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."