Get Busy Livin’

2016 was another amazing one for me with many of my adventures chronicled here (A Spring Break of Lessons, The Hard to Fathom Tour, and The Lost Coast). My legs took me to some extraordinarily beautiful and wild places. As has become the custom for the last couple of years, I was able to ride in areas on our planet that few will ever see. Along the way, I have had the privilege to ride with some of the best humans a person will ever meet. These people have helped me stay hungry for making things happen—motivating me to keep complacency from creeping into my life. This past fall I had a visit from one such person whose current mantra has become one of my own as our planet continues another revolution around the sun.

[Pic of Jay] Jay crushing it during his last visit to Colorado in 2009 for the Singlespeed Worlds…

I met Jay during the June of 2003 when I arrived on the campus of the University of Tennessee to begin building an outdoor program for its students, faculty and staff. Jay was a non-traditional student who was pursuing a degree in Recreation Administration. It was no wonder that he became a part of the team to help create the foundation of the new program. An easy going and very personal guy, Jay can speak and relate to anyone. His enthusiasm for all things outdoors, knowledge of the local area and the fact that he knew everyone, all combined to make him a great adventure partner for discovering the amazing outdoor opportunities that east Tennessee has to offer. Additionally, his love of riding bikes made our relationship even closer beyond supervisor and employee.

During my five years in Tennessee, Jay grew to be one of my closest friends. He was always up for “getting after it,” no matter what “it” was. He was there to listen and support me when my life had an unexpected speedbump and changed in direction. I watched him fall in love, pursue a career, and eventually take on the joy that comes with having kids. He found his own “it” and was pursuing his life with tenacity. When I left for Colorado, I knew that I had gained my second brother who would always be in my corner no matter how much time or distance separated us.

My second brother and I getting ready to start the Singlespeed Worlds…

This fall Jay called me and said he needed some time away and that he was heading to Colorado. The past two years had been difficult as he was emerging from a broken relationship. As is common in such situations, his world had been turned upside. The needle of his life compass was damaged and he was struggling to navigate his way back to his true self. Through the hardship, he had not only lost his life’s bearing, but also his connection with his bike. This trip to Colorado was meant to help regain his “it” and get his mojo back on the bike.

Having gone through something similar, I knew that having some adventures and connecting with good people are some of the best medicines for a broken heart. Upon his arrival, I had one of my signature “house drinks” made for him along with a mound of maps and ideas for us to sift through. We had the next several days to do nothing but ride bikes and enjoy each other’s company. Laughing about old times, we continued to drink a few more house drinks with a plan emerging with each sip. A massive weather system was forecasted for the next day—so we were going to be shut down from riding in the mountains or the desert on day one. Ultimately, it would make for a good prep day as we loaded up my truck and teardrop trailer for a multi-day excursion involving both mountain and fatbikes.

A quiver of bikes and the teardrop loaded for an adventure…

Our first stop was to ride a trail on the flanks of Durango’s local high peaks. The waning golden color of the aspens were even more beautiful as they radiated against the white from the dusting of snow that the recent storm system dropped. It was stunning. Parking in a deserted lot, we took to our Salsa steeds. Jay on a Horsethief provided by the crew at Velorution Cycles, and me, on my Spearfish. The doubletrack gradually climbed under a canopy of color towards the highest peak of the range, Hesperus Peak. At a small tarn we took a break to revel in fall’s beauty and let the revitalizing energy of Mother Nature flow into us.

The remnants of fall…

Rolling over the “fallen soldiers” of fall…

Hesperus Peak…

An amazing setting for some sweet singletrack…

Dropping into the singletrack we were met with great conditions. Watching Jay effortlessly throw his bike into each swooping turn, I knew he was starting to find his rhythm. Without hesitation he attacked the technical rock gardens without fear, styling them like a pro. I was witnessing a man recalibrate his compass.

One of the trails on our loop of color…

Jay being the boss that he is…

Riding on a carpet of color…

The mountains in all of their glory…

Our sun was setting as we pedaled back to the truck. Satisfied at our efforts for the day, we toasted with a beer and began the journey further west. Tomorrow we would wake up to sand and cottonwoods at the mouth of a deep canyon. As we turned off the remote desert highway and bounced down a gravel road to our eventual campsite for the night, I told Jay to get some rest as he was in for another amazing experience…his first ever fatbike tour.

Under fading sunset light we continued west for more fun…

Awaking to blue skies, we peered out of the camper to sandstone walls towering high above. Downing a quick breakfast, we unloaded my Blackborow and new carbon Mukluk. These were the only bikes that would be worthy of today’s mission. Adjusting our tire pressures for the sandy terrain ahead, we finished all pre-ride checks and started up the canyon. With the easy ride across the first sand pit, I saw a glimpse of amazement and respect flash in Jay’s eyes. He was learning the ways of the fatbike.

A hearty start to the day…

Learning the ways of the fatbike…

Rounding a bend, I stopped to scan the heights above. My eyes traversed each canyon layer seeking what I knew was hidden to all but the most observant. As Jay rolled to a stop next to me, I felt his gaze follow mine. There it was…the remnants of an ancient wall under the shelter of a deep enclave of rock. Its faded red color blending in with the landscape and hiding its secrets for nearly 1000 years. I asked Jay if he was ready for a hike. With an affirmative nod, we ventured into the tall grasses executing a controlled fall into the nearby creek bottom where we clawed our way up the steep sandy embankment to its other side. From there, it was extreme bushwhacking through a bramble to a clearing at the base of a canyon wall. The fourth class scrambling commenced as we climbed towards our objective. With one last foot smear on slick rock, we were welcomed to our lofty perch by echoes of the past. Before us stood several mud and rock walls outlining rooms of the living quarters of an ancient people. On the overhang above were the red-dye foot prints of their young weathering the passage time as if they were placed there only yesterday.

A little “hiking”...

Walls of the ancients…

A hidden wonder…

Footprints of the past…

We both stood quietly absorbing the history of this place. Our minds imagining what it would have been like to step into this scene when it was full of life. What were these people like? How did they spend their time? What did the pictographs represent? What did the canyon look like during their time? Our minds flooded with so many unanswerable questions. In silence we wandered around the site being careful to not disturb the past. After some unknown quantity of time had passed, for these places are timeless, we made our way back to our bikes and continued the journey up the canyon.

A building block of the past…

The remainder of our day was one of exploration as we rode slickrock; splashed through the creek; climbed into yet more ancient ruins; and whooped from the fun we were having on our bikes. I could discern from Jay’s body language that he was remembering what it felt like to be free of worry and stress. The fog engulfing his life was starting to lift…to float to the heights only to be carried away by a jet stream of freedom. A new life was beginning for him. One that he defined and orchestrated beyond his past circumstances.

Splash…

More remnants of the past…

Prime fat bike terrain…

Back at the truck, it was decision time once again. Where to go next? More desert explorations on the big tires or back to the high peaks? Upon lifting the post ride beer to my lips, our direction of travel became obvious…to the mountains. The Face Down Brown Ale from the Telluride Brewing Company tasted as good as ever. If we hustled, we could enjoy the rising of the moon while sitting in a natural hot spring. Now that would be a fitting way to end an already amazing day.

A fitting sentiment after an amazing day…

If there was any doubt that we had returned to the mountains, then the frigid morning temps and the frost on the bikes confirmed our location. My towel, draped over my truck’s tailgate, was frozen in place from the evening’s soak. Our initial visit to the hot spring was met with a boisterous trail crew who had just finished their last project of the season. Seeking more solitude we retreated back to the truck to seek out a campsite and some dinner. An hour later we returned to nature’s hot tub to find it empty and silent. Under a sea of stars outlined by the mountain tops standing tall above, we soaked our weary legs. In a moment of vulnerability that so often occurs from experiencing the wonders of the outdoor world, Jay shared some of his recent anguish. His emotion was palpable and real. The natural world was doing its work as he was reconnecting to a place where he felt comfortable. Without self-criticism or judgement, he was feeling the emotions that he had been deflecting for so long. He was healing.

The signs of a frigid morning…

Finding warmth from the heater of the truck, we drove to the outskirts of the affluent mountain town of Telluride, CO. The program for the day included a loop ride on one of the area’s classic trails, the Galloping Goose, as well as a shred session on the valley trails with a food and beverage stop in town. Gearing up for the day, we readied both the Horsethief and Spearfish and were soon pedaling up the smooth singletrack back towards the mountain pass we had just driven over. Once the singletrack intersected a forest service road, we began to climb in earnest up to the head of Ilium valley. The splendid fall colors muted the burn in our legs as we climbed upward. After multiple stops for me to attempt to capture the beauty of the day, we reunited with the “Goose” and started the fast descent to the truck. With ease, Jay dropped the hammer and lay into the buffed singletrack. The bike moved freely under him as he rocketed downhill. The Horsethief’s suspension soaking up the terrain without complaint. Struggling to keep up, I let him go. This was his moment. He had rediscovered his state of flow. Wahoo!

Stunning…

The man finding his flow…

As we pedaled down Telluride’s main street, I recognized the mannerisms of “old” Jay. His body was relaxed and there was a smile creeping into his being. I knew what he had just experienced. He was coming through the other side—battered and a little beaten up, but a much wiser and better man. As we held our beers high and began a toast, I knew it had deeper meaning than the toasts of the last few days. The mantra which Jay had been declaring since his arrival in Colorado was now truly being lived: It’s time to get busy livin’.

The Get Busy Livin’ toast—the mantra for 2017…

This post filed under topics: Blackborow Brett Davis Fatbike Horsethief Mountain Biking Mukluk Spearfish Split Pivot Sponsored Riders

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brett Davis

I grew up in a military family where we moved 13 times before I left for college. Consequently, I have the continual urge to explore and travel having climbed, kayaked, and biked all over our amazing planet. My passion for the outdoors drives me to seek out adventures which often times combine multiple modes of travel or activities (i.e. biking to a wilderness area and then backpacking in to climb a high peak). "Keeping life simple" is a guiding motto of my life and for me, bike travel epitomizes simplicity.

COMMENTS (5)

John Switow | February 24th, 2017

Great article! Felt like I was right along with you. Best to you and to Jay. Stay close to those kids, they’re a gift and a treasure.

Antony | March 8th, 2017

I love how beautiful the images are. You can tell that the one taking them is keen on telling a story. What kind of photography gear do you use and how do you protect it from damage when you are out in the woods?

billy white | March 14th, 2017

well written, good pics!!!
bikes always set me right…
AWESOME mantra “get busy livin”

mark willmore | March 20th, 2017

Wow just wow. Really inspiring story. Thanks for sharing.

Yanglish | May 26th, 2017

Great pictures. We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.

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