Sometimes I get caught up in the idea that I’m not doing enough with my life.
Fact: I have a flexible job that I can do from anywhere.
Fact: I have the health and the means to travel.
Fact: I was blessed with the physical ability that let me ride my bike far distances.
Fact: I have a terrible case of wanderlust and get stressed out by the fact that I realize that I can never see all the beautiful places in the world that I want to see.
But what I forget sometimes is that I don’t have to travel to far-flung places to find beauty and to find the experiences that I cherish. I don’t constantly have to see new terrain in places that are logistically difficult to get to.
Fact: There’s a whole lot of beauty surrounding me right here.
Scott was itching for a long ride after a month of work that I hope (for both selfish and non-selfish reasons) he never has to repeat, and it didn’t take much to talk me into a lap around the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. The selling point was the resupply stop in Patagonia that houses one of my favorite coffee shops with desserts that I dream about on a fairly regular basis. The plan was to ride backwards on the current AZT route, scope out potential new connector for the route and then ride the old AZT route back to the car via Elephants Head.
The day started beautifully with a climb up Box Canyon. A new-to-me road with all sorts of interesting things to look at. We joked that if we kept stopping to take pictures of white trees and fuzzy caterpillars, we’d be riding long after dark. We’d estimated 10 hours of ride time, with an hour for lunch in Patagonia, so with an 8 am start, we figured we might have to turn our lights on for the last 15 minutes.
Hopping on the AZT, I searched the memory banks for remembering the section of trail. I drew a blank. Backwards, it seemed like an entirely new beast with different climbs, different descents, different scenery. It seems like the Serengeti to me out there. Endless grasses, rolling hills, plains as far as the eye can see, or at least until the eye bumps into the next set of mountains in the distance.
A quick stop at Kentucky Camp to fill up on water and we were back on familiar territory, sight of a scouting ride during Spring Break 2013 before we had to hurry home and get dressed up for Chad’s wedding. Contouring flume trail and then a drop down a road that would cut several miles off our route if we could determine whether it was actually legal to cut through a ranch. When the rancher at the bottom actually opened the gate for us, we felt much better about passing through the numerous No Trespassing signs. Probably not a legit way to go on a regular basis, but it sure cut down on the pavement riding.
We were gutted upon arriving to Patagonia to find our coffee shop closed due to a plumbing emergency. Fortunately, Ovens of Patagonia had just opened up two months prior and filled our needs for trail snacks with a piece of carrot cake, a cinnamon roll, and a 1/4 pound of mexican chocolate flavored fudge.
We burned a bunch more daylight continuing our Taco Tour 2014 and stopping at the local Mexican joint for lunch. Worse things have happened than leaving Patagonia behind schedule but with a belly full of food. The carrot cake (appetizer) and cinnamon roll (dessert) didn’t make it out of town with us, but calorie-wise, we were set to go.
We went up some roads. We went down some roads. We went back up some roads. We saw a giant herd of horses. We saw lots of Middle of Nowhere. We got on some singletrack just as the sky exploded with the sunset.
We made it down the chunder descent before it got dark and rode in the wash without lights until our antics bordered on unsafe. With lights on, we started the Elephant Head climb, still many miles from the car. Our plan of finishing close to dark wasn’t really working out for us.
“Want to stop for a snack? It’s not getting any darker.” Scott asked.
We stopped on a pile of rocks, still in single layers, enjoying the unseasonably warm night air. Elephant Head glowed in the starlight. Scott pulled out the fudge that I had completely forgotten about. Rocket fuel! I could have sat there all night, under the stars, in the middle of the desert, not very far from home, eating fudge that melted in my mouth.
A tailwind assisted us the rest of the way back to the car, still in short sleeves.
I was as giddy coming off the ride as I would have been off of any bikepack or far-flung adventure. Even the restaurant that we’d staked out for dinner being closed couldn’t dampen my mood.
Earlier in the week I was bumming that we couldn’t make a bikepacking trip happen. I was convinced that I was taking the easy way through life, not pushing the limits of what was possible every opportunity possible. Taking a day to ride around the local mountain range reminded me that I don’t always have to do things that that are huge and amazing and inspired in order to spend a damn good day in the office.
But if I figure correctly, I’d place my bets that a whole bunch of damn good days in the office lead to a life that’s huge and amazing and inspired.