Pablo Neruda famously wrote, “Yo puedo escribir los versos mas tristes esta noche.” Or in the English translation, I could write the saddest verses tonight. Which really doesn’t have the same ring, but that’s ok because it has nothing to do with what I want to write about, it just seemed like a good introduction. And maybe a way to score points with somebody that I know a little Chilean poetry.
And the fact that the sentence structure is similar to what I would like to say which is, “I could write things that would make you believe in the God of the road.” I could, but I won’t. The God of the road doesn’t like his name to be blasphemed with the certainty of written words. No he prefers for his name to be spoken in brail forcing you to run your hands across his face, feeling the cracks in his sunburned skin. The scars that come from being exposed to the elements for days on end experiencing the romance of poverty and its inherent freedom.
There are things in life that have an attraction that is inexplicable. They are often viewed as being dirty, maybe slightly taboo, but they hold a romantic draw for our mental gaze. We may see the crust punk begging for our money and smell the awful stench that comes from a dirtbag that hasn’t showered in a few weeks and has no fucks to give about the odor exuding from their pores, but at the same time, they hold mystery for us. We don’t know what it is like to have no more fucks to give, to walk away from this existence that has been manufactured for us. And yet sitting in front of us is a heap of a person that we are trained to look down on, to have a sense of pity for and yet they hold something we don’t have.
Maybe it’s the simplicity of being gone. When you are gone, you stop having responsibilities. It’s that pleasure we feel when we walk out of the office on a Friday and we switch off the phone, drop it on the desk and with one simple click, grab the pack and head to where the phone will do you no good. And just like that the umbilical cord is severed and you become nothing more than you and what’s in your pack.
Like a frog in a pot of water that is slowly brought to boil, I had no idea how badly I needed to escape. It started to become apparent, when days before leaving for the Black Canyon Trail, I was ecstatic about the prospects of driving 6 hours to ride in the desert. Being a perpetual procrastinator, I never pack until the last minute.
We had everything ready two days early.
It has become a tradition of the Alliance to leave town for the New Year and do something other than sit around and drink which is to say we ride bikes and drink. KB and I left the the Mooseknuckler Cycling Alliance Social Lounge just before 5:30. We got a text from Kenny and Heather saying they had left pretty much the same time. Destination: Bumble Bee, Arizona which is a very small town that requires you to access it via a dirt road. We like to camp just before the town close to the Bumble Bee Creek.
We made it to camp at 11:37 PM.
We had three days of riding ahead of us. Day 1 we planned to ride from camp and head north riding the BCT until we felt like turning around. Heather and Kenny arrived early. We slowly readied ourselves as the morning warmed allowing us to pull away from the fire long enough to change our clothes and clean up camp. We began pedaling around 10:30, not that the time was important, we came to ride and that was all that was on the schedule.
Heading north from Bumble Bee is one of my favorite climbs. Being a bit of a trail aficionado, riding well built singletrack is fun, but riding a well-built climb always gets me excited. The trail goes up but I never really feel like I’ve done much climbing until I get to the top and look down on the valley floor below and realize that I’ve been going up for quite some time. Any steep up is followed by flat or slightly down creating recovery spots as you pedal upward.
At the top of the climb, you realize that you’ve exited the saguaro forest and are now riding amongst juniper trees and sage brush. The trail enters some lava fields and cattle grazing areas. It’s right around this point that we have always turned around. The trail is rough, it’s not quite as pretty and it’s always felt like a great place for a beer and heading back.
We found a juniper tree to sit under and had lunch, beers and Doritos. And then back to camp we went.
Day two was a section of the BCT that KB and I had never done. We rode south from camp toward Black Canyon City. The saguaros become much more prevelant the farther south one goes. It was this section that we had to stop and take pictures of the behemoths as we rode around and through them. Despite the fact that my legs were tired from the day before, I felt like a big dork with a shit eating grin on my face. I’m not sure if it showed through, but there was nothing I would have preferred to be doing on New Year’s Eve.
The trail is a bit rougher and steeper. Construction is still top notch so the climbs are felt but recovery is always possible. We made it to the edge of the city. The trail turns up a steep dirt road and then enters a super rocky section. I dabbed twice in the first couple hundred yards, trust me it’s rough. As we had no preplanned schedule, we kind of went with what felt right, the freedom of having nothing to do.
It felt like lunch. We drank our beers, ate Doritos and veggie sandwiches which KB declared a tradition. I’m not sure that’s how traditions work, but whatever, veggie sandwiches are now a tradition for the Alliance’s New Year’s Celebrations.
After lunch it felt like it was time to turn around, so we did. It was a shorter day, but it felt bigger than the previous one due to the steeper climbs and rougher trail. The final descent back to camp goes down a two track rut. I was questioning my choice of forks as my vision was blurred as I attempted to not lose grip on the bars but still be moving downhill.
Seeing that it was New Year’s Eve, we had high hopes of finding a bar or restaurant that would be fitting for four, dirty Mooseknucklers who wanted to celebrate. We found a bar on the mobile phone computer device and made our way to the Javelina Crossing. As far as dive bars go, they are usually judged by how many windows are broken. The Javelina had four. Two had been “repaired” with cardboard and duct tape and the other two were either too new for anyone to care or the bullet holes were small enough that they didn’t create much of a draft.
Kenny and I walked in to inquire as to whether they served food as well. We had two hungry girls that were in need of sustenance. To our disappointment, they did not.
This left us with the choice of Chileens on 17.
The food wasn’t too great, but the fact that there was a wedding happening in the bar and the bridesmaids were all dressed in wedding dresses made for an interesting meal. Needless to say, we finished out the night around 9 sitting by the campfire.
Day three: we packed up camp and made our way back into town to ride the Little Pan loop. There was some miscommunication as to what exactly was going on and we ended up spending a bunch of time in the parking lot. This led to a couple of unwanted conversations with other cyclists. One of whom told me that the BCT was the best trail in the nation. I should’ve asked, but I’m guessing he doesn’t get out too much. I love the BCT, but it’s not on my best in the nation list.
After a dropper post mishap, Kenny was forced to switch bikes eliminating our all singlespeed vibe. The loop is awesome. It continues the same type of riding. The saguaros are huge and there’s a couple of water crossings that as a desert rat, I have to appreciate.
KB and I had planned on pedaling and turning around so we could be on the road around 1 or 2. By the time 1 or 2 rolled around we were out on the loop with smiles and some whiskey and not much in a hurry to get back to our 9-5 lives that define the majority of our existence. Even my ever punctual brain gave into being gone and just enjoyed the shit out of some desert riding and warm sun on my face.
In 1948, Pablo Neruda was forced into hiding spending 13 months being smuggled from one home to another to avoid arrest before riding horseback over the Andes to escape into Argentina. It was during this 13 months that he penned the majority of his epic poem El Canto General.
Yea, I know. You had completely forgotten about Neruda, but it was reading his Canto General during my first vagabonding that made me think that being on the road was a great way to find things to write about. Since then I’ve learned that it is mostly true and the majority of authors I enjoy share that theme of packing up and being gone even if they end up back where they started.
As we peaked out on the last climb, I pulled my MCA flask from its hiding spot in my pack and raised it once more for the New Year. I’m a little late finishing this post, but here’s to long rides with good friends, good singletrack and good whiskey in your flask in 2016!