The sound of rustling in the cold garage stirs me from my slumber. Then, I’m being lifted out of my resting spot and wheeled toward the door. This could be good or bad, very bad! What’s going on? Is someone trying to steal me? My handlebars wobble like a dog trying to shake water off his ears, I try to clear the sleep from my eyes to see what is going on. Andrew is pushing me through the door and outside. Leslie! She is standing in the walkway, and she takes me as Andrew turns back around. Presumably, he is going to go roust his own bike, my buddy Tang. What are they doing home?
Tang and I are both tucked inside a van, next to some backpacks, boxes, and sleeping bags. “This looks good, this looks very good!” I think to myself. We drive for six hours, and I can see the mountains turn to desert outside the window. It’s nighttime and we are parked on Fremont Street, Las Vegas. Tang and I duck below the windows trying to look as inconspicuous as possible while Leslie and Andrew meet up with their friends.
When Andrew and Leslie return, they are still marveling at the number of lightbulbs they saw. “I haven’t seen this many lightbulbs in aggregate this entire year!” Andrew exclaims.
The next day, we drive out to see the house. Here I am, back in the driveway, just like old times. Andrew tips me upside down, cleans off my brake pads and pumps up my tires. New shoes, ready to go! Off we roll.
“Hi Leslie! I’m so happy to see you!” I say as we pedal toward the McDowell Mountain Trails behind the house. “Where have you been!?”
“Sonrisa took us all sorts of places this year!” Leslie explains. She ticks off a list of island destinations. I pout. Right. Sonrisa. I never really liked her. She has been stealing Leslie away from me ever since she came around.
“Sonrisa says hello! And, to take good care of me.” Leslie says.
“Yeah, yeah,” I think. But now we are rolling along, the crackle of dirt beneath my tires. Leslie isn’t as slow as I expected her to be and we bounce through the desert swooping, swerving, and speeding along. We chat as we go, she tells me stories from her trip. She tells me about riding bikes in the Galapagos, crashing in the gutter of death.
We ride with friends in Vegas, I dash between Joshua trees trying to avoid their prickly spines while keeping an admiring eye on the red cliffs in front of me. The scenery is always something to look at.
After running here, there and everywhere to see a list of people a mile long, we sneak off to Moab, Utah. We stop in Saint George on the way and take advantage of the high 60 degree temperatures. The moon rises in the east and we pedal with the sunset at our backs. The winter light is soft, making the dry golden grass and rust colored dirt glow. It’s beautiful.
We arrive in Moab just in time. It’s a full moon and likely the last weekend before the trails are covered in snow. The bite of an approaching snowstorm is in the air. This is Edward Abbey Country, where there is just enough water to keep the trees sparse. The rubber knobs on my tires vibrate over clean sandstone, sticking to vertical climbs that seem impossible. I hop up rock ledges like a billy goat. The trails transform beneath me, red, green, white. Stubby pine trees and feathery juniper bushes brush my handlebars when the trail gets too narrow. I fishtail when we hit loose soft sand with any speed. “Whaaaahhhoooooooo!” We ride whoopees with enough speed to catch some air. On the pedally-stretch we have some time to chat.
“So how are you liking being at sea?” I ask, “Do you think you will finish the circumnavigation?” Leslie hesitates.
“We had a rough start, but after the Galapagos we really had a good time. The South Pacific was beautiful, friendly and easy sailing. I’m looking forward to next season, but once we get to Thailand, I’m a little nervous. The Indian Ocean is daunting and the choice between dealing with piracy by going through the Red Sea or bad weather by going around Cape of Good Hope is choosing between the lesser of two evils.”
I nod. I understand what she means. “Well,” I say, “it’s like mountain biking.”
“It is? How?”
“You have to look where you want to go. Otherwise, you will see all the obstacles that are not actually in your way. Choose your line, then climb the hills that are in your path. Do not focus on and fear the rocks, roots, ledges and cliffs that are safely off to your right or left.”
Leslie pedals in silence for a minute. “That is great advice, Calamity Jane.”
I smile smugly, I know it is. I am wise.
I wish they would take me along on this grand adventure, but Leslie says the salt water would make me rusty and they don’t have space anywhere safe inside Sonrisa. Maybe if they got rid of that stupid guitar. So be it. I will wait in the garage. Leslie also promises me that when they get home we will spend a year together traveling around just like we did this weekend. That would be fun. I can wait, I guess. Sonrisa had better bring them safely home. I worry about them all the time.
In between rides, Andrew and Leslie explore the petroglyphs written on sheer cliff walls along the Colorado river. After the winter sun falls at an early 4:30 p.m. (it's almost the shortest day of the year here in the Northern Hemisphere) they took a moonlit hike to see a beautiful desert arch.
We finish the week with seven rides under our belts. Leslie says her legs are all tired and worn out, but I feel great! She promises me she will do more interval and resistance training while out and about. She also promises me she will cut back on the cookies, ice cream and bacon…at least a little bit. Only time will tell. I seriously doubt her commitment, at least with regard to ice cream.