With spring right around the corner and my migration back to Montana coming up quick, it seems like a good time to reflect upon one of the best days on the bike this winter.
I have been lucky enough to spend the last couple months working in Tucson, AZ as a ride guide for a great company called The Cycling House. I have been working on and off for them for the past 10 years now, and to say I’m proud of what my good buddy Owen has built would be the hugest understatement. The Cycling House is a full-service cycling getaway with guided rides, meals and hangout time, all of which are based out of a palatial desert mansion surrounded by saguaro cactus.
Working as a ride-guide with The Cycling House means I get to wear a lot of hats: riding with clients, driving support, wrenching on bikes, helping as sous chef, cleaning, lending training advice, and telling stories are all within my job description. It always keeps things interesting. We kicked off the season with a mountain bike camp, but the bread and butter at The Cycling House is definitely road camps. Both are great, but I must say that my most memorable days on the bike almost always involve some trail.
A couple weeks ago, after a long day of driving a support vehicle up the road climb to the infamous Mount Lemmon, I was ready to take advantage of my afternoon off to squeeze in a little mountain bike ride. It just so turned out that another staffer was able to sneak out as well and we even talked a client who had brought his brand new, never-ridden mountain bike with him into joining us. This client had suffered the absolute most massive bonk I have ever seen just hours before – I’m talking carrying the guy into the van and driving him down for his own safety type of bonk. He miraculously bounced back and was eager for redemption in the form of an evening mountain bike ride. The house chef talked us into accepting a van-assist drop off so that we could have a fighting chance of fitting the Bug Springs to Prison Camp ride in before total darkness.
Even on the drive up I could tell it was going to be a ride to put in the books. The sun was shining and we were all primed to hit the trails. After we got unloaded from the van, we pushed our bikes up the mandatory hike-a-bike and right off the bat we were hooting and hollering when we hit the descent. The trail was getting more familiar to us after already riding it a few times that season. The dirt was perfectly moist and grippy with that consistent feel that really allows you to push the limits. We had some good games of follow the leader with some creative lines along the way. We stopped at nice spot where a hoodoo, or thin spire of rock, juts from the ridge, to admire the view and enjoy a cold beverage in the early evening sun. Magic.
We ended up with a flat tire a little further down and it was while we were throwing a tube in that we first saw a breathtakingly massive full moon rising over the ridgeline. We let out a howl, amazed by how lucky we were getting. Once we had air back in the tire we continued down the techy switchbacks before crossing the road onto the Prison Camp portion of the ride. It was there that it got full on insane! The sun was just dipping down at that point, the sky lit up with a perfect gradient of sunset glow, the moon blinding in front of us.
We were losing light fast, so we gunned it and managed to finish the trail portion without a drop of light to spare. We still had 6 miles of coasting down the road ahead of us, and never has riding a mountain bike down a road been so fun. Even though it was well past sunset, the streaks of light from where the sun had been just wouldn’t disappear, perfectly silhouetting the massive Saguaro cactus on the ridgeline in front of us. The full moon behind us was bright enough to give good visibility of the road and highlight the swooping bats that swooped and dodged nearby. More howling and more giggling than probably should have come out of grown men commenced.
Rides like that keep me going through the winter, and get me even more excited for the longer days and warmer temps to come. While I’ll always have a soft spot for the desert, it’s about time to expand my riding range back to my home state of Montana, where my quest for more perfect rides will continue. Stay tuned for more tales from the trail!
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