Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Moab express

I'm planning to leave Tuesday morning for my first bikepacking trip of the year. I'm going to leave Loma, Colorado, and take the Kokopelli Trail to Moab, ride up Potash Road, ride around the White Rim up Mineral Bottom and then back to Moab. I'm giving myself three days to do this. I'm guessing that it will be close to 300 miles riding mostly dirt in the hot, hot desert. It's a fairly ambitious plan for the state I'm in right now, but it needs to be done. You can follow me on my SPOT shared page. This map above also should register the last point sent. The SPOT page is here:


Wish me luck. I'm really nervous so I'm gonna need it.

LATE EDIT: I was setting up my gear at the trailhead when I discovered a loose spoke in my front wheel. I'm bummed I didn't catch it earlier, but it seems like a bad idea to start ~140 miles of remote dirt road and trail with something like that. I detoured to Fruita and plan to show up at one of the bike shops in town Tuesday morning and hope they can fix a wheel fast. But I probably won't be on the trail until late Tuesday morning or early afternoon. This may limit my window to ride the White Rim, but I'll have to play it by ear.

The drive down here was amazingly beautiful, with dramatic lighting on the Book Cliffs and an apricot sunset. But it also gave me five hours to think about just how lonely I really feel right now. In the past, I've really enjoyed the solitude of solo bike tours, but I have a feeling that solitude is going to be a real challenge for me in this trip - maybe even more so than the heat, the scarcity of water, and the 50 mph wind gusts that have been ripping through this part of the world. I'm still optimistic that I'm going to go through with this trip; but, man, I don't think I've ever had such a hard time coaxing myself to go on a bike ride. And I include the Iditarod in this list.
Sunday, May 10, 2009

Salt Lake City

Spending time with my family and a few old friends has been a great stabilizer for my state of mind. My family especially has been so supportive, even though I haven't always been as emotionally open with them as I should be. My mom has been feeding me great homemade meals and doesn't even blink when I leave a huge mess of gear in their spare bedroom and head out for six hours of biking. I'm always amazed by how quickly I can settle back into life in Salt Lake, as if the years haven't even passed since I moved away. Most people can't go home again, but I can.

Biking, which often felt depressing and burdensome when I was traveling with Geoff and we were in the early stages of our breakup, has become mostly enjoyable again. It's only mostly enjoyable because biking is really hard here. I've spent most my time climbing canyons and seeking out singletrack. On Thursday I did Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Little felt refreshing enough so I picked up the pace up Big, forgetting that the canyon is something like 16 miles long. Just climbing. For 16 miles. It's enough to put a person in that fuzzy place where life almost makes sense.

I've really been sucking wind on the climbs. But my legs feel great, so I'm going to go ahead and blame the elevation. The sun has been kicking my butt as well. Everyone has been telling me that Salt Lake had a cool, wet spring, but oddly it didn't save any of that for me. 70 and sunny every day. I know. Awesome riding weather. But it's amazingly oppressive when you're adapted to 45 degrees and damp cloudy skies. I slather on SPF 50 until my pasty Alaskan skin shimmers and yet still fry, and I can't seem to drink enough water. It goes in and comes right back out, but I'm always thirsty.

The Millcreek Pipeline trail is such a sweet piece of singletrack. I rode it twice. Mountain biking has been battering me, too. I forget that I'm kinda bad at it. I have bruises and scratches up and down my legs, although my left arm is mostly healed from my Marin crash a week ago. The swelling has gone down and the road rash is scabbing over, and it doesn't throb when I hit bumps any more. I've started to go at singletrack more aggressively, with mixed results. Sometimes I clean something and amaze myself. But the other day, I came up on a surprise tight turn and too high of a speed and dipped my wheel in a small ravine. I ended up tangled in a bush 10 feet down a near-vertical slope with the bar-end permanently imprinted in my thigh. I was lucky another cyclist stopped to help pull me out, because it may have taken me a while to get myself and my bike out of that one.

I've done a little hiking as well. Most of the higher Wasatch trails are still snow-covered, so walking is the best way to get good elevation exposure. I climbed Grandeur Peak with my dad and his friend, Tom, on Saturday morning.

My dad surprised me at the peak with a cold can of Diet Pepsi. At least my dad loves me. :-)

The Corner Canyon trails begin less than three miles from where my parents live. Lots of fun potential here, although I'm learning that I prefer to net real distance rather than loop around a mountain bike park. That's probably why my singletrack skills are so dismal.

American Fork Canyon. That makes five canyons I've climbed to the top of this week. All within a short afternoon's ride from Draper. And I didn't even hit Emigration or City Creek yet.

Mount Timpanogos. My plan now is to head south to the desert on Monday afternoon for a three-day solo bikepacking trip. The purpose of the trip is to determine whether I have the physical, mental and, most importantly, emotional fitness to continue with my original summer plan - to ride all or at least part of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route starting in mid-June. The logistics are going to be more difficult without Geoff to help me gear up for the long trip, and I have to admit I'm not loving the company of myself right now. But there's something too important about this trip to give up on it just yet. I hope to know more by the end of this week.

I wanted to say thanks to everyone who shared their stories and offered words of support in my last post. That's helped a lot, too. Life goes on, and it's always good to be reminded of that.
Friday, May 08, 2009


I took this picture on Saturday morning in the Marin Headlands. I took it shortly after I had a little meltdown. Actually, it wasn't as much a little meltdown as it was a big meltdown. I came to after about a half hour, stood up from where I had been huddling beneath a bush, set the self timer on my camera, and took this photo. I took it because I wanted to remember what I went through. I took it because I chronicle my life. It's just what I do. Good and bad.

I've been trying to figure out how to approach this subject on my blog, or whether I'd mention it at all, or if I'd just go ahead and kill the blog altogether as part of a resolve to start anew. But I finally decided that in everything I've dealt with in the past three years, being open about my feelings and experiences on my blog has in the end been helpful.

Geoff broke up with me two and a half weeks ago. It happened 52 hours before we were supposed to board a ferry south for a summer trip we had been planning for several months. It happened for many reasons. It happened just when I thought things were going really well for us. And as the ferry departure inched closer, it became more obvious that it really happened. I probably shouldn't have gotten on that boat, but I did, because I wanted to at least try to salvage eight years of friendship and partnership. And I wanted to salvage a summer adventure I had really been looking forward to. I wanted things to be the same.

But of course, they haven't been. We did a lot of talking on the drive, and most of what was said was hurtful and discouraging; but I kept my head above the water and kept the wheels moving south. I visited my friends and did my bike rides and at times had a lot of fun. I didn't talk with anyone else besides my family about what was going on between me and Geoff. At times, when I was alone on my bike rides, I'd feel a rush of intense loneliness. But I'd push those feelings back. I'd tell myself it was for the best. I'd remind myself that in many ways, I'm better off alone.

Last Saturday, Geoff ran the Miwok 100K race. He had placed a lot of our summer trips' capital on finishing well in this race. Months ago, I had promised to help him with checkpoint-to-checkpoint race support. We left our friends' house Friday night and drove to Marin in a windy rainstorm. We set up camp and went to bed early. I woke up at 5 a.m. and drove him to the race start, carried his cold-weather layers as he shed them on the way to the starting line, and raced back to camp to take down the tent in time to reach the first checkpoint before he came through. Then I drove to the checkpoint, waited in the cold rain with an armful of stuff until he ran by, and then drove to the next checkpoint to do the same. After that chore was complete, I had four hours to kill before he came through again, so I set out for a bike ride.

The weather was damp and cold, with fog so thick that everything appeared blurry and washed in dirty gray. I climbed up a fire road and bombed down the other side, my head filled with resentment and anger, coasting faster and faster in a spray of gravel and mud, my heart pumping gray cold blood and my eyes so blinded by the fog that I failed to notice a metal pipe sticking out of the gravel road. I launched over it at 25 or 30 mph; the rear wheel slid sideways along the wet surface and the bike slapped me on the ground like a hooked fish. I never even had time to hit the brakes. My left arm hit hard, followed by my head, and I could hear the dull crunch of my helmet followed by grinding rumble of my body sliding over loose gravel.

As soon as I came to a stop, I quickly stood up and nudged my overturned bike to the side, terrified that someone else would come bombing down the hill and run me over. My arm throbbed with intense pain and I held it tightly to my side. At least a couple long-sleeve layers were torn and I was too scared to look at my skin. I was partly convinced that I had broken a bone. As the pain coursed through my arm, a much deeper and darker feeling bubbled up from my core. It was as though the rush of pain from the bike crash ignited an explosive release of everything I had been feeling over the past two weeks, but had bottled up for reasons of fun, peace and a sense of normalcy. As those feelings rushed to the surface, I was surrounded by a darkness so complete that it blocked out all the rain, the fog, and the warm blood trickling down my arm. The darkness needled through my pores, filling my body with hopelessness, anger, fear and unfocused physical pain that was worse than the worst moment of rewarming frostbite. I felt helpless to even move. There was nothing I could do but curl up beneath a nearby bush and let it filter through. I was finally ready to accept the depth of my emotions. I was finally willing to admit my heart was broken.

When I finally pulled myself together, I still felt horrible. I had decided my arm wasn't broken, but it still hurt enough to prevent me from putting any pressure on it, which meant I couldn't ride my bike. I held the stem with my right hand and trudged six miles back to the race checkpoint. The moment I reached my car was the exact moment Geoff walked up after dropping out of the race. He had been sick and looked weak and disappointed. He was shivering in the damp cold. For me, that was the final painful moment of truth, because both of us needed comfort so badly, and neither of us could provide it to the other.

It's hard to write about this in general - especially on a blog that so many people see. To my friends, I'm sorry if this is the way you found out. I've considered making individual phone calls to our many mutual friends to break the news, but this is still hard to deal with in the open. The blog feels less personal and less open, so it seems a good first step. Geoff and I are working to make the break as friendly as possible. We want to make sure our friends feel they don't have to take sides. And I recognize that relationships end. It happens. It's part of life. And I'm still a full person on my own. But it hurts to be rejected and it's scary to be alone, and right now that's the lens I'm looking through to take my next steps.

Where those next steps will take me, I'm still not sure. I wanted to rush back to Juneau and my cat and the safe monotony of my job, but I'm still down here because I feel strongly that this sabbatical is an important part of the journey, even if it doesn't go the direction I had planned. I'm not even sure where the sabbatical will take me, but I remain open to new things and willing to accept that the paths of life are mostly unknown.