Two months since my last post. Damn. I got a new job, and although it’s awesome, it’s taking up some serious time.
Spring Break is next week, and I’ve got a solid 12 days off. Three to four of those days will be spent on schoolwork, and the other either finding some R & R relaxing and pounding my body back into shape. I’ve been watching weather patterns all season even though we’ve had an anemic snowseason here in Colorado, there are other awesome snowboarding destinations less than 10 hours away. To wit: Utah, New Mexico and yes, even northern Arizona. (OK, a little more than 10 hours away.)
I opened my season at Wolf Creek in October, and I very may well end my season there. On Wednesday, March 28, Wolf Creek is running its Local Appreciation Day and selling lift tickets for $33. If there’s new snow, I’m beelining my way down there. I’ll be watching powdermeister Joel Gratz’s OpenSnow for accurate forecasts.
If snow is not forthcoming to Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, or Wyoming (hello, Grand Targhee!), then I’m off to the Four Corners area for some mountain biking, hiking, and sleeping among the snakes and scorpions.
At last count, I have been to the emergency room six times in the last eight years. Friends and colleagues and family members hear this number and think, “Well, of course, you’re always going on those crazy adventures, you’re bound to hurt yourself.” But readers, tis not the adventures that land me in the hospital (well, except for the turning-point bike accident back in 2007). Usually, in fact, I land there because some drunk dude is careless. It’s totally awful but it’s totally how things have been these past eight years.
Well, this time I landed in the ER just because I’d been running out of steam and the immune system was down and one can ignore abdominal pain for only so long. I tell you this not to elicit pity, but to introduce my latest blog posting about how to prepare yourself for mindless and anxiety-filled hours in the ER. Cuz I’m an expert by now.
And yes, I’ll be spending Thanksgiving alone (by choice, readers) at the Sand Creek Massacre site. To fully understand what I’m talking about, read about my adventure to Chaco Canyon when I decided to just say no to Thanksgiving over a decade ago.
Do ya like watchin’ the boob tube and that reality TV stuff? Last fall’s cyclist extraordinaire, Jeremy Vanschoonhoven, who made bouncing around on his back tire and rolling up on cars and taking huge jumps look easy, took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about competing on America’s Got Talent, bike trials, and his mesmerizing video that was shot in the Utah desert outside of Moab.
The pictures are cool, the link to video (all by Devin Graham) even cooler, and I put some words in there to tie it all together. The video has garnered 135K views, and counting. Join the crowd, readers.
This weekend I had some fun picking and choosing which technical terms I was going to write about for my weekly columns over at TrailsEdge. I decided upon the technical terms that show up so often in my life, due to my inability to go uphill and around corners without looking like The Hulk. SheSpoke smashes corners!
Twas a good week for ol’ SheSpoke, whatwith her post on road biking Colorado National Monument being Freshly Pressed last Tuesday, September 27th. It was eerie watching my email@example.com inbox fill up with comments, subscriptions, and likes. My first clue that my blog had been picked up and featured somewhere came with the comment from PCC Advantage, who congratulated me for being Freshly Pressed. The afternoon was punctuated by a series of low bells emanating from my Smartphone (not that smart, really), announcing the latest like, subscription, and comment, and sometimes all three.
But ya know, I kinda promised my editor a story on the very same topic, Colorado National Monument. That post went up today where I write about cycling for TrailsEdge, and what I’ve done is digitally remaster my memories and the facts I picked up along the way to come up with basically the same conclusion:
After a decade and a half of strictly mountain biking, I’ve made the transition over to the dark side. A friend of mine lent me her neon yellow Trek from the 1980s, and I’ve been commuting and playing around the urban trails of Denver for a few months now, excited at how light and fast it is. I’ve been a spectating fan of road biking since the early days of Lance, marveling at how anyone can pedal for six hours up and over mountains for well over 100 miles. I’m now starting to get it.
These bikes are light, and the pedaling is continuous uphill and you’re coasting downhill. In fact, on the downhill all you’re really worried about is running over a frightened rodent who will then send you flying through the air like the Greatest American Hero(ine).
When I started riding 30+ miles on the road bike, (akin to riding 10+ intermediate miles on the mountain bike), I was looking for pain. I wanted to experience what Phil Liggett and Bob Roll and Paul Sherwen are always yapping about: the pain that comes with long hours in the saddle.
Finally! After a summer of commuting 15+ miles a day and a once-a-week 30+ ride, I finally got my pain at the Colorado National Monument.
The Colorado National Monument is located just south of the not-so-secret anymore mountain biking mecca of Fruita. Because Moab is being overrun by beer bellies inside monster trucks, the riding is getting less awesome there and those in the know are flocking to the pristine singletrack of Fruita.
This is my third trip to the national monument, whose entrance fees ($10 for 7 days) and camping fees ($20 night) have doubled in the past few years. These are your tax dollars not at work. (In other words, this is what happens when National Park budgets get cut.)
A little more than we wanted to spend, of course, but the promise of road biking up 1,500 feet in 4 miles and cycling along spectacular instances of erosion–well, the promise of that–along with 80-degree weather in late September–was too good to pass up. So we went for it.
And we ended up camping here–overlooking Fruita canyon and the west entrance of Rim Rock Drive. After a night of star watching and using Google Sky Map to locate Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune (so cool!), we headed to bed against all odds and the beer-noise that was coming from our scooter-riding neighbors across the street. I guess riding two wheels along Rim Rock Drive is cool, but I’d rather work for it and pedal any day. As with most things, the rewards are that much greater when you work toward something.
And although the views are spectacular from our camping niche, it’s just as stunning to see where we were sleeping from across the canyon.
Camping here was like having our very own juniper and red rock estate, with little red ants for peasants (who honestly, did not seem to be contributing to the fiefdom at all. But we let them be.)
On day 1 we changed a flat tire, fiddled with the brakes a little, and thought about nicknames for our bikes. I decided upon Old Yeller. After a short hike to Window Rock and some excellent scenery, coffee in hand, we headed to the Visitor Center for some advice and Gatorade–well worth the $2 for its electrolytes.
The speed limit along Rim Rock Drive hovers around 35 mph, although along some of the switchback it gets down to 10 mph.
We headed east from the Visitor’s Center, about four miles into the 23-mile long Rim Rock Drive. We joked about racing an older couple, who took off and whom we never saw again. They showed us I guess. Along the way we were wowed by the sandstone monoliths and laughing at the bright blue sky and perfect array of reds, browns, blacks, and awesomeness that surrounded us.
The temps crept perhaps into the mid 80s, and we were exposed the entire time, but it’s nothing that liberally applied sunblock can’t protect you from.
We rode and rode and rode mostly uphill until we reached the highest point of the ride, at which point we were feeling pretty frisky. An elevation of 6640 feet is not a problem for a couple of Denverites, who on a regular basis are frolicking above 7000 feet. But I’ve been on enough jaunts to know that when you’re only halfway there you’d better have a gas tank that is more than half full. Because even if the second half of the ride is mostly downhill (which it was), there’s always a chance that a little uphill will turn your legs into lead and break your spirit. So we played it safe after about 12 miles of riding, and turned around.
The ride back was picture-taking time! MC had the camera and we proceeded capturing awesome moments from the ride.
We finished up Day 1 with just over 25 miles, our vitamin D fix, a feeling one only gets when communing with nature while working your butt off. We headed into Fruita for supplies, and came across the little ranching town’s fall festival. We pondered a shower but knew that our visit to the Glenwood Hot Springs the following day would feel that much more baptismal if we let the sweat salts accumulate. So we ditched the shower and headed to bed.
The next morning we had thought about hiking, but realized we did not do the most fun and exhilarating and scary of all the ribbons of road along Rim Rock Drive–the first four miles. So we ate a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and spinach with fresh tomatoes and peppers from my garden, and suited up again for another epic day.
We were going to ride the somewhat steep but completely rideable intro section of Rim Rock Road. I underpedaled, saving my energy for who knows what. MC beat me to the top by about 15 minutes. It was a pretty easy 45-50 minute pedal upward, and I found myself gearing up in the last mile. But during the last quarter mile, I felt that pain that the three sages of the Tour de France are always talking about–the cramping pain, the sore pain (egad, saddle, why you gotta hate so much?), and the pleading for the ride to be over. We reconvened at the Visitor Center and decided we had at least another ten miles in us before we screamed back down the drive. So we cruised along some of the same route we took yesterday, but the scenery never got old.
I do a bunch of sports that are associated with puerility: snowboarding and mountain biking, to name the top two. The noun “snowboarder” conjures up images of an unhygenic punk swishing his (yes, it’s a guy) way down the mountain, earbuds all but surgically affixed to his auditory holes, completely zoned out to all that is around him, including other people. It is the zenith of being inconsiderate, and it’s really irritating to skiers.
But guess what, it’s even more irritating to us snowboarders, the ones who are aware of their surroundings and are just trying to have some fun on the slopes while our younger, long-haired, underwear-hanging-out brethren (yes, they’re mostly boys) are slowly turning the perception of snowboarders into punks on the hill who go too fast and are completely oblivious to the mountain happenings around them.
Hell hath no fury like a middle-aged female snowboarder who watches these clueless knuckle-draggers ruin it for the rest of us.
You see, this is why we snowboarders cannot have nice things.
And neither can mountain bikers. Based on anecdotal evidence, mountain bikers are the least considerate non-motorized users of trails. We’ve got the machinery to inflict more damage, and we do. This damage is inflicted when we skid out, when we ride on the outside of the trail, when we don’t yield to other trail users (forcing hikers off the trail, further degrading it), and when we ride it wet.
Riding a muddy trail is bad all around. It’s bad for your bike, whatwith all that mud getting caked up in orifices you didn’t know your bike had or clinging to the chain you’re not going to bother cleaning off when you get home. It’s bad for the trail, because instead of going through the middle of the trail, which keeps its pristine and singletrack-y, you’re heading along the edge, where the rivets from other inconsiderate bikers are not as deep. And lastly, riding on muddy trails is bad for the overall perception of the sport. Every time a mountain biker pedals through mud, the tire track evidence is evident, and its impression stays there for weeks, days, or whenever the next trail repair is scheduled.
And then the National Forest Service rangers or the Department of the Interior or the state parks system declares this trail, this park, or this section off limits to mountain biking but (surprise!) open to both hikers and equestrians. Mountain biking = erosion on steroids is the subtext of the trail-closing message. And pretty soon we’re all squeezed onto the same dozen trails when we used to have dozens available to us.
All because you just HAD to go out riding after Noah packed up his animals. Way to go, bigshot.
Stay off the trails during monsoon season. I’m writing at you, Colorado.
Sniff, sniff. It’s the first time the snowboarding season is ending and I’m actually going to miss it. Out here in Colorado we still have a few weeks left, but nary a few good days. The snow is turning to rain, even in the high country.
What’s a girl to do? How about head for the hills. Of sand. With a board.
My Denver Snowboarding Examiner piece on transitioning from snow to sand gives the goods on how to get started in sandboarding and how to make it down the hill, sense of humor intact. Because nothing says Earth Day like sand between your toes…
I appreciate your not forsaking me. Bouts of work, re-injury, and other necessary but boring commitments have kept me from posting for two months. That’s a record for shespoke and not one I’m proud of.
I’m back! With a new attitude and a new writing gig. This one’s for suite101, which allows me to write on a myriad of topics.
My second posting was inspired by my road trip with my mother down to the Great Sand Dunes National Park, where we had fun petting gators and dreaming of UFO landings.
People find out I sandboard and ask me a ton of questions, like I know what I’m doing or something. Let’s get one thing straight: I only sandboard every couple of years and only do when when my legs refuse to go on another mountain bike trip or I can’t afford to fly to some coast somewhere to go surfing.
Same thing with golf. When I tell folks I’m going golfing they always respond, “I didn’t know you golfed.” That’s because I don’t. Except on that particular day.
I’m no expert on the sand with a board. I use a cheapo plastic promotional board from Dannon and wear my Salomon snowboard boots, sweatpants, and some kind of warm windbreaker. Lucky for me the Great Sand Dunes National Park is only four (Annie leadfoot) hours from Denver and there’s some amazing hot springs at Joyful Journey on the way home.
So, I go. Last week I had the good fortune of 36 hours (pretty much) off, so I packed up Subi II with camping and sand/snowboard stuff.
I hiked up for about two hours, then sandboarded down the steepest lips of sand I could find. At one point I miscalculated, and the angle was too acute to gain momentum, and there I am, jumping up and down, pathetically trying to push myself forward. I unclipped my bindings and walked to a steeper, albeit shorter, lip.