2016 RAWROD Ride Report Part 1: No Safewords For Old Men

05.16.2016 | 4:24 pm

“I reserve the right to call this off,” I told The Hammer. “And if I call it off, I want you to respect that I’m making the call in absolute, utter seriousness. I’m not calling it off because I’m looking for an argument, or to be convinced that we should not call it off. I’m calling it off because it needs to be called off.”

It was six in the morning, we were driving to Moab for our annual Ride Around White Rim in One Day (RAWROD) ride. And the wind was so strong I was literally having a difficult time keeping the truck in the correct lane.

So sure: I was being a little hyperbolic. But only a little.

Anticipating that the wind would be a part of this story, I sagely took a screen grab of the hourly weather forecast on my phone:

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I just wish I had taken a screen grab of the more detailed forecast I had seen online the night before…the one that said we could expect gusts of up to 45mph.

And in short, I had concerns about riding in the desert, against harsh winds, unsupported, for 100 miles, in one day.

I know, I know: call me a pessimist.

Long Ride, Short Time

You’ve got to give us credit, though: we did show up. The Hammer and I got to where we traditionally begin the ride — at the end of Mineral Bottom road, the top of Horse Thief climb. We unpacked and were ready to roll by the 7am starting time.

But not a lot of other people were ready.

Now, I’m not saying that the people who were there weren’t ready. Because they were. What I’m saying is that there weren’t a lot of people there. 

As it turns out, I was not the only person who had checked the weather and found it wanting. Others, however, had elected to do things with their weekends that did not involve harsh winds while mountain biking unsupported in a sandy desert all day.

However, Kenny and Heather were there, on their tandem. And Kenny’s and Heather’s friends, Kathleen and Lucas, were also there.

And Ryan Thompson, to whom the laws of physics don’t apply even a little bit. And Jaoaoaaooa. Whose name I am pretty sure I am misspelling, but I think it has pretty close to that many vowels.

And in short, I am not good with names.

We began on time, more or less. I was chatting with Kenny and Heather, while noticing that The Hammer was beginning to pull away.

Hey, she’s The Hammer. It’s what she does.

I stood up and chased, managing to catch her. I looked over to my right, and there was Ryan. Thanks to a nice tailwind, the elevenths miles of straight dirt road warmup climb went by fast, and The Hammer claimed the QOM of Mineral Bottom as her own — even with a pee stop.

I looked back. Kenny, Heather, and the rest of the gang were nowhere to be seen.

“Should we wait for them here?” I asked?

“No,” The Hammer answered. “They’re all much faster than we are when descending. They’ll catch and pass us by the time we get to the bottom of Schafer.

We turned right…and into a ferocious headwind.

Safe Words

The three of us took short turns pulling as we climbed and battled the wind. I thought to myself how incredibly unfair it is to be the largest person in a pace line. 

I thought to myself how I didn’t want to spend a whole day fighting a hard wind like this.

I thought to myself how it would be really easy to turn left and ride the Mag 7 trail instead of riding the White Rim today.

“Hey,” I said, brightly, “What if we ride the Mag 7 trail today instead of White Rim?”

“That’s a good idea,” Ryan said.

“That’s not a good idea,” The Hammer said.

We kept going.

The wind got worse.

“I have nothing to prove,” I said to Ryan and The Hammer. “Let’s end this ride while we still can.”

“That sounds good,” said Ryan.

“We’re already out here; we may as well keep going and see if the weather improves,” said The Hammer.

We kept going. I thought about how cycling needs safewords: words that we use when we’re not joking around. When we seriously want to cut out this nonsense RIGHT THIS MOMENT.

We approached the toll booth, where we’d each need to pay $10 to continue on and do the ride.

“Oh, I’m afraid I forgot to bring any money,” said Ryan, cleverly.

“We only brought enough for us to get through,” I said, wishing I had also been smart enough to forget our money.

“It’s free pass day!” said the woman at the toll booth, helpfully.

Ryan said something, but it’s not the kind of word I generally allow in this blog.

Something Is Amiss

Let me say this: The Hammer was not being silly when she said that we should keep going and let everyone catch us as they descend the Schafer road. It’s a long, twisty, scary descent, and The Hammer and I aren’t good at that kind of thing. 

We figured that by pressing on and staying ahead now, we’d all be together and could ride the rest of the White Rim.

And that’s how it should have been.

But that’s not how it was.

Instead, we got to the bottom of Schafer…and it was still just the three of us. 

But the wind was Blowing. So. Hard.

“I just don’t want to wait around,” I said. “If we’re going to do this, let’s just keep going to Musselman’s Arch. They’ll catch us there while we eat.”

And so we went, the three of us, fighting the wind. Heads down. All three of us wondering where everyone else was. And at least two of us wondering how we had gotten into this mess.

We got to Musselmans. We ate. We looked at the arch. We took pictures.

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We even took time to take silly pictures.

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But neither Kenny nor Lucas nor Heather nor Kathleen appeared.

And in fact, we would never see them again that day.

Which seems like a pretty good spot for us to pick up in the next installment of this story.




  1. Comment by another don | 05.16.2016 | 5:06 pm

    what about Jaoaoaaooa?

  2. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 05.16.2016 | 5:11 pm


  3. Comment by MattC | 05.16.2016 | 6:41 pm

    It’s a bird….it’s a plane….it’s…it’s….(what I immediately thought of when I saw the last ‘heroic’ silly picture).

    I’d tell you that wind is your training partner and your FRIEND (cuz we have wind over 10mph probably 320 days a year here…and I’m not kidding either)…however I think it just makes me hate it even MORE (if that’s actually possible…I’m not sure it is). If anybody knows where to live where the wind hardly EVER blows…I’m listening…cuz I’d like to live there!

    Nice report Fatty…I love how the Hammer is so optimistic! Oh sure…keep going, it will OBVIOUSLY get better…can can’t possibly get any worse…(and I’d be thinking “oh YES IT CAN!”) I’m with you and Ryan Fatty…mentally it’s pretty easy for me to talk myself into giving up being the right thing to do. Pretty anxious to hear where this goes!

  4. Comment by MikeL | 05.16.2016 | 8:21 pm

    A suggestion for what it is worth. Do not ever move to SE Wyoming if you dislike the wind. Your forecast would only count as a gentle zephyr here.

  5. Comment by Corrine | 05.16.2016 | 9:11 pm

    “It’s a free pass day.” I’m sure Ryan was not happy about that! Can’t wait to see what happens next. The Hammer is one tough cookie!

  6. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 05.16.2016 | 9:53 pm

    @MattC. When the wind hits 40 mph gusts here, we lose power for two days and it makes headlines. A steady 20 mph wind says stay indoors so you don’t get hit with large falling tree branches. Or trees. A 10 mph headwind/tailwind is the talk of the ride. Move here (Puget Sound area)if you want wind to be an afterthought. But bring rain gear.

    I have nothing but respect for you SW desert riders that deal with that stuff all the time. Great riding/writing! Looking forward to the rest of the story.

  7. Comment by Jim B | 05.16.2016 | 10:00 pm

    I guess there is no cell phone coverage out there. Otherwise all the “where are they?” anxiety could be avoided.

    Yep, no signal whatsoever. – FC

  8. Comment by sr | 05.16.2016 | 10:27 pm

    New SVP at office looks eerily like you. Plus glasses.

  9. Comment by Jim Tolar | 05.17.2016 | 7:59 am

    Wind, ugh. Kudos, I guess, for going out in spite of it. I’m pretty sure (and I’m being very generous here) I’d take one look at that forecast and find something else to do that day. Excellent write-up. Welcome back.


    p.s. adjust your leading arm angle in your heroic pose so that it’s parallel to the trailing arm angle. Otherwise you’re in danger of stalling.

  10. Comment by Skinny Don Hemry | 05.17.2016 | 8:04 am

    Riding on high wind may be OK for folks over 126lbs. As for me even the Texas wind over 18 MPR. Just grabs me and take’s me and the bike the other way.

  11. Comment by Tom in Albany | 05.17.2016 | 9:31 am

    Fatty, I guess The Hammer’s just used to the constant “wind” blowing around the Nelson household. Just another day…

    @Jim Tolar – I think he’s going for the hammerhead maneuver!

  12. Comment by owen | 05.17.2016 | 12:38 pm

    is this tandem team racing Leadville on it?

  13. Comment by LoPhat | 05.19.2016 | 8:43 am

    *You’re* complaining about being the tallest person in the paceline?

    Try being 6′2″ and a ride leader, where you spend all the time in front on the flats, and then whenever you hit a hill, everybody who was resting behind you zooms by you.

    Though I don’t ride very fast and the wind generally isn’t very bad.

  14. Comment by Jimbo/Rumpled | 05.19.2016 | 4:34 pm

    If you can afford it; come to OC, CA for no wind. Maybe 10 days of Santa Anas at 50 MPH that fan fires and cause havoc. Daily breezes along the coast in the afternoon. Other than that, it rarely gets above 5-8 mph.
    Except when it rains; which again is only about 10 days a year.
    I hate wind, and am glad I don’t ride in it much; but when I do – I hate it and don’t do it very well; because I don’t get many chances to ride in the wind – which I hate.

  15. Comment by Xe ??p th? thao | 05.27.2016 | 2:55 am

    Looking forward to the rest of the story


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