I close my eyes and I see the flashes of afternoon sun through the tremendous douglas firs. I feel the sharp, cold alpine breeze, uncontested by trees on my sun-fired skin. The smell of juniper and fire in my nostrils. The soft delicate crush of heroically damp dirt beneath my tires. The baking warmth of the desert rocks radiating solar oven. The immaculate quiet of my mind with absolutely nothing left in it except Here and Now.
The days are getting shorter and colder here in ColoRADo. I look west from my house and I can see the spartan traces of last winter’s snows, retreated but not defeated. They are licking their wounds, regrouping, planning another charge. My snowboards and snowshoes are patiently waiting for their time. There is a conspicuously empty spot on the ceiling of my garage that begs for a Fatbike. I dream back over the summer, to where I started this year looking up at these same mountains waiting, anticipating.
The vague notions of where I might ride compared to the indelible history of where I actually rode. Fruita. Grand Junction, Curt Gowdy, Salida, Vail, Crested Butte I, Park City, Oakridge, Bend, Crested Butte II. Campsites. Houses. Hotel rooms.
Each trip a movement in a greater symphony. Each one greater or bigger in some way. Not in scope of trail or distance or remoteness, but in some more internal property. My hard drive is bristling with video and photos that I took as went, but more importantly so is my mind. I have become the sum of those rides.
The hard-won vision and reflexes and stamina, the slow visceral tuning of a new bike one bolt at a time to make it mine, the long miserable climbs of the spring which brought me to the mountaintops of the summer, the chunky-chundery tooth rattling descents of my local trails which smoothed the swooping singletrack of Park City and Crested Butte and beyond.
I woke up early recently in Crested Butte. My second trip there this year and in two days we had ridden South Fooses Creek (Monarch Crest), Canyon Creek, the 401 trail (twice) and Doctors Park. We rode both days until we were chased from the woods by darkness. After Doc’s Park we had to build a fire to keep warm as we waited for the shuttle car to be retrieved (Rock-n-Roll chain lube, for the record, REALLY means it with that “Flammable” warning on the label).
We ate meat-n-bread sandwiches for lunch because we didn’t want to waste time spreading condiments. It had been a hard-charging, dawn-till-dusk, beer-drinking, hike-a-biking, ripping descending, fix-what-you-can-and-remove-what-you-can’t kind of trip.
My body was tired but my spirit was renewed. I gathered up what little I had. Tried not to wake my roommates, and made an early departure. I had promises to keep back in Denver. My friends stayed on and continued to ride. They met a rider that morning that said something curious and prophetic. I had learned long ago to pay attention to Curious Prophets. They are the voice of the universe. He told them: “The ride never ends, man. It never ends”.
He was right. The Ride Never Ends.
All the places I rode this summer, and the places I’ve ever ridden, all the places I will someday ride are one continuous ride separated by the hike-a-bikes of life. We ride on. And yet, with all these great rides behind me I am unfinished. I am still hungry. I’m not ready for these rides to be over. The fading light. The coming snow. Unsatisfied I find myself already almost unconsciously planning the next trip, and the trip after that. Fruita, Sedona… In the Southern Hemisphere, somewhere there’s a rider like me looking out his window, watching the snows recede. Maybe New Zealand, Chile. Maybe Guatemala. The ride never ends.