It was bound to happen, two things, really. One: that our weather would go from perfect, as in mid 60's and sunny, to a fine light drizzle and mid 50's. I can't complain about a little fine drizzle and cooler weather after six weeks of autumnal bliss. Desert Rain soothes my mood like well hopped beer, and quenches my skin like aloe vera lotion. Two: that someone in our group would pull up stakes at first sprinkle and make a run for the border, chasing warmer temps and sun instead of putting on a light jacket. Boohoo. Though we didn't realize it in the moment, Guacamole would be our last ride as a complete group. Bye bye Boonster, see you in March down Ajo way...
Dalton Wash Road is but a mile from our RV park in Virgin. Yet in all our years of Novembers spent here, Bobbie and I have never explored it. A new map and the internet both showed that the little red dirt road leads to a mountain bike single track trail known as Guacamole. It's located way up on a mesa top and right next to Zion National Park's boundary. Instead of driving up the thousand or so feet of elevation gain we decided to bike it. If we had anything left in our legs on top we'd give the single track a go.
Dalton Wash Road has several powdery spots…dust as fine as flour, two to three inches deep. I was admonished by a couple of guys in the hot tub to not get caught up there when it's raining.
We spied a big Mule Deer buck herding his "harem" through sagebrush.
It was pretty dark northward, but rain was not supposed to reach as far south as Virgin. Still, we heard a giant clap of thunder not too far away.
See that ity bity dark mountain waaaayyyy off in the far horizon? That's where we're headed.
A pit stop near one of many humungous boulders that fell from the mesa's rim.
Finally, on top, it was breezy and cool enough for long sleeves. It felt good, tho, after a long grind. We rested legs for a while then decided to give Guacamole a try. A string of trail cairns marked a slick rock trail that led off toward the rim.
Our map showed a few black diamond spots on Guacamole, but I figured they would be obvious enough. Our group doesn't have a problem dismounting and pushing their bikes once in a while; it's part of the gig.
From the start we were on "slick rock;" but not the baby's ass smooth kind...more the pocked, serrated, ledgy, grooved, and gapped kind. Some vertical ledges were of the size and type that required a perfectly timed jerk up on the handlebars to lessen the risk of an OTB (over the bars) experience. OTB's usually happen so fast you don't even have time to let go of the bars…which is another way of saying, you land on your face! Just ask Bobbie.
Guacamole fast became a bone jarring, ass kicking brawl. Being gifted with femaleness, and thus, more common sense, Bobbie and Gayle decided it would be just as much fun to hike and promptly ditched their bikes. Of course you already know what men do in these group situations. Nope, we weren't going to let a few black diamonds and sore butts stop us.
Guacamole promptly swung us over to the canyon's rim where we could take in a valley view of the road we pedaled.
Quick thinkers (and/or slow riders) have multiple choices in route selection. The faster you go, the more you risk coming up on a spot where none of the choices look advisable, and as you are crashing you say to yourself, "I really should have walked this…"
We paused to let the guy with no rear suspension rest his butt (me) and inhaled Zion's distant glory, along with a few peanut butter/chocolate bars. Those pocks you see were taking a cumulative toll on my keester, not to mention the rear wheel (Note: If anyone is in the market for a hardly used hard-tail mountain bike I'll make you a real good deal on a Gary Fischer 29'er).
Jim's new bike is fully suspended with front and rear long travel shocks. It's also a 29'er, and I can testify that those bigger wheels and tires handle differently than his 26 incher. A negative for 29'ers is that their response in really tight single track conditions is a tad slower. On the positive side, though, they make mo-hills out of mountains with larger diameter rims and tires. A mountain biker on a 29'er quickly learns how to ride over stuff that they wouldn't have dreamed of trying on a 26'er. Some would call this "artificial courage;" some would call it "the setup;" some, "false bravado." To be honest they're all right.
There are times on the trail when you feel like you are just killing it; everything is working together as one, the bike, the rider, the suspension…the gears. Then all of a sudden you're on your back, head downhill, legs entangled in a bike that's on top of you like a crazed lover. You are in acute pain with no memory of what just happened (ah, how I miss college days).
Well, I already told you how men are wired…many, many times. From the inside looking out, we are still twenty something and handsome, and are known have a dishonest relationship with reality, one that haunts us to the grave. Yet there we were, a wild bunch of sixty something geezers fooling around with black diamond widow makers...false bravado intact, fully expecting "Sweet Jesus" to watch over us. Unlike other geezers, we've retained all our youthful skills and reaction times. Right!
"Pop-pop-pop….bam, bam-bam…LEDGE, jerk the bars, fool…yes! grunt, pedal hard…nice…ping, bonk... Ops, lookout, watch it, watch it…YES! Off the seat now…feather rear brake, butt back…more, more, lay off front brake…zig, zag, dodge bullet, now GO…wheeee; hey…oh shit…ughhhhh.
"Help…get the bike off me…"
"I thinks so…get the goddamned bike off me…"
"Okay, relax…this is going to take a minute."
"I don't have a minute; I can't fucking breathe, asshole!
Let me just say, without mentioning any names, I wouldn't be caught dead being clipped into my peddles on any trail resembling Guacamole. Those black diamonds have a way of sneaking up on a guy. Some warnings don't necessarily involve falling a hundred feet; it could be a series of tricky sons of bitches spots where you might want to slow it down and pay attention. On the surface, Guacamole seems easy…fun. Ride it too fast, though, for the first time, on a new and unfamiliar bike with bigger wheels, on tired legs, through tight, rapid fire, bad, bad, bad, to worse sections…and lookout.
I think we all crashed that day. I was the only one not clipped in and I still crashed, and bled as a result. Jim bit it three times, once pretty hard where he landed on his back on a boulder. Though I can't blame it on being clipped in, I do know that tenths of a second really matter when it comes to getting a foot (feet) down in bad situations. I fully realize that being clipped in is a big advantage power-wise, but I'm not willing to pay the price with an elbow, collarbone, forearm, back, wrist, or thumb injury.
In a few weeks adjustments necessary to ride a trail like Guacamole will have been assimilated, and so too, the rules.
Rule number one; slow down. Easing up just a little covers a multitude of sins. Rule number two: realize that the first time around a trail is like a first date…you don't get to go "all the way." Treat both the girl and the trail with the respect they deserve. Rule number three, moderation in all things; old men can still ride (need to ride) challenging trails. We just need to know our limits, take it slower, walk a little more, and settle for a "kiss" instead of the Big "O."
I can't wait till next year, if and when our group returns...more experienced...and conquers Guacamole without incident. Then it's on to Gooseberry; they say it's worse, I mean better, than Guacamole :)
Another day On The Road with the Outdoor Gang…
Peace Out; Now go take a hike, ride a bike, walk a dog...