Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Shopping, Day 1

My personal vow for Christmas shopping this year is to do it all via bike. If it won't fit in my messenger bag, I won't buy it. I've also outlawed Gift Cards from my list. Won't do it. I'd rather give a crisp $20 than a piece of plastic with a corporate logo on it. A little last-minute, so time to get crackin'.

I set out to get "over the hill" to West Hollywood for the Sunday flea market on Melrose. This would require taking the shuttle bus over Laurel Canyon, as its a little too treacherous for a bike, especially a fixed gear. $1.25 and I was safely on my way.

I love this flea market. Always tons of cool vintage stuff; clothes, vinyl, home stuff, etc. A great place for unique gifts for people too.

Hippie mugs

bar ware

vintage chicken and kabobs

I scored several gifts for people on my list, then picked up these beauties for my own self. Fine 70's leather boots as modeled at my bar. Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk,
I'm a womans man, no time to talk.

After cleaning out the flea market, I pointed my bike eastbound on Melrose towards HW.

Banksy strikes on Melrose


Riding down Sunset Blvd. I happened upon the premiere for The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Jack and Morgan were both cruising the red carpet to the cheers of fans. I put the bike down on the sidewalk and walked into the middle of Sunset to get this shot, just as an LAPD office asked "Sir, what are you doing?". To which I answered "just getting a shot..." He notified me that I was blocking traffic which was already crawling so all the drivers could gawk at the fanfare. Thank you officer!

a few more stops for shopping and it was time for some refreshment at my favorite ice cream parlour "Scoops". Unique handmade ice cream that changes daily. Tonight's choice: peanut butter & coffee. So good.

All this riding around made me thirsty too, so a stop into Tiny's KO in Hollywood was in order. A proper dive bar with punk and metal on the jukebox, tat'd bartenders with no-bullshit attitudes and cheap drinks. I ordered a PBR in a can because I could. The bartender placed 2 in front of me for the low price of $4. Uh oh, some kind of Sunday night special. I finished them, still felt a little wanting, so I ordered a shot of whiskey. Plunk! 2 shots for me. Damn! I spent a total of $11 on drinks and was now well on my way to a Riding Under the Influence citation. Best to get off the streets and take the subway home.


Down, down, down to the Hollywood & Vine train station, by far the nicest and most ornate of all the stops on this line, maybe all of L.A. The entire ceiling is covered with film reels.

my ride home has arrived....

Have a great holiday~

Monday, October 22, 2007

Homie Fall Festival - Mpls, MN 2007

aka "Show me Ball Testicle"

Short Version:
LAX, Red Eye, CRC Cafe, Heineken, grease, cappuccino, Hurl's couch, Kelly Mac's, One on One, MGD, bikes, GeneO, cock, (not in that order), pizza, Jaeger, fire, Grumpy's, PBR, Liquor Lyle's, Bloody Marys, Tater Tots, #120, Hurl's kilt, Surly, foot meets SUV, derbies, carnage, 36", Bud, bud, singlespeeds, marriage, hummus, duck, belly lint, Feats of Strength, Squirrel, Emily, blood, paramedics, mushrooms, beer, fire, smokes, leaves, stuffed peppers, bacon donuts, venison, fireworks, Hurl's balls, music in the woods,'wood in the woods, lost in the woods, Hollywood, Simon says "like riding on a cloud", Zeke, Mayor, Swobo, Troy's toe, Elena, jerky, beer, B double-E double-R U-N, firecrackers, bikes, Richter, 'cross, cowbells, trains, planes, automobiles, LAX, bewilderment, confusion.

Hey Hemingway, take me to the photos already...

Long version or, "Stand back, I don't know how big this thing gets":

A visit to Minneapolis has been on my To Do list for a while now. See the city, visit friends, see the bike shops, relax and enjoy the sights and smells of a new place.

Three out of four ain't bad I guess.

During Interbike, a formal invitation was presented to me via courier to the 2007 Homie Fall Fest. In Minneapolis, a bunch of people getting together to ride bikes, how FUN is that?? Didn't really have a sure grasp on what exactly goes on at a Homie, but how bad could it be? I immediately started checking and other online restaurant review sites to pick some of my favorite places to taste the cuisine of the Midwest. "Oooh there's a nice looking Bistro called JP's, I'll add that to my dining list." I booked a flight, taking a red eye flight on Thursday, arriving Friday morning in Chicago, then on to the 612.

I packed up the Niner singlespeed and headed to LAX. That's probably the last sentence I can write where everything seemed normal and went smoothly. I checked in to American Airlines (bikes fly free! Who knew?) where I was informed that I had incorrectly booked the redeye for Friday night, not Thursday. According to the lovely counter agent, I was 24 hours early. It was now 11pm and the flight I wanted to be on left in one hour. She put me on stand-by and hoisted my bike box around the corner, me wondering if I'd ever see it again. Way to go, Slick.

Lonely Planet (click photos to enlarge)

The midnight flight was then bumped to 1:30am. Neat. People napped on the carpet. Babies cried. Problematic Bluetooth headsets frustrated businessmen. 1:30 came and we were wheels-up. I squeezed out a solid 3 hours of sleep before I heard "flight attendants please prepare for arrival to Chicago."

A short layover and I was on my way to the Twin Cities, where I was eventually reunited with my blinglespeed and bag of assorted strange clothing. Then it was a quick hop to the CRC Cafe, a perfect fusion of bicycles, caffeine, soup and cotton garments. I had some "me time" to enjoy a nice cappuccino and cookie before the proprietor and his posse arrived, allowing me full run of the shop in the rear to get the Niner precision-tuned back into cranking order. The weather was cool with a little drizzle, a pleasant change from warm and dry L.A.


Hurl welcomes me with open finger to his home town

Then on to Hurl's house via Zeke's van. Drop off bags, get settled, pick a spot to crash, pull on a beanie and it was off to Gene's One On One bicycle studio, with a quick stopover at Kelly Mac's house to pick up more of the 612 crew.

BIG Homie Eve party at One on One. I realize I now know exactly 3 people out of about 100. I give myself the self-guided tour of the incredible shop, studio and basement, which holds more new bikes, old bikes and 'parts' bikes than I could count. I also took a quick run to Pizza Luce for a quick bite. I wondered if JP's was anywhere near where I was...? Um, no. There will be no Bistros for you, city boy. Close the shop party, mount up and ride to Clubhouse Jaeger for beer and a fire pit. Riders keep showing up, flooding the patio. The locals look concerned. Someone leaps the fire. After Jaeger bores us, we all ride across town to Grumpy's, a nice big, packed bar with many bikes already outside where the pre-Homie frolic raged on til the wee hours...eventually my head hit my makeshift pillow at 3am sharp.

One on One:

Saturday morning was rise, shine, dress and head out for Lyle's, the official meeting spot and start of the Festival. And a perfect day it was. Warm temps, blue skies and stunning colors of fall foliage on display with every turn of a corner. I signed in for the ride and got my paper number plate. Rider #120 was officially In The House. I had time to side up to the rowdy bar action, order some breakfast that included damn tasty tater tots, and warshed it all down with 2-for-1 Bloody Marys.

Let's roll.

Sov reviews the bylaws

At least 200 bikers gathered outside Lyle's, all in various form of creative wardrobing. Matching skunk outfits? sure. Skinsuits? check. Kilts? rad.


We rolled out and less than 2 blocks into the ride crossed paths with Angry 4Runner Driver, who decided he wasn't going to stop for the pack that was now surrounding him, including one rider whose Ritchey met the fate of the truck's front tire. The next image I saw was that of a Homie leg kicking in the door of the aforementioned truck. I tried to get a good look at the door but couldn't tell if it was an SPD cleat or Crank Bros. that was gouging the paint. Maybe Crank Bros. The driver wisely did not stop and get out, and sped off but not before his prized wool driving cap was snatched from his head. Homies: 1, Angry 4Runners belongings: 0.

We all rode across town, stopping twice or thrice to derby and make sure that at least one other person's bike wasn't going to ride as good as it did at the start.

Let's get it on -

Man down!

Eventually we made it to the woods, where we entered via a slightly technical downhill that bottlenecked most of the pack while they carefully studied which line would send them over the bars the quickest.

A few more twists through the trees and the Homies had finally arrived. Bikes were laid to rest in the woods, beverages were freed from their various messenger bags and backpacks, campfires were lit and the celebration was upon us.


The 3-Stage Feats of Strength began after everyone got a little Liquid Courage in their system. First up was a solo try up a river; rocks, water, logs. Guys & Gals alike. The first rider up started with confidence and promptly endo'd and stuffed his face underwater. Game On. Stage 2 brought short 'n steep ups & downs, finishing with yet another river run. Stage 3 was the sketchiest. A stairway descent feeding a bridge over the river with a narrow plank as an exit, followed by a steep up to another small bridge. Like putt-putt golf on wheels. Last up was Emily who aced the stairs but misjudged the bridge exit and ended her run with a nasty face plant into the earth. She sat upright and the blood began to flow from her nose... 911, an ambulance and medics are what occupied the next few minutes of everyone's day. I hope she recovers ok, but that's gotta be one helluva black eye.

Feats of Strength

Hollywood of the Midwest!! (and my doppelganger?)

From there is was back to the woods to get the Fest back on its feet, proper. More campfires, more beer, more *what have yous* being shared amongst friends. My buddy, who I'll call "Nick" for this particular blog shared some mushrooms with me. Now I'm not a big partaker of the the psychedelics, but this day was special and I was feeling adventurous. Right then! Down the hatch! Should make for some interesting photography at least. I didn't realize that I'd soon find myself wandering through the woods under a pitch black sky, having absolutely no idea where I was, both immediately and in the larger, existential "in the universe" picture. I returned to base camp and was offered a bacon donut. Everything suddenly made sense.

The Homies raged on into the wee hours. Bonfires warmed, beer hydrated, conversation between friends comforted.

At what must have been 1am our small band of housemates departed the woods for the twinkling downtown in the distance. A lightrail train helped conserve what was left of our energy. End of the line, a quick spin through the downtown nightlife scene and we were home-bound.

3am: head hits pillow. Homie Fall Fest in the bag, as was I.

The following morning we woke to find the clouds and cooler temps had moved back in. We showered, bundled up, grabbed a bike and pedaled across town to Powderhorn park to spectate the cyclocross races taking place. We cheered on housemate Eric as he sprinted on & off the bike around the course in the Men's B race.

It was time for me to depart. Ride back to CRC, strip the bike down and prep it for air travel, call a cab and I was off to La La Land. On my flight out of MN I was seated in a row 3 seats across; myself, an empty middle seat and "grandma" on the aisle. I smiled thinking of a 2+ hour flight without a passenger between us. It was then that an enormous shadow darkened our row. "Oh God please" I whispered...but my prayer was too late as I slowly looked up to see most definitely the most obese woman on the plane. "I need to get in there" she commanded. Luckily I had some Pedro's lube handy, which I applied liberally to her hips, followed by a hop or two on her lap to wedge her positively into her seat. She asked the flight attendant for a seatbelt extension so she could wrap the safety belt around her massive pooch. My right thigh was now mashed against her left, slowly heating up to an uncomfortable temperature and yet nowhere to go. I escaped to the world of iPod and The Outcast and slipped into denial.

During my layover in Dallas I was introduced to news of my state being on fire. On the late flight into LAX I could see several fires burning up homes and hillsides from my comfortable window seat. Fortunately no immediate family or friends have lived close enough to be evacuated, but the fires have reminded us all that this 8 year drought is having a huge impact on our lives in more ways than one.

Table for one, some TV news and some nice Tex-Mex con margarita

I'm really fortunate to be able to spend such a fun-filled, debaucherously good weekend with great people while thousands had to flee their homes with whatever belongings they could cram in their cars.

Until next Fall...

more photos on Flickr

Sunday, September 16, 2007

RIP: Cat

1990 - 2007

He'll be missed.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

San Juan Hut Trip 2007

to skip the text and go straight to the photos, click here

A discussion over dinner between friends regarding combining camping and a bike ride resulted in narrowing in on the San Juan Hut system of trails and huts. 8 of us chose the more difficult Durango, CO to Moab, UT route over the "easier" Telluride to Moab route. 225 miles with 26,000 ft. of climbing over 7 days and 6 nights. We planned for months, debated over gear, bike choice, clothing choices, transportation, etc. We settled on the week of the 4th of July for a couple reasons; take advantage of holiday days off and get out there before it gets insanely hot (well, one outta two ain't bad...). Two riders bailed mid-way through the planning, leaving 6 to do the trip. We paid, got our maps and keys to the huts and counted down the days 'til departure.

Personal Profiles:
Al - L.A., rigid 29" titanium singlespeed, rack + panniers
Carl - L.A., Niner 29" hardtail, backpack
Colette - L.A., Niner 29" hardtail, rack + dry sack
Jeff - L.A., Niner 29" hardtail, rack + panniers
Josh - L.A., Turner 26" dual-sus., rack + panniers
Peter - Brooklyn, Ibis 26" hardtail, BOB trailer

On Wednesday morning Josh and Carl picked me up at home, loaded my bike and gear and we were off to Moab. 12 short hours later we arrived. We checked in to our hotel and headed to Eddie McStiffs for dinner and drinks. Peter had flown in to Vegas from NY and caught a ride from Al & Colette on their way through Nevada.

The next day we had scheduled a shuttle van to transport all of us to Durango, CO. This would allow us to leave cars and extra baggage behind (thanks Best Western) and have everything waiting for us when (if?) we made it back to Moab. We loaded only what we would take on the ride into the van and Driver Dave headed east for Durango.

4 hours later we pulled in to Durango and went straight for the Steamworks Brewery. Turns out they have beer there too. We treated Dave to dinner for being a cool guide, and quoting Edward Abbey during the drive:

I like my job. The pay is generous; I might even say munificent: $1.95 per hour, earned or not, backed solidly by the world's most powerful Air Force, biggest national debt, and grossest national product. The fringe benefits are priceless: clean air to breathe (after the spring sand-storms); stillness, solitude and space; an unobstructed view every day and every night of sun, sky, stars, clouds, mountains, moon, cliffrock and canyons; a sense of time enough to let thought and feeling range from here to the end of the world and back; the discovery of something intimate -- though impossible to name -- in the remote.

We left the Brewery and Dave dropped us at our condo in Cascade Village, just up the highway from where our trip would start the next morning. The 6 of us in the condo spent the evening checking and rechecking bags, tools, maps and energy snacks. Water bottles and CamelBaks were filled in the kitchen sink. We were as ready as we could be. I used the office computer for one last glance at the internet before pulling the plug for a week.

Day 1
Durango to Bolam Pass.
18.7 miles
Hut at 11,400'
9:15am - 1:00pm

Starting a ride at 8000'+ is an eye-opener. Heading up to 11,000' is a lung-burner. But it was the shortest day so how bad could it be? We climbed a bit then hit a smooth 3 mile downhill. This ain't so bad! Eventually the road turned up to an endless series of switchbacks. I bailed to walk a steep section. Al, Peter and Josh were the strong climbers, dropping the rest of us on most all of the climbs. Even Peter with his BOB trailer would slowly pull away from me until he was out of sight. Blah. Nearing the top of the peak I started to hallucinate. I felt giddy. Talking to myself, laughing at nothing, I was tripping on a lack of O2. Sipping from my CamelBak tube and breathing through my nose for a second while I drank would leave me gasping for air. We arrived at the Hut exhausted, only to find two other riders still there who should have been long gone. One guy was puking non-stop then curling up in the grass, lying in the hut bunks, obviously not having a good Hut Experience. We broke out our Sat. phone and called the main office for help. SJH owner Joe Ryan hopped in his truck and drove up the hill to rescue the stranded riders. About 2 hours later they were loaded up and headed back down the hill; trip over, do not pass go, do not advance to Hut #2. We were so taken by the food in the pantry that we prepped a great pasta dinner, beginning with chopping and sauteeing some fresh garlic in olive oil, adding in diced tomatoes and basil flakes. I enjoyed a warm PBR beer. We didn't realize then that we were at the peak of our culinary adventures and soon we'd be eating ravioli out of a can. We cruised back down the road to watch the sunset over the stunning valley below us. We all passed out by 10pm to the light of the embers burning in the pot-belly wood stove in the hut. We were officially on vacation.

(click on images to enlarge)

Day 2
Bolam Pass to Black Mesa.
29 miles
Hut at 10,625'
9:45am - 2:45pm

Up at 6:30am, cook some oatmeal, make coffee, prep PB&J sandwiches for lunch. Hit the bikes at 9:45 am and I can feel yesterday's climbing in my legs. Not a good sign on day 2 of 7. I warm up and get past the cramps. We're getting passed by lots of trucks and ATVs. Some are cool and slow down, others blow by leaving us to suck dust. Apparently when you're overweight and ride an ATV with a firearm on your belt, you take seniority on the trails. We cross a wide river where I stop to dunk my hat to keep me cool on the climbs ahead. We reach a small bridge over a river where some of us crouch underneath to take a lunch break, out of the sun and enjoying the steady sounds of water over rock. After lunch we cross a busy blacktop highway and once again head up a dirt road. We're now used to direction such as "Mile 3.2: Cross stream. Double-track goes to your left. DON'T take it!!!" I had been using my iPod Shuffle to keep me preoccupied during long climbs, but today it decides that it no longer wants to function, so I grind out the climb at 3-4mph under a hot sun, without the sweet sounds of Kelly Clarkson in my ears. C'est la vie. I arrive at the hut after most have made it. Another great location; tucked away in the woods, invisible from passing ATV traffic. We cook burritos and enjoy the full moon rising over the valley. Hit the bunks at 10:00pm again, passing out immediately.

Colette forges...

Our toilet with a view

full moon

Day 3
Black Mesa to Dry Creek Basin
40 miles
Hut at 6,600'
8am - 1:30pm

Somebody's up at 5am and its making me cranky. I get up at 6, Colette hands me a cup of fresh Joe and I head back out to the overlook to take in the sunrise. Not a bad way to start a day. Make some oatmeal and mount up by 8am, our earliest day on the bikes so far. Lots of descending today, can't wait. It changes from smooth, fast, wide dirt roads to a backwoods Jeep road that's so bumpy my bike starts to jettison gear. My Keen sandals strapped to the rear rack are the first to go, then the chain bails off the chainring. A quick stop fixes all the issues, other than being briefly lost by the quirky directions. We get back to the smooth roads and now we're cruising at 30mph watching clusters of Aspen trees flicker by. At the 25 mile mark we hit Miramonte Reservoir. We all ride to the boat launch ramp, drop the bikes, slip out of our shoes and walk down the ramp into the water for a) refreshment, b) a bath and c) laundry day. We have lunch while our wet clothes air dry in the sun. We pry ourselves from the water's edge, re-sunscreen and hit the hot, dusty trail. At one point we all reach 40+ mph on a downhill. On one descent I feel a pinch near my groin and realize that I've been stung by a bee while riding. A 30mph "ow!" in the crotch. Neat. I arrive at the Hut shortly after and Colette treats my sting with some first aid. At 6600' its much warmer here and chaparral, Joshua trees and red sand have replaced the pines and crisp air we were used to. Bugs everywhere. Carl is snoring at 3pm in his bunk. I have a warm PBR and watch the sunset over the valley, constantly waving my arm at the pesky flies and mosquitos lapping up my Deet. No wood stove needed here - its hot! Dinner degenerates to instant Mac 'n Cheese with grilled Spam as a treat. Seconds anyone? We discuss having left email spam long behind for actual Spam in a can that we are eating. Josh politely declines the Spam addition and sticks to M&C. Bedtime? 10pm. Peter and Josh haul their mats and sleeping bags out to the deck and have a romantic night of sleep under the stars. They start the idea that this might be a cool thing to do from now on. Dibs on night 4!

Where are we???

Laundry day

Day 4
Dry Creek Basin to Wedding Bell (Hell?)
33 miles
Hut at 6,580'
6:45am - ?

Up early. Like 5:15 early. It's "Desert Day" after all and we need an early start. We're pedaling by 6:45 and headed to the small town of Basin, CO for the Basin Store and Diner. We sit down and look at an actual menu. Biscuits and gravy and eggs please. And another cup of hot coffee can't hurt. Man that was good. So good that I forgot about the six of us sitting there in our spandex while the camo-dressed locals flipped through "Big Cat Hunter" magazine over their breakfast. Filled with grease and animal fats, we file back out to the bikes and took a 5 mile, single-file blacktop spin down the highway, headed to our next turnoff to decipher from the magical directions - "Mile 7.2: T-Intersection. Go Right/northish onto a larger road." Northish. As the miles passed, the sun got hotter and hotter. Short steep climbs tested our persistence. We took a short break at an amazing canyon overlook and another at an old cobbler's workshop. We continue on so we can get out of the heat soon and make it to the hut. Not so fast, Hutters! We take a second read of the directions and realize we're not where we should be. Nothing jives with the paper. Al takes off by himself to scout for the hut. Carl and I ride the opposite direction to scout while the others wait under a tree for shade. We return with no news. Al still hasn't returned 30 minutes later. No response on the walkie-talkies. We start to count our collective ounces of water. I leave my bike and hike up the road shouting Al's name. Nothing. I'm alone and for the first time get a sense of how easy it is to perish in the desert. I'm a mere speck out here. Nobody back home has a clue as to where 6 of their friends are at this moment. Then Al rides up on his bike, Hut-less.

Thankfully Josh is able to pinpoint where the Hut should be with his GPS. We all pedal in his direction and spot the Hut on a hillside. During the short, steep, loose climb up the driveway I stall out. I go to unclip from my pedals and realize I can't, I'm stuck. The bike tips over and I collapse on top of it, squarely planting my handlebar end in the center of my sternum. This knocks the wind out of me and leaves me lying in agony in the dirt, mere yards from the Hut. The other gather around to help and when my breath returns they assist me up and I make my way to the Hut. Once comfortable, I join in on some poker and blackjack being dealt in the shade of Hut #4. Drink a hot beer. Tough day. We cook fusili pasta with canned chili as a sauce and sit under the most unbelievable canopy of stars. Pitch black sky with millions of brilliant stars. We spot satellites silently passing over the planet, wondering if anyone's spotting 6 infrared bodies out in the middle of nowhere. Bed at 9:30pm with a Vicodin chaser for my chest pain.

Day 5
Wedding Bell to Paradox
38 miles
Hut at 5,240'
6:30am - 2:30pm

Up at 5:15am. Its starting to wear on me now. I'm sore. I'm tired. I'm wearing the same shorts, socks and wool jersey that I was wearing 5 days ago. I'm a little groggy from the Vicodin. But the show must go on. I mix powdered milk so I can have a bowl of raisin bran. We're pedaling at 6:30am, before the sun's up and getting a bright moon as travel companion. I yawn. We pass through some old Uranium mines, imagining what the area must have been like in its mining heyday in the 50's. The flat road ends as it always does and we begin a long climb. I feel strong and set a good pace climbing. Was it the drugs? The coffee? Raisin Bran? Whatever it is, I'll take it. We arrive at the lookout over the Paradox Valley. We're at least 1000' above the valley floor and we begin our descent. SJH's Joe Ryan has directed us to bypass a 10 mile section of highway in favor of the "Catch 'em Up Trail", an actual cattle trail used for moving herds of cows up to mesa, and back down, as needed. We quickly realize that its basically a sketchy singletrack trail that has no potential for riding a bike down. None. We begin the balancing act of trying to walk our bikes down the trail without slipping and falling to our deaths. We need to detach Peter's trailer from his bike and hand-carry it down the hill. We later hear that the road ride is almost all downhill and a pleasant experience. Good for you. Excuse me while I shake the 10 pounds of dirt out of my shoes.

We regroup at the bottom and ride directly to the quaint Bedrock Store. This is a landmark in the directions, a spot for cold drinks, ice cream and beer. Its a great old place, in this location since the 1880's. Everyone goes straight for the cold drinks and starts the cooling down process. Its over 100F in the shade. I grab the hose on the side of the store and give myself a quick hose-down, rinsing my hair and more importantly - my socks. We could spend all day at the store. They have cold things here. They have shade. We wave at passing traffic like the locals do. I drop .50 cents into the pay phone to make my first call home since leaving Durango. Planning ahead, I drop a Fat Tire Ale inside my CamelBak bladder and fill the remaining space with ice. We grudgingly get back on the bikes under a searing sun and set out to tackle the last 10 miles to the Hut.

Later that evening I hire one of the neighbors to run me back to the Bedrock store for more ice, beer and drinks. "Jeannie" takes me to town, waits for me to shop and returns me to the hut, much to the delight of my fellow hutters. She's used to seeing groups of cyclists come through Bedrock. Some are having a great time, some are not thrilled with having to hike down a cattle trail. That night we make ramen noodles with canned chicken, complimented by an ice cold beer. Al and I decide to try out sleeping on the deck this night. Pretty cool, other than being awoken at 3:30am by the farming machinery being fired up. Then again at 4:30am by Colette who is up boiling water for coffee.

Day 6
Paradox to Geyser Pass (CO to UT)
25 miles
Hut at 9,864'

We're up early again. I'm yawning again, didn't sleep well with the tractor and all. It's another huge day of riding so we need another rudely early start. We spin for 30 minutes across flat farmland, then turn up to Carpenter Ridge - a 4 mile fireroad climb that we're happy to hit in the cool shade of morning. Well, kinda happy. I'm not warmed up and end up walking and cursing most of it. I don't have it in my legs today. I finally crest the hill and find everyone grouped, waiting for me. We shove on, Carl suffering a mechanical that requires Al to remove his crankset from his bike to fix the problem. Then we're back on bikes on our way to Buckeye reservoir. Its still fairly early so not all of us are gung-ho to jump in the lake. We relax, eat, drink water and enjoy the scenery, completely in denial of the long miles still ahead of us.

We cross the state line and leave Colorado behind. Farewell Aspens, hello 3.2% beer. We cruise into the enormous Redd-Geyser Ranch; private property that we have permission to cross due to Joe's arrangements with the huts. Hut #6 also sits on this private land. It's amazing property complete with horses, cattle, rivers, forest, etc. Beautiful. We hit more climbs. I'm done, toast. For some strange reason I resort to counting out loud just to keep a pace and to keep me motivated. "One, huff, two, puff, three, huff...." all the way up to 100 then I start over. We find what *should* be our turn-off to get to the hut but its not too clear. Just a mound of rocks blocking what looks like an entrance to some sort of Jeep road. We decide to take it as no other choices are left nearby - it has to be our turnoff. About a mile of walking our bikes up the too-steep-to-ride road, we wonder what the hell we're doing and if we're on the right path. 2 miles of walking later and I'm going numb. 3 miles of walking later and I'm officially a zombie. Peter pushes his bike + trailer past me with a blank, empty look on his face. All I can muster to tell him as he goes by is "I'm covered in flies." Gray clouds start dropping large, heavy, cold raindrops. Some stick to me as bits of ice. We press on, slowly marching towards some unknown destination. I see Josh up ahead detouring us off the Highway to Hell and down into the woods. "The Hut is that way" he tells us, and I want to hug him but I'm too mad and too tired. Peter and I arrive at the Hut and both take some much-needed "Me Time". We're fried. I don't want to talk to anyone. "Just leave me alone for a second..."

Once again Joe has pulled off placing his hut in an amazing location. Nestled in Aspen trees, a meadow, a pond and the sound of a nearby river flowing. I honestly don't know how he gets permission to drop a small mobile cabin in the places he does, but it really counters all the difficult parts of the trip by having such beautiful settings to relax in.

We went full-circle on dinner tonight, going back to boiling pasta, chopping garlic and tomatoes and offering canned chicken on the side for a little protein. We crashed at 9:30, everyone completely wiped out.

2 days left to get over those mountains

Day 7
Geyser Pass to Moab
35 miles
Moab or Bust!
9am - 2pm

Up at 6am today but taking a real slow pace getting going. No hurry, as it's almost all downhill to Moab and we have all day to get there. We pack up our things, have breakfast and coffee, sweep out the hut one last time and grab a final group shot. It's hard to leave such a pretty spot, and also hard to swing a leg over a bicycle again after the previous day's toll on the legs. Three hours later, we're rolling. Colette's having trouble with her cleat/pedal so we pull over and I swap cleats from my shoe to hers and we're rolling again. We have a brief climb through dense woods, Colette and Carl spot bear tracks in the road, but alas no bears. Honestly that is one of the things I really missed on the trip was having a bear sighting. It didn't have to be up close thank you, but I did want the experience of seeing one in the wild. Next time. (did I just type "next time"???). We wind down the La Salles, coasting ever so closer to civilization. We're hardly pedaling, we're almost home, life is good. We come around a bend and hit the brakes. "Bridge Out" signs dare us to make it back smoothly. The bridge for local traffic is completely gone. We double check our maps to make sure this is the road we want. It is. The only way across is a small aluminum foot bridge for the construction crew. We size it up to see the feasibility of getting bikes and bodies across the river safely. Colette snaps. "I'm done." She has a little rant about not wanting to figure out one more obstacle, she turns her bike around and announces "I'll see you guys in Moab." Yikes. And we were so close. Fast forward, Al and Colette talk, we all cross the bridge together, helping as needed and we continue on. A few small climbs later and we're back in coasting mode, clicking off miles and feeling the temperature rise hotter and hotter the lower we get.

And we've done it! We roll down Main St. in Moab in our tired, dirty, smiling paceline. Its about 104F degrees out and the sun is blazing. We all agree that food is in prompt order, so we steer the bikes for Zax restaurant and bar, the same spot we lunched at prior to leaving Moab a week earlier. Little things like wait staff, cold drinks and bus boys seemed like miracles. Only 7 days had past and yet we felt like we just walked out of the jungles of Aitutaki for the first time in our lives. Jokes were plenty; we wanted to throw all of our paper trash in the fire of the pizza oven, our waitress would leave, and then return with beer!, and we had to refrain from belches and other "body sounds" in public which went unedited for 7 days.

We left Zax and crossed the street to our hotel. After checking back in we all scattered to our respective rooms to enjoy the first real shower in a week with real soap and real shampoo and big, real towels. Best. Shower. Ever. My shoes and socks were so nasty that they joined me in the shower, getting a nice flooding to let the healing process begin. Later that evening, cleansed and scrubbed and dressed, the six of us walked up the boulevard to the Moab Brewery for dinner (and yes more beer). It was a great night out - warm and calm and relaxing, a perfect end to a week of adventure.

It was an amazing week. The West is so vast and remote and beautiful and varied. It can also make you vanish in the blink of an eye. Its the perfect remedy to claustrophobic city life, fearing that if every bit of open space in your neighborhood is being developed, then the rest of the country must be headed that way too. Its not. I had 360 degree views of nothing but millions of pine tress on millions of untouched acres, day after day. We rode miles of trails that the locals don't know exist and have no reason to explore. You're still in your United States, but far away from anything that resembles a modern society. I highly recommend unplugging and taking a tour of your West. The End