After three hours, she let me pet her.

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She absolutely melted under an ear scratch and settled down onto a yoga mat next to the Scamp when we went to bed.

I could tell Scott was getting nervous at this progression of events.

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Home sweet home. Scamp sweet Scamp.

We both hoped that she’d go home during the night to a family that loved her and cared for her, and would maybe give her a little more food so that she wouldn’t be scrounging around a camp-ish ground.

Within two minutes of getting out of the Scamp in the morning, she came running up, jumping like a Mexican jumping bean, so excited to see both Scott and I.

She followed us on a hike up to the top of Snyder Hill and through the campground where we asked around to see if anyone knew anything about her. A camp that had been there the week prior told us that she’d been wandering for a few days, and we were the closest she’d gotten to anyone. We watched her expertly look on the hoods of cars and underneath tables, searching for food.

We stayed at camp till close to dark, she never left our side. Either she liked Fritos and cheese better than her food at home, or she had no where else to go.

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‘Surely she has an owner who’s looking for her,’ we postulated. We just had to find them. So we opened the van door, she jumped right in, and home we went. This, I guess, was the final step to the dog.

1.5 weeks later, she’s still sitting behind me. We started by filing Found Pet reports with Pima Animal Care Center and the Humane Society. We posted on Craigslist and the Pima Lost Pets Facebook page. We took her to a vet who couldn’t find a microchip. We waited. The Humane Society wouldn’t take her because she got stressed and nipped at the vet who was trying to vaccinate her. But, they did find a microchip linked to a local rescue. Phone calls and messages went frustratingly unreturned. After multiple phone calls, what we now know is that she was adopted out by a local rescue group a year ago when she was just a 6 month old puppy. A message has been left with the adopter, but as of this moment, 36+ hours later, I haven’t heard anything back.

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Post getting rejected by the Humane Society. Please don’t leave me there, please.

This makes me a little bit sad, but I’m still holding onto that little bit of faith that someone out there loves her and misses her, and we’re going to find that person.

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But until then, I’ve been having a pretty dang good time running with her and teaching her some basic manner. Walking on a leash is not her strong point, but she’s young, smart, and extremely food motivated. Also very easily overwhelmed and scared of strangers. This dog has gone through some trauma in the past few weeks, and all things considered, I’m proud of how she’s doing.

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The difference of a year

Scott and I were heading out for a little run this afternoon, more for the sake of movement and getting outside than anything else, when a little thought floated through my head: This winter in Tucson is so much different than last winter.

Last winter we came back at the beginning of October, at the beginning of an October that was still hot, to a house that didn’t have AC. We’d just come off of the CDT and were, well, exhausted. Emotionally. Physically. I was a mess.

This year, we came back in mid November after several nights/weeks of uncomfortably cold camping, relishing the relative warmth of the desert. We’d spent the summer metering our efforts, backing off rides and runs when the fatigue started to mount. We came back motivated and energized to be in the desert.

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Last year, I didn’t want to look at a bike. I didn’t ride at all. I didn’t miss it one bit.

This year, our bikes disappeared on our first night back, so aside from three fat bike rides I did (with varying degrees of success), I didn’t ride at all. I missed it terribly.

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50-year trail is not recommended on a fat bike

Last year, I quickly ran my shins into the ground and dealt with some pretty severe foot pain so that I couldn’t run any more. DSCN5532

This year, I can put in 25-mile weeks on foot and have only flirted with shin pain. The retrieval of my bike and a week of riding has me back to running pain-free, which is awesome.

Last year we had some crummy neighbors. Scott referred to one of them as Shit-for-Brains, and Scott doesn’t say much bad about anyone, ever.

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We have curved bill thrashers as front-door neighbors.

This year, we have much better neighbors. While we do live on a busy road, which is unfortunate especially at 7am when everyone decides that it’s time to go to work, and even worse when the road is wet, the compound that we live on is a huge piece of land and filled with birds.

But I think aside from all of these things, the biggest change is a different frame of mind.

Last year, I still felt like I wanted to have some sort of relevance in the world of bikepacking. I’d done my thing racing. I’d done my thing with the CDT. Shit, what was next?

That was sort of stressful as someone who’s had a history of doing one thing and then soon after finishing, planning the next bigger and badder thing. Anything bigger and badder than the CDT would have surely killed me.

Well, that need has sort of dissipated. It wasn’t a conscious thought, I just stopped caring about the type of bikepacking most people publicly cared about, either the type where you’re uncomfortable and not sleeping much and trying to go as fast as possible or the type where you pack everything plus the kitchen sink into panniers on an old antique bike with drop bars and go ride roads, and we went to go do our own thing. Semi-comfortable bikepacking. Hot springs included. We didn’t make it into either of the Top Bikepackers of the Year lists from Bikepacking.com or Bikepackersmagazine.com, but that’s okay. Others are picking up the flame of riding fast on established routes and doing big, hard routes in good style.

And while last year, the thought of others pushing limits may have made me feel like I was missing out on the race scene, or that I needed to put together another summer long suffer-fest, now, I lean back, raise a beer (or glass of whiskey), and do something else.

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Like look at birds.

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Like this Green Kingfisher. We think that this was the first sighting of a Green Kingfisher in AZ in seven years. Our report of it sent a flurry of people down to Patagonia to try to find it again. Look at the size of his nose!

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I love the Acorn Woodpeckers!

Many of our days have been built around going somewhere to look for birds, and then recreating afterwards. It’s taken me to some new places, like Patagonia State Park, near where I had an ill-timed flat tire trying to ride my fat bike down Red Mountain. That was the end of riding that bike.

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But we got to see a lot of beautiful birds and go wandering in places that had never even been on my radar.

I’d like to think that for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I’m finding that sweet spot between staying fit enough that I can go do the things that I want to do, working enough that I don’t have to worry about money, and engaging in completely non-athletically related things where I get to learn and explore the world around me.

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Snipe! We found a snipe!

I’ve always been one to get so caught up in one thing, trying to do it as well as possible to the exclusion of other things in life, that this balance thing really is pretty new and novel to me.

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I may never be, or try to be, more accurately, the best at any one thing again, but I sure feel lucky that I’ve been able to open up my life to all sorts of exploration. And my guess is that we’ll do some pretty cool bikepacking again this summer, and we’ll probably be too lazy to submit it to anyone who’d publicize it, and we’ll miss out on those Best of lists once again.


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Silly goals, photos, movement, and 2016

Back, many many years ago, or at least seemingly many, many years ago, I had a streak going of 20+ months of skiing at least one day each month. It basically started from a massive winter with 150+ days of skiing (the key was only taking classes that were on Tuesday and Thursday and well, prioritizing skiing over studying) and having lots of friends stoked on sliding on white stuff as much as possible.

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Early October found us on a little permanent snow patch above Nederland. It was maybe 15 turns long, if you made tight turns, sun cupped, and all in all, silly. But, we were determined to ski in the midst of summer, so we took the dogs up there, hiked in, skied a few laps, and called it good. Well, Huck caught his foot on a ski edge and ended up at the vet, so we called it mostly good.

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Of all the skiing experiences I’ve had over the years, this is one of the most memorable ones.

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I bring this story up because I read a post by Joe Grant over at iRunFar.com recently. Joe seems like one of those really cool people I’d like to meet someday, a well-known and super-fast ultra runner based out of Boulder who also lined up for the CTR this year with a rigid bike with drop bars, and finished pretty quickly, IIRC. He wrote about how after many years of ultra running, this opened his eyes to a new way to see the world, the same way that, coming from a bikepacking background, running has opened up my eyes to new ways to explore the world.

His post was mostly about his project of taking one photo a day and posting it on the Instagram, as a way of documenting daily life. But he also talks about his previous year’s resolution of running a mile every day, regardless of the speed, conditions, locations, or circumstances. It’s worth a click, I promise.

Putting yourself in these arbitrary situations that come with keeping a streak alive, or trying to thru-hike a long-distance trail, or just trying to achieve some arbitrary goal that only you care about, one that can seem completely absurd to the outside observer, you start having some pretty unique and memorable experiences that you wouldn’t have otherwise. And these funny ones are the ones that stick in the memory banks.

Like skiing the Caribou snow patch in October. Or sleeping in grizzly country during Tour Divide with a group of guys who pissed around the perimeter of our camp to deter the bears. Or hanging out in a hotel in Babb, MT, for three nights while an early snowstorm raged so that we could cross into Canada and hike to the terminus of the CDT the next day.

The experiences that matter.

Joe goes on to talk about that when you make a tradition of something, be it taking a photo a day (we all take photos everyday, but how often do we think hard about that photo) or running every day, it elevates it above the random things we do in every day life, a sentiment that I really appreciate. It turns it into ritual. Art, maybe. It gives it a certain level of importance.

Anyhow, I’ve enjoyed his photos.

And I like the idea of daily movement.

And I like the idea of sharing daily movement.

But I have no desire to run every day.

But, I also have a bike.

And imitation is the highest form of flattery?

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Anyhow, I’m going to put forward a streak goal for 2016. A mile of movement and a photo of what I saw. Every. Damn. Day. I’m going to go post it over on the Insty (follow along at ezthenomad) because even after querying everyone from high-school kids to my brothers to my social-media intelligent friends, I still don’t fully understand the point of The Instagram versus The Facebook. And this seems like a good use of the Insty. I think. Anyhow.

I’m hoping that I’m going to get myself into all sorts of cool places that I wouldn’t go necessarily motivate to go otherwise. And hopefully, next December 31, I’ll have a pretty cool set of pictures of all the places I’ve been.

A collection of photos and set of experiences that I might not have if I don’t make some silly and arbitrary goal. So here’s to 2016 and the big, wide world there is to explore.


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Moab: Lessons in living

I don’t think that when my parents let my little brother, Andras, put a fencing mask on at the Boulder Creek Festival, somewhere on the order of 20+ years ago, that they thought he’d take it as far as he did. It was one of those booths where they’d give you some semblance of protection and let you dork around with fencing equipment.

At the time, with -2% body fat, swimming as an 8-ish-year old wasn’t cutting it for him (he’d swim a lap and have to get out, shivering and blue), so they signed him up for fencing. I, as a sister 4 years older, was glad to no longer have my brother hanging around the pool with me.

At age 18, he won Elite Nationals.* From what I understand, he finished 2nd at Olympic Trials in 2008, missing the sole spot, got a full ride scholarship to Ohio State, missed out on the 2012 Olympics because of, well, life, switched weapons from foil to epee to have a better shot at Rio, moved from the fencing hot spot of New York (He told me he thought he’d meet some nice New York girl. I laughed at him.) to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and then when all was looking good for a solid bid to go to Rio in 2016 on an individual spot, he tore his groin muscle. And then broke a rib soon after that healed.

*The actual facts of what happened may be slightly different.

For the past year since the muscle tear, things weren’t looking good for Rio. When he bought a Santa Cruz Nomad this past spring (he liked the color scheme better than the Bronson, good way to choose a bike), I knew he had all but given up hope for the team qualifying for the Games and seemed ready to move on with life.

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He was more than happy to hang out a bit in Boulder while we were there last and ride.

He was having a hard time choosing a direction. Options consisted of putting his MBA to good use and opening a coffee shop, or taking some time to travel.

While to many, being a full time athlete getting to eat at the OTC cafeteria every day and being able to focus fully on training and competing might seem like a dream existence, it’s wicked hard. You have to be 100% dedicated to being an athlete 100% all of the time. Even during the off-season – don’t get hurt, don’t get fat, don’t get too out of shape.

I, of course, much to the chagrin of my mom, encouraged travel. I figured he deserved a solid vacation after 20+ years dedicated to a sport. And anyhow, I always encourage travel.

When Scott and I found ourselves in Moab at the same time that I knew he was coming back from what was his final World Cup in Switzerland, back in October, I texted him, on a Tuesday, ‘You should come ride with us in Moab. ASAP.’

He texted back, within minutes, ‘Ok. I’ll be there Thursday morning.’

I wanted him to see Moab for two reasons.

One – because the riding is amazing. He’d only been riding in the Front Range, which, well…often leaves something to be desired, and I knew that he’d love the red rocks.

And two, if there’s one place left that seems to truly embrace dirtbaggery, thanks to the climbing culture, and the idea of living simply for the sake of the pursuit of happiness and fun, it’s Moab. Main street is a parade of camper vehicles, ranging from clapped out RVs that may not make it out of town to high-end Sprinters and Earth Roamers. ‘Camping’ is celebrated. Food is (relatively) cheap.

I knew he was talking about an impulse ticket to New Zealand and a year-long work visa, and I wanted him to see as many alternative lifestyles as possible.

When he arrived from Colorado Springs, he commented that he liked the stretch of highway with the ‘big cliffs’.

‘Glenwood Canyon?’ I asked.

‘Yeah. I didn’t like Grand Junction much thought. And there’s really nothing to Fruita.’

Then it dawned on me. ‘Have you ever driven I-70 west of Summit County?’ (For reference, Summit County is less than 90 minutes away from Boulder, where my family has lived since 1992.)

‘No. I know that the airport in Turkey looks like, but that was my first time driving I-70. The speed limit goes up to 80 mph in Utah!’

Wow.

First stop was Hymasa/Captain Ahab.

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He adjusted quickly to the style of riding, hitting stuff with a level of gung-ho-ness that is only seen in someone new to the sport. Someone with a bunch of strength and explosive power.

Grace, well, he’s working on that.

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We spent a day at Arches National Park.

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Where I discovered he has the same crippling fear of heights that I do.

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We rode Navajo Rocks, where we got our slickrock off-camber on.

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And practiced wheelies.

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We went out to Sovereign to practice uphill tech riding. Scott told him that all the girls go for boys who can ride techy uphills.

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We went swimming up Mill Creek, even though it wasn’t particularly swimming weather, other than the fact that the sun was out.

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And we spent a good amount of time at camp.

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Just being.

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Watching sunrises over Arches.

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We had a schoolbus for a neighbor. Residents of school buses are called Skoolies. This pair had a few dogs, a few cats, and most notably, a friendly goat named Rosie.

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We slept outside under the desert sky with huge views in all directions. Oats and coffee for breakfast. Mac n’ cheese, hummus, veggies, for dinner. A whole lot of outside time in between.

We spent our last morning trying to ride Slickrock in gale-force winds. After the practice loop, we surrendered to burritos in town, exhausted from nearly a week of riding. The forecast called for snow that night – our timing was perfect.

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Scott and I pointed the van north towards Salt Lake, Andras pointed his car back towards the Front Range.

A few days later I got a text from him, ‘I got my work visa for New Zealand and a plane ticket for February 2.’

Whether or not a week of living in the sands of Moab with others who’ve put aside the conventional lifestyle, at least temporarily, had anything to do with the decision, I don’t know. But I have to think it helped something.

And I’m a proud big sister. Now I have a real excuse to visit New Zealand.


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Sorting a shed of stuff

All summer, but especially as our return to the desert was imminent, I had one major stressor associated with Tucson. And it wasn’t the fact that we didn’t have a place to live.

It was our shed of stuff.

When we’d moved out of our place last April, our landlord had let use the shed in the backyard of the property as storage as a Thanks for being good tenants. It wasn’t a huge shed, but we’d packed it pretty full. As usual, we hadn’t done a thorough comb-through of the stuff we put back there as our move-out date approached. Scott had some boxes back there that hadn’t been moved back into the house for three years.

After seven months of living in the van with whatever belongings had made the road-trip cut and feeling that I’d lacked nothing, I halfway wished the shed would just burn down.

But, Scott’s big bike was in there, so it’s probably a good thing it didn’t. Especially after our other bikes got stolen.

When we found our little house to live in, we bought Lee a burrito at Seis in exchange for helping us move our stuff out of the shed with his flatbed trailer.

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As we moved boxes and boxes of dusty, musty stuff out of the semi-leaky shed, I asked repeatedly, ‘What is this stuff?’

We’ve spent the past three weeks sorting through all of our belongings with the goal of moving into the Scamp sometime in January. We don’t believe in having monthly payments if we can avoid them, except for health insurance (yes mom, I still have health insurance), so we didn’t want to have a storage unit that we could, once again, pile crap into.

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Tumbleweed got some new curtains!

Sorting has been interesting, especially watching Scott. He had to go through the process of culling that I went through three years ago before I mobilized myself to move to AZ. For years, he had a house. For years, papers and memorabilia accumulated. Each summer, since no longer owning a house, he’s had a convenient and easy place to put the boxes of accumulation without much thought.

Sorting through stuff, especially potentially sentimental stuff, with the idea of reducing belongings is pretty low on the fun factor scale. So it never happened.

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While I had to go through my clothing drawer (I tried on shorts from highschool that still fit, but axed them to Goodwill after Scott made a Meh face at them) and try to cut it in half, Scott was going through school assignments from when he was an undergrad.

It made me appreciate the culling that I’ve done on a regular basis.

It’s also made me think hard about the amount of stuff we buy. In the past decade or so, everything I’ve bought has been with the thought of ‘When I move next (which was a yearly thing for a while, and then a six month thing for a few years, and now will be a permanent thing), am I going to want to haul this along?’

Getting rid of stuff during each move was so much more emotionally painful than choosing not to buy it in the first place. I held pretty strongly to the ‘If I haven’t used it in a year, it’s gone’ rule.

I’ve definitely have bought less and less as the years have gone on. Which means that not only do I not have to deal with the stress of moving/storing stuff, but I don’t have to earn the money to buy it in the first place and can spend my money on more important things, like Avo breakfast burritos at Seis, Seis-style, of course. This is winning in my book.

We used every item that we had in our van this summer, from multiple sleeping bags to cords and chargers to books on edible berries to our first aid kit. From town clothes to camp clothes. From cups and bowls to knives and forks. Nothing was in excess, yet nothing was missing.

There’s something beautiful about the simplicity about that level of stuff.

On a side note, I fully appreciate keeping some level of photos and memorabilia. We’ve had several moments of hilarity as Scott’s unearthed photos of mountain biking or computer camps in the 1990’s.

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Luckily, we both have parents that are willing to turn a blind eye to a bin or two of stuff squirreled away into the dark recesses of their houses. And for that, even minimalistic grouch me, is thankful. Plus, I’ve been able to hold onto my backcountry ski gear, which I really hope I get to use to get up some peaks this spring.

Two large loads have gone to Goodwill. I’ve found a new home for my fatbike where she’ll actually be used more than once a year. And once we take “memorabilia” to Boulder over Christmas and a load of bike stuff to Bicas when we get back, we’ll be ready to hit the road.

With no stupid shed of ‘stuff’ to deal with when we get back.


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Limited Bandwidth

Over the past few years, I’ve always said that I’ve lived the best version of myself while on the road. I attribute this to:

A) A constantly changing landscape and lack of routine keeps me mentally active, thinking, learning, and exploring during most waking hours.

B) Lots of outside time.

C) Fairly minimal time on the Internet. Any time that we spend at a local library or coffee shop is spent working, not dorking around on The Facebook or watching YouTube. Camp time is generally spent reading or talking, not looking at phones.

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Sometimes camp time is spent working. The view isn’t so bad. 

When we do go inside to a place of steady residence and unlimited bandwidth, I feel like my best self flies out the window. Sure, I could say that while I have access to Internet and shelter, I’m still going to read in the evenings instead of clicking on stupid links or that I’m going to spend the majority of the day outside, but I don’t. Call it lack of self-control, will power, or taking the easy way out, but four walls and an Internet connection leads to a lot of time doing things that afterwards, I don’t find terribly fulfilling.

For this winter in Tucson, we’ve rented a small little house (I’m talking ~400 square feet) from an old landlord of Scott’s (he lived in the house next door when he was last homeless-ish several years ago) that shares a compound with some pretty cool people.

And knowing that we only wanted to be here until we bought/outfitted a trailer, we didn’t sign up for Internet. This means that any browsing or working we do from here, we do by tethering off of our phones, with limited data.

And it’s been a pretty cool experiment.

We go to Seis 10 minutes down the road for coffee and burritos and wi-fi a couple of times a week to work, but home time, our Internet hours are restricted.

When I work here, I don’t keep Facebook open in a tab in the background (A terrible habit, I know), and as a result, I finish my shit in half the time and then get to go out to play sooner.

Every time I go for my phone to open up Instagram or check email, I force myself to have the thought, ‘How critical is this button push? Do I really care?’ Turns out, most of the time, I just put the phone down.

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My brother in Moab earlier this fall. Look up! He learned quickly and is moving to New Zealand for a while and planning on buying a camper van. He’s started a blog here. 

It’s brought a pretty high level of awareness to Internet usage on a day-to-day basis.

Which is good, because any exercise that brings awareness to day-to-day life is a positive thing in my book.  And I like to think that the less time I spend staring at a screen, the better.

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