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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

On Flat Tires With A View

It was an ordinary November day in Virgin-town, the kind we've grown to expect. Sixty-something highs under SPF 50 skies. The vertiginous back road snaking up Flying Monkey Mesa nibbled at the Outback of my mind, beckoning, "Come on! Let's go break a sweat... shed some testosterone."  

Every rose has its thorn. Zion is no different. Bikers must come prepared to do battle with goat-heads and cacti (and as of yesterday, rattlesnakes). Goat heads are a bane to tires, and cacti can be a real pain in the ass, literally, just ask Bobbie who seems to be developing a penchant for crashing onto prickly pears. If your "glass" sometimes runs "half empty" like mine, life is a flat tire waiting to happen. I've had several RV flats/blowouts and they always occur at less than ideal times and places. So if I must endure the occasional mountain bike flat tire, where better than on an un-trafficed back road overlooking a Holy Trinity of red rock, white sandstone, and blue sky. God Bless Utah.

We started the day with a sweeping loop through vast BLM land south of the RV park... miles and miles of solitary single track and back roads that overlook Zion's walls of fame. Guess what, "Guess Who," Colored lights can hypnotize. 

After a long, easy climb into layer-cake foothills, Bobbie discovered a new way down and out... a roller coaster stretch of smooth red clay single track, circus enough to plaster kid-grins on elder hostel faces. We stood on our peddles, rhythmically weaving to and fro, dodging scrub brush and cacti... banking left, right, left on elevated NASCAR-like turns. It was a fitting end to a ride that at last spit us onto a familiar dirt road that could return us to Virgin-town, Utah, a real sleeper among Sleeping Beauties

Upon reaching the well-shouldered pavement we weren't yet in the mood to go "home." Flying Monkey Mesa's proud proboscis lay across the blacktop, a tad seductive in morning light. Enough roller coaster; time to go to "work." Oh how I love my new RV life "job." Bobbie tagged along for a while, weighing an arduous ascent against waning quads strength.  

After a few torturous switchbacks we agreed to go separate ways. Bobbie plowed off into new BLM territory, determined to find an unpaved trail home. I sped on, attacking Flying Monkey at a furious pace, well, for an old man, anyway. Three hundred yards later the lamb rose up like a lion. The "Flying Monkey" jumped my back and it felt like he was dragging his god damned monkey feet. Derailleurs, caked in red dirt grime, snapped, crackled, and popped a reluctant chain across gapped-toothed sprockets in a desperate search for low gear. I settled into a moment-to-moment grind, to the outback of my mind for a long, long haul to the summit. I can't tell you what thoughts cross oxygen starved brains on those in-the-moment grinds; in That is the appeal, the medicine, the "drug." The "monkey" relinquished his grip and scampered off, surrendering to greater resolve. I bid him a "good day." He replied, "I'll see you later."

Two thirds of the way up, 29'er's front rim suddenly went to grinding on tattered remnants of chip and seal pavement. I carried the crippled beast to the side of the road, flipped him on his back and proceeded to install a new tube. Pulling a tire pump older than my first born child from an overstuffed pack, I discovered it was ill. Efforts at resuscitating the resuscitator went in vain, as the old pump had apparently given its last breathe to a tube near here a year ago to the day.

Stranded, I strode over to the cliff, squatted down on a sandstone rock, and watched the sun settle comfortably in the cradle of a John Ford western sky. Zion's walls bled in the distant east. Somewhere far, far below, Bobbie was shedding her "monkey," negotiating rivulets and ravines of new territory like some modern day Lewis and Clark.... feeling "odd couple" bedfellows of the excitement of being alone, against the trepidation of not having a map nor the advantage of my bird's eye view of the lay of her land. 

A couple hours later, a lone white Subaru slowly made it's way up the switchbacks... coming to the rescue of someone who was late getting "home."  



  1. Little does Mark know that Maikel tightened Mark's brakes to rub. That way Maikel can beat Mark's record to the top of the hill climb called Monkey Mesa. Stop monkeying around boys! -Susan

  2. Someone was looking out for you in the long run. Yet what an amazing view and place to just be. Time for a new pump?

  3. superstition prohibits a comment from a puss gut cowboy! ;)

  4. Having owned a bicycle shop, I strongly suggest using puncture resistant tubes. They are much heavier and will resist most thorns if you have good knobby tires.

    Be careful on the road


  5. WOW! There are a lot of worse places for a flat. At least it was your front tire AND you had back up. Great photos! Can't wait till Spring so we can retrace your steps. -scamp

  6. Not too shabby a view for a flat tire. Very nice indeed...

  7. Susan,
    Maikel wouldn't stoop to cheating an old man... or would he?

    Got the new pump... wow, they've gone up in price since the 70's :((

    Knock on wood and say it :))

    I picked up some "Slime" tubes in St. George... We'll see how they hold up.
    They had some thicker tubes with Slime, but they were so big and heavy !!! Thanks for the tip.

    Someday you'll have to "retrace our footsteps" with us... or vice versa!

    Thanks. I enjoyed your "Sister" post... Boy is she a Whiter shade of pale, or what :)) A Dane from England should wear a very large hat out here in the desert southwest.
    thanks :))

  8. Take the slime tubes back and just get puncture resistant tubes at a bicycle shop. We had bad experiences with the slime tubes. The slime will plug up the valve so you can not put air in. And if you get a flat, it may also ruin your rim or make getting it off the rim so difficult you go get a new rim.


  9. Rex,
    I guess by puncture resistant you mean the real thick tubes...
    I know they make impervious tire liners to go between the tube and tire... I've used them before, but where the ends overlap ends up pinching the tube :((
    Thanks for your expertise,

  10. Its been a while, but I added slime to presta valve tubes and had good success. Getting the slime in isn't easy but it can be done. As prestas dont have a spring they won't clog up either. This way you can use lighter weight tubes for easy rolling. Prestas have a smaller diameter and require a spacer for Schrader rims. Tried and true in sand burr country.

  11. Tom,
    Yeah, I've got the Presta tubes and rims, and I already had to use a slime tube... so far so good. Had a nice loop ride again with Maikel yesterday, up, over and around Flying Monkey Mesa. Never tire of that one (no pun intended) :)


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