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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


We started at the same hour of the race.


We rode mostly the same route.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.