Zen On Dirt

Playing Nomads


So, where are you guys from?

We got the question sitting at a Leadville coffee shop on Friday from a group of three guys who we were sharing a table with. Scott and I sort of looked at each other. ‘Around? Durango for a few months…Winter Park now…wherever the van takes us.’ They laughed, as a group of Outward Bound instructors, they seemed as homeless as us.


I’ve never been good at that question. It’s always bothered me a little bit. Back in the Bad Old Days of endless weekend Ned rides with the 8:10 bus, I remember a final ride on a trail that would end up being closed shortly after when we ran into an older woman hiking. We pulled over, let her pass, and without a ‘Hello’, she said, ‘Where are you from?’ Dumbfounded by the complete lack of social skills, we said, ‘Boulder.’

‘Right,’ she said coldly and continued walking.

Now, I understand Ned folks getting upset with Boulder people coming up to ride trails, I’m not sure if the NIMBY mentality is nature or nurture, but I remember being really upset, ‘Why does it matter where we’re from?  Shouldn’t it matter more that we yielded the right of way? That we pick up trash when we see it on the trail? That we enjoy being out here and respect the environment?’

In CeeBee, the ‘Where are you from?’ question came often, because there, 95% of the population is from somewhere else. The answer of ‘Boulder’ always got the, ‘Ah. Right.’ response that drove me nuts.

I’m from Planet Earth. I’m part of the human species.


Last week, scratch that, over two weeks ago now, Scott and I packed up our posh little existence in D-town (I’ll miss having the river within walking distance!) and moved up to the Hermosa campground for a few nights. I was ‘Special Guesting’ at a showing of Ride the Divide for a Texas High School Mountain Bike League camp, so we had a few days to kill in town. We found some of our old neighbors still up there: Constitutional Conservative was still making his daily rounds around the campground, HotBox was still hacking up a lung all night, every night. It seemed like 90% of the sites were there for the long haul. I had to wonder, where were all these people from? What’s their story?

Soon, after explaining that Swedish Fish and cashews really were power food, it was time to go north, both because I wanted to spend some time at altitude and because camping in Durango during monsoon season isn’t exactly a romantic notion. After a morning ride and splitting our belongings in half, leaving one car packed in Durango and putting everything essential in the van, and stopping to get Zia burritos one last time, we made it to Marshall Pass to camp under the stars.


In the morning, we headed up the road, arguing about whether the Tour Divide route took the first or second turn up to Marshall Pass from Poncha Springs road. I swore it was the first and that it was where my track told me to go. Scott argued that he had the 2012 route on his GPS there and then and it said to take the second. We wondered if I would have to nullify my record if I had taken the shorter, but steeper route up. We then wondered what the actual ACA route said to do. (For the record, apparently my memory is faulty, because it turns out I did take the second turn and even got a SPOT dot on the longer route…memories are a funny thing.)


And then we tore down Rainbow trail, which I’ve only ridden once on non-Vapor Trail legs nearly a decade ago. Oh my goodness, it was fun. Bikes are fun!

Lunch at Amica’s with Tom and we were headed north once again to my birthplace of mountain biking for a week or two.


Where am I from?

Fantasy Land, apparently.


5 thoughts on “Playing Nomads

  1. Ha! This is great. Man that “where are you from?” riff is the best. I moved to Laramie, WY from Michigan in 1982 as soon as I was 18; when I was officially able to decide for my self where to live. I got that outsider treatment from the Wyoming natives, then moved to CO after 4 years. The Wyo time didn’t earn me any credit with Coloradans, so it was the same deal. Newcomer. On the Front Range during the 90s it didn’t matter much because almost everyone I knew had moved to CO recently (except for the ones who were “from there”). But then when I moved to Salida I was still a foreigner (“so you were living in Colorado Springs–where’d you grow up?”). Now after 13 years here I sometimes get a “wow” when asked how long I’ve lived here, but it’s still a thing with lots of the locals. How long you’ve been in Salida is like which dog can pee farther up on the tree. Heard a funny quote from somebody about living in Ouray: “you’re a newcomer as long as there’s anybody alive who remembers when you got there.”

  2. it’s not where you come from, it’s where you’re going that counts…tell the next person that and see what they do
    I grew up in WI, moved to Oregon where it was the same as teamvelveeta related, moved back WI via MN and have spent the past 25 years traveling and biking from Oakridge, OR to Stockholm, Sewden with a few stops in between. Where you from? I laugh now!

  3. People from Boulder almost never understand what is so annoying about people from Boulder.

    To wit:

    Q: How do you know if someone’s from Boulder?
    A: They tell you.

    Good thing you’re now from somewhere else.

  4. Finally, someone else who enjoys the wonders of Swedish Fish while riding!! Gummy-crack I tell ya.

  5. Me too. I’m an Earthling! We get asked it all the time in the mountains here in Japan. “Doko kara?” ( where from?). I considered it so rude as an introduction that I refused to respond if this is the first thing someone says to me. Someone in a hut even walked over to my bed, where I was snoozing listening to music, and made me pull out my headphones to ask. Maddening! But then I discovered (last time I visited Boulder no less) that Americans ask it _all_ the time. So I kind of forgave the Japanese a bit for the decade of rudeness – they are probably just trying to be American and fit in! I’m British and I don’t think we ask that question all the time – but maybe I will find out to the contrary when I return!

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