Proper rest, indeed.
Feeling energized, we’re loading up on extra water and moving out by about 40° in the morning. I usually tell time with a watch. Except on bike tours when I rely on the sun. Except on this bike tour when I use temperature. We’re headed up into Gila National Forest and over the next two days we’ll climb through the mountains via the 8,228 foot high Emery Pass. Basically we’re getting high as fuck for the next two days straight. I believe it’s called AF.
We gain 2,000 feet in the first 20 miles. Slow and steady at seven miles per hour, Damon and I do our debate thing. Where we agree to agree and then disagree on how to get to the agreement. Basically more discussion about society, innovation and the future of the world. I enjoy our conversations and I feel great about the road conditions, the scenery, and the lack of traffic. I like that. Whereas yesterday would have delivered a death rate of 20 vehicles every 2 minutes; I now get 2 every 20 minutes. It’s probably how Danny Aiello would have felt in Do The Right Thing if that film didn’t have a climax and Radio Raheem wasn’t killed by the cops. For the Spike Lee-uninitiated among us… I can hear myself think. As usual, Damon crushes the uphills and is miles ahead after an hour. The solo tranquility has my brain sifting through the mucous membranes that are the idiosyncratic differences between summer and winter bicycle adventures. Like how I have to tell time in temperature. Or how I rely more on indoor remote sleeping and how this limits my long days. Not to mention the obvious shorter daylight hours. Red pill or blue, there is still no spoon. Comparisons are futile; I’m assigning no value, just identifying the variances in my mind.
Eventually I choose a more aesthetic way to occupy the miles and fire up an all A Tribe Called Quest playlist — perfect for this cool, crisp and sunny ride into the mountains. And instinctive path. A dozen cuts in and a low end theory of thunder rumbling come across the mountains and canyons. I wanna be pissed at my weather app until that rumble reaches divine levels and an unmarked fighter jet screeches low across my world, dipping his wing, zooming off with the same thunderous rumble. What a sight! I get my own fucking flyover and I bet Tom Cruise is in the cockpit. The password is Fidelio.
Pushing it along, the continuous incline spills into the Continental Divide, so I stop to take a pic and drink an afternoon cup of black gold.
6,355 feet definitely feels that way as the air gets thinner and the cycling gets harder. My quads know this, maaaan. Eventually the scenario becomes a series of rolling climbs and descents. Whereas Damon owns the uphills, I crush when I can get into gear on the downhills and use that momentum on the incline. I go from 36 mph in 27th gear to 6 mph in 1st gear in 30 seconds. Over and over again. I find a way. I pass him after a couple miles, get to the top of one particular steep uphills and get this text from Damon:
Well fuck, that’s no bueno at all. This isn’t what they told me enchantment would be like. I push it along and get it into town, not knowing how bad of a problem Damon has on his hands; wondering the whole time that after one derailleur issue after another, this might be it for him. I make it into Silver City. It’s a cute funky little mountain town that see a lot of hikers and bikers in non-pandemic times. There’s two bike shops in town. I head to the first and the guy there is hella cool. His name is AJ. I let him know my friend is having issues and will be here ASAP, not even knowing how true that is. I buy a new cable lock, a set of used toe cages, and some new handlebar tape. AJ looks out the window, looks back at me and asks “your friend got a red bike?” “Yeah.” “He just rode by and was texting.” Turns out Damon basically jogged his bike most of the way into town and went to the other bike shop. What I thought might be hours before he arrived was maybe an hour. The other shop hooked him and we’re hoping that’s it for issues.
I push two burritos down along my quest for caloric replacement. We’re chilling in the hotel room and Damon gets the mysterious self popping flat tire while we’re planning for the serious challenge of switchbacks through Emory Pass. It’s a good chance for him to practice fixing flats as I wrap my bars and install a new toe cage. He’s feeling down but I’m feeling up. I try to keep him optimistic, knowing I’ll need him to do the same for me some time. And I’m damn sure glad it’s not down to a one man ride. Tomorrow is a big one.