Last Sunday was Brad’s 40th birthday party. In the invitations, Tasha, Brad’s wife, had asked us to be sure to bring tales about Brad to tell. Sadly, I had to leave before we got around to the story-telling part of the night — I felt bad leaving Susan to get the kids ready for bed on her own — so I promised Tasha as I left that I’d post my Brad story on my blog.
I call it:
“The Day I Hated Brad”
Ten-or-so years ago, Brad, Rocky, Alan (a friend of Rocky’s) and I planned to ride the Kokopelli Trail as a two day ride. We planned to ride from Moab to Dewey Bridge the first day, camp there, and then continue to Colorado the second day.
Unfortunately, it rained the night before.
Waking up and looking at the standing water in the parking lot, I recommended we forget the epic, go back to sleep, and in a few hours go for a ride on Slickrock, which would be dried out by then.
Rocky and Alan were right with me. In fact, I think they admired my courage. I had been the brave one, saying what everyone else was thinking — that riding a big mountain bike epic after a big rainstorm was not a good idea.
Brad was astounded. We had planned this ride for weeks! We were prepared! The trail was probably fine!
And then, finally, he said, “Let’s just try. If it’s no good, we can always turn around.”
Rocky, Alan and I caved. In the face of such enthusiasm, how could we not?
Had I known what the day held in store for us, of course, I would have simply murdered Brad on the spot, hidden his body, and gone back to bed, and then gone for the aforementioned ride on the Slickrock trail later this afternoon.
And I would have been justified in doing so.
The Beginning of the Climb
The Kokopelli trail begins at the Slickrock trailhead. With three of us (i.e., everyone but Brad) casting a wistful look back at the ride we’d prefer to be doing, we began the ride up Sand Flats Road.
Here’s the thing about Sand Flats Road: There’s a lot of it that isn’t sand at all. Oh sure, there’s plenty of sand, but it’s not all sand.
There’s also a considerable amount of clay.
Usually, you don’t even notice the clay, because it’s all hard and baked and easy to ride on. In fact, it’s much, much easier to ride on than the sand. So, on the 362 days of the year that it doesn’t rain in the hot Moab desert, clay is an awesome riding surface.
On the other three days of the year, it’s a bad riding surface.
I need to be clear, here. By “bad” riding surface, I don’t mean that it’s suboptimal. By “bad” riding surface, I mean that it was actually wicked and spiteful. And quite possibly evil.
And in short, we each had to frequently stop, scraping mud from our bagel-esque tires, scraping mud from our deraileurs, scraping mud from our pedals, scraping mud from our brakes.
You get the picture.
After an hour or so of this — during which we had traveled perhaps a dozen yards — I announced that this seemed like enough. We could turn around now and still get in a good ride on the Slickrock trail, then go get dinner at the Moab Brewery. The day was not too late to salvage.
Brad — who, I’d like to point out, had never done this ride before and had no idea of what was ahead of us — insisted things would shortly get better, and we should go on.
Brad must be a Jedi or something, because his mind trick worked. We went on.
Wherein I Become Mentally Scarred for Life
About 90 minutes later than we had originally planned on it — which is to say, we were going about half as fast as we had expected to — we got to the point where you turn off Sand Flats road and onto singletrack.
Ordinarily, this is one of my favorite parts of the ride. While almost all of the rest of the Kokopelli Trail is on wide dirt roads, this feels a little more like mountain biking.
But not this day. After the night’s rain, this trail — no, let’s call it what it really is: “ravine” was in some places a soupy mess. In other places it was a running stream. In still other places, it was the exactly perfect material for making adobe bricks, complete with straw already mixed in, so as to make the binding compound stronger, as if that were somehow necessary.
Within yards, our bikes were completely immobilized. The only way to continue was to shoulder our bikes and trudge on, hiking for four miles uphill in alternately slippery and sticky mud…in our bike shoes.
“This,” I told Brad, “sucks.”
“Are you kidding?” asked Brad, brightly. “This is a total adventure! I’m loving this!”
We eventually reached the pavement part of the ride, which I have never been so glad to reach. On previous Kokopelli rides, we’re usually just getting warmed up — been out a couple hours, just getting into our endurance groove.
This time, we had been out six hours.
“The math is impossible,” I told the group. “We won’t make it to camp before dark. We need to turn around.”
Rocky and Alan nodded their heads, a chorus of consent. Brad, however, said, “We don’t even know if it’s been raining on other parts of the trail. It could be totally dry. Besides, this is fun!”
Seriously. He said it was fun.
Brad Strikes Out On His Own
So, in a testament to how weak-willed the rest of us were, we pressed on. Things weren’t so bad as we rode on the pavement for several miles, climbing up to Beaver Mesa. The only difference, being, of course, that we were much more exhausted and demoralized than we had ever been before.
Except Brad. He chattered on happily about what an awesome time we were having.
I believe Brad may have been on drugs.
When we reached the top of Beaver Mesa, the paved road ended, yielding to a good gravel road.
This good gravel road lasted for nine inches, approximately. It, in turn, yielded to brownie batter.
We were instantly jammed up. Wheels wouldn’t turn. Drivetrains were completely obscured. And since we were about to begin another climb, followed by a descent that would leave us committed to a night huddled in mud — because, as I mentioned, there was no way we were going to make it to camp — I decided to try convincing Brad, one more time.
“Brad,” I said. “We’ve got another climb here, in horrible mud. This will be followed by a treacherous descent, with cliffside exposure, through mud. Then we’ve got to ride through Fischer Valley — which will be muddy — and climb and descend Seven Mile Pass. In the mud.”
“Brad,” I pleaded, “This is the last place we can turn around and make it home and still have a chance of not sleeping in the mud tonight.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said Brad, cheerily. “I’ll ride on ahead for a couple miles and see if the trail improves.”
“Whatever,” I replied, exhausted.
So Rocky, Alan, and I waited, dejectedly trying to get our bikes into rideable condition. Then we waited some more.
And then, just to mix things up a bit, we continued waiting.
Finally, I — as the person responsible for bringing Brad out on this maladventure — rode on, hoping that I could catch up with him.
As I rode, I bellowed, every few seconds, “Brad! Get back here!”
The Sensible Thing
And what do you know? It worked. Brad came back. “Is it still muddy?” I asked.
“Yep!” he replied, brightly. “But I didn’t finish the climb, so I don’t know if it’s muddy on the downhill.”
What Brad didn’t understand, of course, is that the climb continued for another six miles.
“We’re going back to Moab,” I said.
“But,” he replied.
“Not another word.” It was high time I took a stand. “We’ve got three hours of light left and the most technical part of the whole ride is in front of us. And it’s muddy. We’re going back.”
Dejected for the first time that day, Brad agreed.
We took the pavement back to Moab. Rocky, Alan and I, relieved at the certainty we would not be huddling together for warmth in a cave built of mud and sticks that night, were much happier.
Brad was glum. He had been having a great day, until this sad reversal of events.
It took Rocky and me years to forgive Brad for cheerfully dragging us through 80 miles of mud. I don’t know if Alan ever forgave him. Alan’s not the forgiving type.
Of course now, Brad and I are about as good of friends as friends can be. In fact, ten years later, Brad and I still both tell this story.
Brad, of course, tells it a little bit differently than I.
PS: 2009 Fat Cyclist Jersey Pre-Order Week Continues: This is Day 2 in the 2009 Fat Cyclist Jersey Pre-Order week. Get details on the jersey here, then order the men’s jersey here, or the women’s jersey here. Thanks.