As I sat down to breakfast next to Nixon, my standard hotel coffee from the breakfast bar was suddenly replaced by a fresh cup from the coffee shop in the lobby, courtesy of Troy. He's good like that. As the four of us chatted about our plan for the day, I gratefully took a sip from my paper cup. Whoever happened to be talking at the moment (Nixon, I think), was loudly interrupted by me quickly jumping from my chair and saying "oh shit ow fuck that's hot ow." I hadn't noticed that the coffee shop lady hadn't gotten the plastic lid all the way on the cup and, consequently, blazing hot coffee had spilled in my lap, McDonald's style.
That's how my day started.
While I was upstairs changing pants, the rest of our crew had been talking to a couple of guys who had just been to a trail called Thunder Mountain. They were raving about it and Troy was in the mood to try out a trail he hadn't been on yet, so we finished breakfast, printed some directions, and off we went. The trail wasn't too far out of our way to Moab and we'd get to drive through Zion National Park to get there, so we figured we had a pretty good plan. However, the crew at the gate to Zion didn't agree. They took one look at The Superliner and said, "Nope." There were some tunnels and steep windy roads through the park and they were pretty sure Troy's rig wasn't going to make it through. We hatched a new plan. Troy found a spot on the side of the road just before the gates and parked there. He and Nixon put all the stuff they would need in Tori's rig and the lady at the gate laughed at us as we went through.
We had a lovely drive through the park. In some places, we all gazed up at the massive bare rock formations cut jagged by wind and water, crowned with proud arches. In other places, we marveled at the maze of deep canyons slashing through the sandstone. And everywhere in between we admired the vast spectrum of colors cloaking the landscape. We made it through the park and back onto a normal boring highway. We managed to entertain ourselves for a little while with the camera:
But that could only last so long. Then there was the incident of the angry boner ... ahem ... Nixon (two boners in two days!). And finally we arrived at our destination.
Clouds loomed overhead, but the weather forecast claimed they wouldn't fall. Not that it mattered, we were intent on riding, dry or not. We took awhile getting ready, pumping up tires, checking shock pressures, and in general, just kind of messing around. We were all hungry for single track by the time we started pedaling. Unfortunately, we had about 2 miles of climbing on a paved trail to conquer first. Tori and I reached the top ready to hit the trail, but we had to stop so Troy and Nixon could share an intimate moment:
We left the paved trail and followed some double track for a bit. Soon enough, the meandering double track gained some focus and got down to some single track business. We cruised down quick descents that plunged us into a sparsely populated forest and every so often, we would climb out of the trees and up onto small expanses of exposed rock where we would be rewarded with astonishing views, each vista unique in its picturesque offering. At one such peak, the four of us peered down in eager anticipation at the trail etched in the desert panorama below us. It carved its way through the brush and pine trees, crept around the stoic silent hoodoo formations, and flowed like water through the arid basin. We stood there for a while, observing, until our excitement got the best of us and pulled us back to the trail. After miles of winding and rolling over the playful terrain, the trail spit us out across an old wash bed and back onto some double track. We thought the ride was pretty much over, assuming this double track would take us back down to the parking lot. My legs were spent and starting to cramp and I knew this was going to be a painful last two miles. Nobody was in a hurry, though, so we started to just slowly cruise along. Troy and Tori rode ahead and Nixon stayed behind me to keep me company. The trail started to roll downhill, a welcome relief to my exhausted legs. Suddenly, Troy and Tori were out of sight and I realized that the trail had once again narrowed into lively single track. It was the kind of tumbling single track that makes you forget you were tired. It makes you forget your problems and makes your cares drop away like autumn leaves. As we floated down that earthen river, I think we all forgot, for just a few minutes, that there was a world outside of this place. Without warning, the dirt turned to gravel and we found ourselves in a parking lot. No one said anything. We couldn't find the words. Troy took one gloved hand off his handlebar and held his fist out to Nixon, who silently bumped it with his own in return. That pretty much summed it up.
We rode out of the parking lot and back onto the paved trail. At that point, we all realized how hungry we were. The soundtrack for the rest of the short ride back to the car consisted only of us talking about food. We reached the car, greeted by Ms. Spokes Tumbleweed (Troy's dog) and took off back in the direction we had come. We wound our way back through Zion. The towering rocks and plunging canyons stood unchanged except for their once bright and burning hues that had darkened along with the sky. We reached Troy's truck and decided we'd stop for dinner somewhere along our way. Less than a mile later, Troy pulled over and we were sitting in a booth at Blondie's Diner devouring our well-earned cheese burgers. After that, we drove a little way toward Moab and then decided to stop for the night in Richfield, too exhausted to go any further.
Every once in a great while, we all have one of those days. The kind of day where nothing can go wrong. Where, even if something did go wrong, it wouldn't matter anyway. The kind of day that, when you look back upon it, you feel humbled and grateful and you swirl the memories around in your head, hoping they never go away.
This was one of those days.