It has been a cold, miserable Winter. I am sick, sick, sick of riding the rollers and trainer. So as you’d expect, the prospect of a weekend in warm Southern Utah sounded even better to me than usual.
And it didn’t just sound good to me, either. Other people made sacrifices to do this ride:
- Bob flew in from Seattle, leaving his wife to tend with sick toddler twins.
- BotchedExperiment bailed on working on his doctoral dissertation.
- Kenny ummm, okay, it was no sacrifice at all for Kenny to come. If he hadn’t been riding with us all weekend, he’d have been riding somewhere else all weekend.
- Paul left the criminal justice system of Southern Utah untended.
- Dug asked his wife if he could go.
- Rick made necessary adjustments at work, which is not as trivial as it might seem, because he is an important executive in an important company. He is, in fact, thrice as important as you and I combined. But nothing matters to Rick as much as honoring a commitment. If he says he’s going to be somewhere, there’s simply no question: he will be there.
- Brad told his tenants to fix their own stupid water heaters for 48 hours.
See what I mean? You’ve got to make sacrifices if you want to get out and get some quality ride time in with your friends.
Day 1: Gooseberry Mesa
Gooseberry Mesa seems to be on everyone’s “Best Trails in the World” list, and for good reason. It’s beautiful, it’s got both technical and moderate terrain, making it a good trail for a wide range of abilities, and you can make the ride last all day or just a couple hours — whatever you’ve got time for.
I’m guessing the owner of this truck has some pretty deep feelings about this trail:
The strangest thing about riding Gooseberry Mesa in the middle of February is that you don’t feel like you’re going to die from the heat. We were still wearing shorts and short sleeves (and sometimes armwarmers), but didn’t feel like we’re melting.
Preliminary Report on the ATC-2000
A couple months ago, I mentioned that I was buying an ATC-2000 video camera to be able to do first-person video of riding. Well, it’s arrived, and I mounted it on my handlebar for the Gooseberry ride. As I slalomed through the beautiful slot canyons and desert scenery, I kept thinking what awesome footage this would make, and how cool it would look on my blog.
Sadly, it’s totally unwatchable.
The thing about mounting a camera on the handlebars of a rigid bike and then filming as you ride on rough singletrack and sandstone is the resulting video shows off every turn of the handlebar, every bump of the bike, to great effect.
If I posted the footage and then you watched it, I guarantee you would throw up.
I’m not giving up, though. I’m going to try mounting the camera on my helmet next, which should smooth things out at least a little bit.
As a consolation prize, how about I instead show you this excellent photo of Kenny I took.
Also, I do have lots of good video using my regular camcorder — I just haven’t learned enough about Premiere to edit it together yet. I’ll try to get that posted tomorrow.
Quick Summary of Day 1
Not too long ago, I posted about riding Gooseberry with my friends, and this was a similar day. So let’s skip to the group photo:
I can’t pretend this is the best group picture we’ve ever taken. First of all, it’s so obvious that I’m sucking in my gut. It looks like I’ve got three, maybe 4 seconds ’til I absolutely positively have to exhale.
And then there’s Dug. I don’t know what was up with him, but he insisted on removing his shirt for this photo. He said something about being “totally into Pilate’s.” I think Kenny’s right to be leaning away from him, to tell the truth.
And don’t even get me started about Brad and Rick. They were like that the whole day. Any time anyone said anything about it, though, Brad would go into his Mui Thai fighting stance, and Rick would start telling you to begin with the end in mind.
Whatever that means.
The craziest thing in the whole photo, though, is Bob. What’s up with that pose? He looks like he’s standing in line at a wedding reception.
Day 2: Little Creek
You know what’s really, really sad? The fact that for years and years and years, we have traveled to Gooseberry Mesa, ridden for a day, and then turned around and gone home, thinking we had ridden the best of what the area had to offer.
This whole time, we were — fools that we are — ignoring the ride literally across the street from Gooseberry Mesa: Little Creek.
I promise you, that will never happen again.
While Gooseberry is a perfect mountain bike playground, Little Creek is an elegant high desert singletrack paradise. Gooseberry is a tight snarl of trails that interconnect and turn back on themselves. Little Creek is a big loop that really shows you around the place, displaying incredible views at ever turn.
Gooseberry is, in short, a perfect first-day ride of a two day trip: it tests you and wears you out. Little Creek is the perfect second-day ride — it’s a big rolling tour, punctuated with lots of excellent places to test your riding skill.
It’s at Least Somewhat About the Bike
An hour or so into the ride, I volunteered to switch bikes with Bob, so he could see what it’s like to ride a 29″-wheeled, fully-rigid singlespeed on this kind of terrain. I, in turn, would ride his 26″-wheeled, full-suspension geared bike for a while. We switched shoes since we don’t use the same kind of pedals (Bob is the last person in the world using Speedplay Frogs), and took off.
At about the same time, Kenny and Paul switched bikes, giving Paul a chance to ride a bike like mine (but much, much lighter — Kenny’s put some serious money into making his Rig race-worthy).
Bob immediately fell in love with the Rig. He went on and on about how smooth, quiet, and intuitive a singlespeed felt. He talked about how he didn’t really feel the need to shift with this bike.
I get the sense that there’s a singlespeed in Bob’s future.
Kenny wasn’t having much fun with Paul’s bike, though. It was too small for him. The geometry felt wrong. He had a hard time clipping in.
Dan observed that Paul’s bike was like kryptonite to Kenny.
It was during this brief riding exchange that I got to witness Kenny ride down a very ordinary-looking drop — no more than 18″ — then slide off the back of the seat and rack himself on the seatpost.
I tell you what: there’s nothing quite so funny as watching a guy try to recover from a good hard kick to the balls.
Meanwhile, I was actually having fun riding Bob’s bike, even though Bob has elected to wear terrible biking shoes — I wouldn’t have believed it possible for MTB shoes to have such flimsy soles — with cleats mounted so far back they were pressing right into my arches.
Other than that, though, I was enjoying Bob’s bike. It felt wild to have so much cush.
And that’s when I found out how used I have become to 29″ wheels. Riding down a fairly non-descript series of ledges, I lost control of the bike. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. I was riding along one second, and the next second I was rocketing toward a tree.
You know what’s interesting? When the front of your bike hits a tree, the bike stops immediately, but the rider keeps on going until he hits something.
For example, the rider might stop because his testicles have slammed into the stem of his bike.
I tell you what: there’s nothing even remotely funny about having everyone stand around you, laughing at the way you’re screaming in pain, doubled over from a good hard kick to the balls.
Since this is a family blog, I cannot / will not provide a picture, but rest assured: I am black and blue in some highly unusual and sensitive areas.
Oh, and it still hurts to pee.
I also cut up my face and my right leg:
But you know what? I landed on my feet. So I get style points for that, don’t I?
The Surreal Bushes
Riding at Gooseberry and Little Creek, I saw bushes that I have never seen (or at least noticed) before. Check this out:
Yes, that rough gray bark is encased, in some places, with a deep maroon coating, as smooth and shiny as polished mahogany. Have a closer look:
Does anyone know what kind of bush this is? It’s gorgeous, whatever it is.
I’d Like Some More, Please
While Gooseberry is tight and twisty, Little Creek gives you a grand tour. We rode along the rim for big stretches of time, incredible vistas just off to our left (I’m not sure where Brad, Dug, and Rick are in this photo; they were probably working on a move or something).
And then you’re riding in a dry creek bed. And then on slickrock. And then weaving in and out of forests of juniper bushes.
Really, just an exquisite ride. Definitely worth the effort to get away from it all for a weekend, as I’m certain my friends all agree.
PS: Today’s weight: 169.6. Hey, when you travel, you eat.
PPS: There are a few minor factual inaccuracies in this post. See if you can find them!