Words by Diana Davis with photos courtesy of Brett Davis
“Sweet, let’s ride!” The words wash over me as I watch my husband, adventure partner, Salsa rider, and current tour guide, Brett Davis, eagerly bound off into a canyon wash. Ride? From my vantage point on the sandy road above, I can see rocks—lots of them, in fact. There are some small pebbles and some large boulders, but many are chunky, basketball-sized, tire-stopping obstacles.
“Sweet, let’s hike-a-bike,” I mumble to myself. I would choose a hike-a-bike suffer fest any day over sweet singletrack if it meant solitude in raw, rugged terrain. It certainly does here: a wild, unpopulated place where wisdom keeps its own time and may just give a little of itself up if you move considerately and try not to disturb it. After a last look to ensure that I have everything securely fastened, I release my brakes and follow Brett’s tracks into the unknown.
About ten feet later, I ram my front tire into a rock and bounce off my bike. Watching Brett’s smooth form disappear around the next bend, I quickly jump back on and start pedaling to catch up. I manage three full rotations before I am off my bike…again. My rhythm becomes pedal stroke, pedal stroke, slam. Off the bike. Back on. Pedal stroke, pedal stroke, SLAM.
Adventure Lesson #1: Control
If you want to move freely in wild places, you have to relinquish your idea of control. After the tenth time my feet leave the pedals for the ground, I know I have to change my approach. I am trying too hard. My hands are gripping too tightly, my body is positioned too far forward. I am tense and trying to force a route, all while envisioning the next rock that will be my downfall.
I survey this amazing landscape and wonder why I am fighting it instead of embracing it. The red rocks with gray stripes, the spotted pebbles, the massive boulders—they are all part of why I am here. To experience, to explore, to venture into the unknown. I take it all in and try to loosen my grip, expand my vision. I can’t instantly relax but I feel a gradual easement. Slowly, my movements begin to match the rhythm of the rocks. My big tires are now bounding over instead of bouncing off. As if I were water, I glide forward and find the path of least resistance. It’s flow time!
The rocky floor transitions and now alternates between soft, sandy pits and crackled, dry riverbeds. Golden canyon walls rise up before us. The riding is sweet! I crunch over a pile of brown leaves lost from the trees lining this stretch of the canyon wash. I can just imagine what this looked like a couple of weeks earlier. I almost say out loud that we should have done this a week or two ago when Brett careens by with an expression of pure bliss and shouts, “Isn’t this incredible?! Wah-freaking-hoo!”
Adventure Lesson #2: Mindset
Brett’s natural enthusiasm sends a reminder that what we focus on becomes our reality. Beautiful sights and adventures fill Brett’s life because that is what he seeks and creates. Over the course of this trip, I watch him look at a sunset, a pile of leaves, and a mountain lion’s footprint with the genuine, effortless amazement of someone seeing them for the first time. I doubt I can count high enough to catalog all his escapades, but he still embarks on each one with new energy and excitement. I forget about my critique of our timing, become caught up with Brett’s positivity, and relish in appreciation for all I am experiencing right here, right now.
As we cruise down the wash, enjoying the easy riding and spectacular canyon sights, the adventure gods decide to reward us with a taste of autumn desert. We round a curve and a huge, vibrant cottonwood tree awaits us—a yellow burst amidst the dry, gray rock. I am ecstatic!
I have to climb up a boulder and sit under the tree for just a moment. I watch the happy, colorful leaves set against a western blue-sky backdrop and get lost in life’s energy and the beauty of change. It happens to all of us over time and we are all capable of it at any given time.
As we continue on, we realize we are descending into full-on fall. Golden leaves sprinkle the canyon wash and little pools form in potholes. Plenty of water! We are each carrying about eight liters because we did not know if we would find any out here. As the water becomes more plentiful, so does the vegetation. Our flowy, easy riding gives way to hike-a-bike, log lifting, and, eventually, bushwhacking. What was a wide-open wash moments ago has now become a narrow gully with dense vines and low-hanging branches. Pushing my bike through the undergrowth is like doing a never-ending push-up while enduring a face full of twigs. As I force my bike through, the fly-back branches sweep across and slice my body. I lean down so my face is covered and my helmet takes the brunt of the whipping. I hear Brett up ahead but can barely see him as the branches he has moved swing back into place, masking the trail. His muffled voice reaches me through the brush, “Ugh, this may be too overgrown, I don’t know if we can get through.”
Adventure Lesson #3: Expectation
Many a trip has taught me the power of expectations. At best, they leave people dissatisfied when they do not get what they want. At worst, they leave people in danger when they do not get what they need. When Brett told me about this trip idea, he reminded me multiple times, “I have no expectations; I don’t know what the terrain will be like.” As Brett and I navigate the thick underbrush and finally pop out onto a game trail, I look at myself and laugh. My arm warmer is torn; I have at least seven spurs stuck on my leg warmers; and my hair is full of branch debris. I pick off the spurs and shake out my hair. Then, I unzip my easy-access snack stash still securely attached to my bike, grab a bite of bar, a few Swedish fish, and realize I could not be happier. I am properly dressed, fed, hydrated, and prepared for biking, hiking, falling down, scrambling, dealing with sand pits, mud pits, thorns, flat tires, sandy night winds, morning snow, you know… all the goodness that comes with adventuring!
I pluck a few more thorns off my bike and hop on. Without a worry about how long the canyon will let me stay astride, I start pedaling and holler back at Brett, “Sweet, let’s ride!”
About the Guest Blogger: Diana Davis
I grew up with a restless energy that could only be extinguished with mass amounts of movement, preferably outdoors. In childhood, my roller-skates turned a concrete suburban grid into a never ending playground. I spent my youth trying new activities and bounced around from gymnastics to karate, soccer to basketball,l until settling on running. As much as I like playing sports and racing, I prefer the freedom of a new destination and an unexplored trail. I used to adventure by foot either hiking or running, now I am fortunate to have discovered adventure by bike.
You may also enjoy this previous post from Diana: RIDING HOME
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