Zen On Dirt

Weird Week

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It’s been a weird week. Weird as in worrisome, sad, with a constant overtone that life isn’t fair. It’s left me a little bit off kilter in my head, pondering the age old question of why bad things happen to good people. The pondering hasn’t really gotten me anywhere because I don’t think there’s a good answer to it. But it’s been a harsh reminder that life really is fleeting, and like the autumn leaves, can be here one day and gone the next. I hate reminders like this.

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The weirdness started with Jesse Jakomait’s wife going missing on a solo mountain bike ride earlier this week. It seemed like all eyes on Facebook were focused on finding her. She was found 24 hours later after getting lost alone on some game trails, hitting her head, getting disoriented, and spending the night out with day-riding gear. And how many times have I gone out for a solo ride with minimal food, clothing, no phone, and not telling anyone my flight plan? More often than I’d like to admit.

Some of the time I’m acutely aware that I really can’t screw up when I’m in a situation like that. Other times I make plenty of decisions that can end badly. Hearing that Alicia was missing, and having the whole day to ponder the risks that we take riding alone, and even more so as women (which I hate to admit), sort of sucked. I’m really glad they found her.

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While that was going on. we went and rode Cottonwood, a Scott and Ez favorite. When Scott asked if we should take the road over to the climb to save on ride time and effort, I told him that we should most likely take the trail instead. We are in Salida, after all.

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The next day, we parked the car at the Mt. Princeton trailhead and rode a windy loop taking roads to BV and then the Colorado Trail back to the car. In hindsight, we should have ridden the loop in reverse to take advantage of the wind and the starting and ending elevations of the trail, but somehow I had in my head that going south was more fun. We got in some steep, chunky, grunty climbing, and some delicious descending, but we definitely climbed more on singletrack than we descended. I should listen to Mr. GPS more often…

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While we were doing this, a family of five from Buena Vista was killed in a rockslide just a few miles from where we had parked the car. I looked up the trail on the map, it’s a half-mile long, gains 500 feet in elevation, and ends at a beautiful waterfall. A 13 year old girl was the only survivor. How do five people die on a trail that is recommended for families and beginners? Of all the times those rocks could have fallen, why then?

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The next day we went and rode with the Buena Vista High School mountain bike team. The sadness in the group was palpable but the kids rallied for a ride. They’re learning early that sometimes just spinning the pedals can lead to feeling better. Still…it sucked. Not the riding, just the situation.

It was still fun to see those kids ride. They’re right at home on trails that are less than trivial to ride. If they’re riding rocks like this in high school, I can’t wait to see what they can do in the future.

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The next day, with weather looming on the horizon, we made a bid for Silver Creek via the Poncha Creek climb. I’ve done this climb racing, not racing, on a hardtail, on a dually, with gears, on a single speed, in shape and out, and there is very simply no easy way to get up it. At least the colors were beautiful. The Crest was surprisingly snow free and the Silver Creek descent didn’t disappoint. It never does.

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Trying to be nice (and rational), Scott suggested that I could coast down the road and take the car home while he rode Rainbow trail and rode home. We’d already been out for over three hours and I really was trying to keep my rides well under the three hour limit for the sake of not completely draining myself. But skip Rainbow? Heck no. Luckily, I felt better on the trail than I had the rest of the day and had absolutely zero regrets about riding it. Anyhow, the weather was going to turn, so the next two days of riding were probably going to be short, if existent at all.

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(Un)fortunately, we awoke to bluebird skies the next day. Scott went to the dentist in the morning and I sat at the computer working, perusing the interwebs, and doing whatever else I seem to waste my time on. That’s when the news of Amy D’s death in Belgium broke and spread like wildfire throughout Facebook. It was gutting, unbelievable. I still don’t have words for it.

We all ride on the road. We all take risks. But why Amy? Why did the truck have to be right there, right then?

Every interaction I’d ever had with her had been positive. I don’t think I’d ever seen her not having a good time. I was so stoked that she was chasing her dream in Belgium racing in the mud and would check race results of cross races I’d never heard of just to see if she was there. Few people chase their dreams with that much verve and refusal to back down.

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We opted to go ride Agate Creek that afternoon, knowing that a storm was moving in that could shut down the high country for good. Fall was fleeting, not to be wasted. We tried to come up with some way to shuttle it in a creative way so I wouldn’t have to waste my ride time with a 17-mile railroad grade climb up Marshall Pass from Sargents, but we couldn’t figure a way to do it without two cars or me waiting in the cold somewhere. Anyhow, pedaling can be soothing for the soul.

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The colors were amazing. Knowing that heavy snow could take them down at any time made the golds and reds all the more special.

The descent was amazing. Minimal mud. Copious amounts of chunk. 20 creek crossings. One extended creek walk. 30 minutes of daylight to spare. But it was sad. Sad knowing that the world had lost a good one.

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Sure enough, the next day the peaks were covered in clouds. A cold wind whipped through the valley and we waited, looking anxiously at the mountains to see how much snow would remain when the clouds lifted.

I really hope that this next week ends up better because this last one hurt the soul.

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