Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Memorable Memorial Weekend - Part 2 Salida Satisfaction

Downtown Salida
Sometimes the road to self discovery can be the hardest. 
Day two of our weekend adventures, was to be rated, on a scale of 1 to10, as epic. This would be our first tracks in the highlands above Salida, so there was a level of unknown which, to me and Ryan, only adds to the epicness. What we did know, however, was that our friends would be challenged. We also knew we would be gone all day; that there would be indescribable views and we absolutely knew that there would be local hops and noms consumed post ride. All the more reason to get going. But for a long day like that I needed to make sure everyone was well fed so I whipped up some cinnamon-banana pancakes and scrambled eggs. Larry, who is always the first to get up, was nowhere to be found.

"Where is Larry? "

"He went to find bacon."

It was spitting rain yet Larry was in search of salty goodness. God bless mountain bikers.

By the time he came back, everyone was up and instantly moods lightened despite the wetness outside. Bacon has magical powers like that. And so does Larry, actually.

For a couple weeks prior to our arrival Ryan cyber stalked anyone he knew who lived above sea level in Colorado, asking about trail conditions in Crested Butte. The original plan was to return EOB to his spiritual birth place and ride the classic routes in the area but since record late snowfall was still burying most of the high mountains, that simply wasn't an option. So like any good Eagle Scout, Ryan bought a map of the area days before departure, and through his networking skills with friends in high places and Facebook, he was able to piece together a route that would surely have a little bit of everything.

We were on the road by 8:20. I was very pleased with the new wagoneers. Everyone was very prompt. The skies were grey. On his bacon run Larry went by the start line for the start of the Full Growler race (two laps of the same course). The vibe was much different than the day before. Instead of riders warming up and tunes blaring, everyone was in their cars, trying to stay warm and dry for as long as possible. So long, suckers!

The drive would be at least an hour. We drove up and over Monarch Pass and the higher we drove the snowier it became. There is a gift shop at the pass and there were snow drifts still up to the rooftops. (Yes, there were snowball fights). But we didn't come here to enjoy the snow. We wanted to get on dirt and now.

Salida is a cool hippie town. There many little art shops restaurants bars and of course bike shops. The most famous being Absolute Bikes. We stopped in there and Ryan went over his ride plans with one of the shop rats. It seems his plan was perfect for the time we had that day. The trails would be dry for the most part but we needed to be prepared. The skies were ominous towards the direction we came from. It seemed that it wasn't a matter of if we would get wet but more like when. As we unloaded the van we were engaged in conversation by a local homeless man. With a very loud and slightly drunk voice, he told us of caves up high and how effing awesome the trails were. He complimented our bikes and then of course, right on que, asked us for money. We denied his request and as we rode away I worried that he might try to help himself to the contents of the van.

S Hill
The ride started out going up S Hill. It was the local green trail but there were definitely technical aspects to it. Tight, off-camber and rocky singletrack was cut into very steep hillsides with a lot of exposure. The trail sometimes disappeared around the corner and you didn't know what was on the other side until you were there. About a month ago Ryan and I took an IMBA mtb instruction course. In that course we learned basic guide techniques. We practiced those techniques with Ryan in the front and me bringing up the rear. No matter what I was to stay behind the group to make sure that nobody got lost or left behind. The views were beautiful. The sky was breaking up and the sun was starting to send raise down on the little town of Salida. The hill was completely bare of any trees so we had perfect sightlines down to the valley. 

The town of Salida from S Hill

The Wagoneers heading up.

EOB being EOB
Because it had rained recently the trail was a little bit tacky and some of us were having problems with mud collecting our pedals. There was a little bit of stop and go but I was perfectly content. I was tired from the race the day before and the slower pace let me take in my surroundings. One of the Wagoneers, Jenni, was having a particularly tough go at the trail. As new rider on rocks, the terrain was very foreign but she rode like a trooper and was determined to get to the end of the trail, which she did, but not without giving me a heart attack. After losing her balance, she took a small plunge down the hill at an elbow bend of the trail. Luckily she went into a sort of water drainage. I jumped off my bike to help her. Ever see an Asian with perfectly round eyes? Her husband, the proper Asian, Adam, was fearing the worst but his wife was fine. Not a scratch. We hooked back up with the group and motored on.

Soon the trail started to get more and more technical with lots of slow maneuvering. It wasn't an ideal place for beginners but Jenni talked her way through it, riding whenever she could. Not once did she just give up. She tried (and screamed) her way around the rocky playground. It was fun to celebrate each little victory. If anything, I hoped it inspired her. She could now not only understand what her husband gets all jacked up about when talking about the gnarly shit he rode but also contribute to the conversation, which is a very good thing.

At one point when we caught back up with the group, Carly was licking wounds from what we heard was a nasty endo with a backward somersault. She didn’t stick the landing, I guess. At that point I had to pee something fierce. Unfortunately, after I did my deed, and after peeing on my shoe, I could not, for the life of me, zip up my shorts. I must have tried 50 times and fifty times more at each stop. Great. But I just untucked my jersey and hoped for the best. My comrades had a good time with it, naming it the Cooter Cooler.

First time we've ever had as many ladies as men!
We finally made it to an end-point. At a gravel road we had to make a decision on where to go next. Jenni and Amy decided to take the low road and head back to town, in search of the illusive pump track. The rest of us headed up the gravel, each at our own pace, until we found the single track connector that lead us to Cotton Wood, a trail that would take us back down to the parking lot. (The emphasis being DOWN). It started out following a dried up spring bed, which had some nice kickers on each side. We came to an intersection and discovered some newly-cut single track that still had flags in place. We jumped on it, ready to hoot and holler but the soft dirt was soul sucking. Not knowing where it would lead us, we back tracked to the spring bed. After a short, rolling descent, Ryan’s tracks said we had to go back up the spring bed, which inevitably hooked us up to the new single track that we bailed on earlier. Doh! And then we had to climb a bit. I didn’t have any doubt in Ryan’s route finding abilities. The man has a talent for it but new riders on the trip were getting antsy. The sky was darkening and nerves were elevating. Nobody wants to be out in the middle of BFE, in the rain, trying to get down a rocky mountainside. Luckily, Ryan had downloaded the trail to his phone. After, cross-referencing it with the vague but reliable local knowledge of “look for the string of old logs on your left” we had a plan. We followed a 4wd road, scouring the edge for the dead logs. I did recall seeing them, but unfortunately, I wasn’t privy to this piece of information at the time I saw them. Plus, they looked more like a barrier than a trail marker. (Smart thinking, rogue trail builders!) So, after bombing down, down, down the road and not finding the dead logs at the edge of a forest, (really, how hard could it be?) we turned around and rode back up, up, up. I mentioned the logs that I saw and sure enough we quickly found them. We took off down the trail hoping this would be the last of the route finding. Tight single track through the trees was just the beginning. We could hear Ryan whooping it up down trail which meant one of two things: don’t follow me because it’s gnarly or follow me because it’s gnarly! We only would know once we got to it. Hands down, this trail had it all. It was primarily descending down the dry creek bed and what’s at the bottom of creeks? Rocks, and lots of them. The line was easy to follow. Sometimes we’d get kicked straight up the bank and if we were in a big gear, that was tricky. Just ask Kaitlin, who learned the hard way. But what goes up must come down and each time we were kicked up the bank, we were rewarded handsomely with a roller coaster descent back down into the spring bed. A couple times we had to dismount to get around some fallen tree debris, but for the most part, it was a clear shot to the bottom. We stopped every so often to catch our breath and to make sure everyone was still on their bikes. The whole crew was riding great, even those on hard tails. Run what ya brung!
This one's for his girls back home.


You didn't need to ask us to say cheese, Todd.

R&R Outside. Our favorite place.
Eventually, the spring bed led us to single track that wound us back through the forest. It ended with some nice switch-backs on the side of the hill and a great view! Towards the bottom were remnants of unused berms, ramps and gap jumps. Of course RF had to try one. They were pretty sketchy looking to be quite honest.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we rolled back into the parking lot. Amy and Jenni met us just as we arrived at the van. Their quest to find the pump track didn’t pan out so they hit up the brews and the blue grass festival that was taking place in the middle of town. Amy, always the thinker, started handing out beers. We had a lot to celebrate! Everyone made it down, the rain never came and the riding was perfect. Just enough technical to make you feel good about yourself, mixed in with some high-speed, clams out descending. We toasted ourselves.

As we were getting cleaned up and figuring out where to go eat, I noticed a black Subaru entering the parking lot with a rack that was like the one on the van. Intrigued, I watched the car go by, looking at the rack and the bikes that were on it (just two). Then I cocked my head. One of the bikes was the same color as the Trek Remedy I just sold. Hmph, it also had a white saddle, just like mine. The grips had red highlights, just like mine did. Wait a minute, that’s my old bike.

“Hey Ryan. I think that’s my Remedy”. I pointed to the Subaru. Ryan being Ryan, did what Ryan does and walked over to the group near the car.

“Where did you get that Remedy”, he asked the group.

A guy piped up, “I bought if off Craig’s List from some guy in Nebraska.”

Ryan stuck out his hand, “Ryan Feagan. Nice to meet you.”

And there it was, the bike I had sold not a month earlier to a couple in Golden, Co., hanging on the back of a rack in Salida, Co. I went over to the group and met the new owner.

She was as surprised as we were. She told me she was a new rider and that she had had a great ride earlier that day. I miss that bike (sentimental, I am) but knowing it’s bringing joy to someone new to the sport gives me great joy. Like it was meant to be.

Meet Sadia. A proud new owner.
This was an amazing highlight to the day and all the more reason to celebrate. We spit bathed in the parking lot and put on some fresher smelling clothes before heading out for massive amounts of food. We went to one place but they only had sandwiches. We were beyond sammies. Taking the advice of the bike shop (duh) we headed to a pizza place that had outside seating, amazing beverages and a view of the big mountains in the distant horizon. At that moment, we couldn’t ask for anything more. Well, except for maybe another cold one. We capped off the night with a beautiful drive back over a snow-capped pass and down into the Gunnison Valley. Mother Nature gifted us with a sun-set to burn into our memories. There is something about mountain valleys. Outside of Gunnison, the valley is a quilted landscape of horse and cattle ranches. Recent rain, in addition to Spring’s snow melt, had the creeks rising out of their banks and flooding the plains’ low lands. Cows were grazing up on hillsides. Small ponds became nature’s mirrors, reflecting the amber light of the early evening sky. 

Post ride nom central.
Seriously, adirondack chairs? Yes please.
Two of our she-redders!

We pulled into town and unloaded the day in the garage. I had reset the water heater that morning to make sure we had hot water upon our arrival back at the condo. With an early departure the next day, everyone would be needing to shower that night. Since EOB went last the day before, he was first, but not without a fight. Someone had the fabulous idea of throwing cold water on him while he was in the shower; the equivalent to a Gatorade bath after a victorious day on the field or revenge for something he did at some point. It was well deserved, in either case.

As most of these trips do, they end with the group sitting together telling tales of the tried and true. Sometimes they get off tangent and become two-way conversations until someone, like me, bursts out laughing because nobody knows what the hell is being talked about and can’t hold back any longer. (Sorry, guys). We broke out the special blue tequila that the Eybergs so thoughtfully brought back from their trip to Mexico earlier this spring. No, there was no worm at the bottom but it was a pretty tropical blue color with a very floral flavor. It didn’t last long. And neither did the Reposado tequila nor the whiskey. Yep, it was definitely going to be a long ride home.

The next morning, Monday, just as they had done all weekend, the Wagoneers were up and at ‘em bright and early. We said our g’byes to the Stolls. They were on their way to Fruita so Jenni could check out the place where she would be taking a Dirt Series camp in September. 
Before we left town, we stopped at a gas station to fill up. Larry recalled a coffee shop near by but we couldn’t see one. That didn’t stop Larry. He walked off to find the place for a proper caffeine fix. After some moments, he reappeared, with a mustached grin from ear to ear, proudly displaying a hot cup of joe high in the air, as if it were a trophy. Yes, Larry, you won the coffee race. Again. And like the truly awesome person Larry is, he sprung for coffee for the rest of us so we too could have the perfect ending to an already perfect weekend.