It was a hard push getting ready to leave, I worked a 84 hour block at the FD finishing up at 1900 Thursday night, ran home and painted all night, finishing Roy's frame at 0500, then back into the FD for another 24 hours at 0700. Saturday morning, I assembled two bikes, loaded the car with two more wheeled machines and a bunch of climbing and camping gear, and started the 22 hour drive to meet everyone else in Denver Colorado.
First Stop: Fruita, Colorado
A quick trip across the Rockies brought us to our first destination, Fruita Colorado, a mix of sand, rock, and mountains and the land of Dinosaur Bones.
Two trails were on the agenda before moving south; Mary's Loop, a fun, chunky singletrack that follows the ridge line offering expansive views and some technical challenges and the rolling ridge lines of Zippidee Doohdaah.
Mary's loop was an excellent starter for me...as I had not ridden since July of 2011, almost a year, the straightforward rock drops and swervy curvy single track was the perfect "back in the saddle again" warm up. The bomber downhill back to the start of the single track was a hoot, I enjoyed it coming down much more than climbing up :)
The sun rose bright and beautiful and Zippidie Doohdaah, a winding ridge line single track with sweeping corners and lots of flow awaited the day's efforts. Riding on the ridge line, watching the desert crawl away to deep blue skies was a very satisfying experience, as each one of us relished in a road trip realization... this is so much better than being at work.
Second Stop: Moab, Utah
A scenic drive south took us to Moab, land of slickrock, arches, and Milts burgers and shakes, the gateway to great riding and post exertion re-fueling.
Two rides on Slickrock trail were immediately executed...one morning jaunt and an evening pedal in the sunset. Kalten had a great time on the single speed, really having to bust his buns and balance rear wheel traction with effort to get up the steepest of climbs. It's either keep pedaling or fall over backward :)
Roy is all smiles as he enjoys his new bike...
Climbing a steady rise in the distance, the rock illuminated by the setting sun...
Don, Roy, and Jamie in silhouette...a pleasant way to end the day.
After 3 hard days of riding, we decided to take on a less demanding, more scenic trail. Pointing the cars northwest and then south again brought us to Dead Horse Point and the Big Chief trail. A nice winding single track with plenty of visual impact, it was a good ride just to spin the legs, take in the scenery, and re-energize.
And the view, worth the ride...
The next day saw us tackling "The Whole Enchilada", a 27 mile ride from above treeline at Burro Pass down to the Colorado River. The ride begins with a 700' climb up into the scree fields before bombing down through the Aspen forests, into the Aspen and wildflower meadows, to the scrub pine and grasses, and finally finishing the last 14 miles on the single track and rocky trail of Porcupine Rim. This trail is touted as one of the finest on our little planet, so we had high expectations of an epic day...
The climb to the top...
First Blood...an omen of what was to come?
Group shot... (seated) Me, Jeroen, Jamie, and Kalten. (standing) Don, Mike, and Roy
Once we all caught our breath, it was down the trail, hands off the brakes, crashing through patches of snow and ice cold creeks, heading for the valley in the far distance.
The group took our time, "making pictures" and re-grouping as we worked our way down the trail. Upper Porcupine and Lower Porcupine Singletrack sections were my favorite, as the trail morphed from slickrock, to gravel, to sandy bits, all while winding along the cliff edge and then back into the trees. Technical sections would then reward you with awesome postcard views.
Our carefree attitude soon began to take it's toll, as water reserves dried up and the mid day sun was relentless. After sustaining a beating on the Porcupine Ridge 4x4 boulder road of misery, we dropped back into the cliff section of single track, often riding inches from the edge, that would take us down to the river and the end of the journey...and that's when it happened.
You always hear people say in their best TV Spokesperson voice..."Accidents can be prevented". I'm not sure how, but if you are going to live life, a certain amount of risk is to be expected. This does not change the fact that when an accident does occur, you feel heartsick about it and wish there was something you could have done...such is the irony of risk vs. reward. My opinion is that life is meant to be spent, so embrace that reality and go for it.
It was with such an attitude that I decided to bring Kalten along on this trip. His mountain biking has developed the past few years with greater enthusiasm, fitness and skill. I figured he was ready for more technical opportunities and the thought of a cross country trip just us boys sealed the deal.
Riding about 30 yards behind Kalten, Roy, and Jeroen, it was with great horror I heard them begin to scream in front of me, "NO NO NO!" I hastened around the corner to see Roy and Jeroen peering over the edge of a 500' sheer vertical cliff, faces twisted in agony, their arms reaching out into the empty air. My first thought...where's Kalten. My desire to share new experiences and more technical obstacles had sent him over the cliff into the scree below...oh I'm such a shitty father :(
Roy immediately discerned my perspective and was quick to let me know that Kalten was still ahead of us, safely on the trail. Whew, my anticipated grief began to melt away. So what's going on? Seven hours into the trail, unrelenting heat, low water and a moment of inattention had caused Roy to miss an otherwise simple bunny hop, his rear wheel striking the edge of the rock and catapulting him into an endo. Landing safely on his butt, inches from the edge of the cliff, Roy had a ringside seat to watch the X frame somersault it's way through the air, the Prismatic pearl glinting in the sunlight, bidding a fare thee well to it's rider as it plummeted toward the earth and out of sight.
We were so blessed that it was only the bike that left us in that moment, I would have had a hard time explaining to Grietsje that Roy would not be returning...no words could have sufficed. I'm not ashamed to say that I hugged Roy, reached up and patted him on the head and reassured him that it'll all be alright. We can always build another bike.
The next day we sacrificed any riding to begin the rescue mission. Although we could locate the landmarks from below, the quarter mile of boulders and scree below the cliff were difficult to navigate, let alone find the remains of a bicycle in without any visual clues. We loaded up the climbing gear and began the long up hill hike back up to the accident spot, hoping that by rappelling down, we could find the bike and provide some closure for Roy. While setting up an anchor, Mikey suddenly exclaimed that he could see a tire caught in the spindly branches of a pinion pine growing out of the cliff wall. Could we really be that lucky? Had a scrubby little pine had rescued the X frame from it's ultimate demise. It was with much anticipation that I began to lower on the rope. Two things ran through my mind immediately...Roy may be the luckiest man in Moab and damn, hanging over a 500' cliff to rescue a bike is customer service!
Only feet into the rappel, my heart sank as I made the announcement.
"There's a bike in the tree, but it's not Roy's bike!"
Unbelievable, but someone else had the exact same accident as Roy, lost their bike over the edge, but this scrawny little tree had chosen to save it. Hanging below me was a Titus Racer X with full XTR and Thomson components. Based on the fact that the black anno components were now bright silver sunny side up, it had probably been hanging there for a few years.
From my vantage point, I could see something shimmering in the boulders below...the X.
Roy hiked up under neath me and found the bike: in two pieces. The X had nose dived into a 24" gap between a spilt boulder the size of a small cottage, sheering off the bar stem combo and wedging it's self fast. The momentum tore the titanium boom tube in two, carrying the back end down the slope. It took Roy a good hour to excavate the remaining pieces and get them back down to road level, but the mission had been completed.
The post mortem showed what terminal velocity is all about...there was very little of the bike that was not damaged. The bars were torn off the stem, the internal cables ripped in half, the fork bent 2.5" lateral, the Phil axle bent, seatpost crushed, rims broken, and hydraulic lines bleeding their final tears of death. Ironically, the Hot Rods, Gates belt, and Rohloff were still in perfect shape, tensioned, and if not for the destroyed rear Mavic rim, were ready to pedal on.
Not to be too disheartened, we rode one more day in Fruita on the way back to Denver to see the boys off at the airport before Kalten and I started the long drive home. We stopped off in Wilson Kansas at the Swiftgrass trail and had an awesome evening ride on the short loop, camped overnight, then rode the technical loop in the am before hitting the road again.
Once home, it was back to a 5 day push at the FD before I could unpack and get back into the groove. Catching up on email and such the next few days, so if you have not heard from me, I'll get to ya soon.
Thanks to Roy, Jeroen, Mikey, Don, Jamie, Kalten and Chris (who has a whole 'nother story!) for making this customer/friend trip such a epic journey.