The first riding day for our secret Bucksaw launch trip in Arizona consisted of a beautiful drive from Prescott to Sedona and a break-in cruise on some of the less traveled trails in the area. It became instantly clear that any type of vegetation that Arizona has to offer is thirsty and sharp. The landscape continuously tried to drain my body of blood, one scratch at a time.
A few hours of pedaling and we were back to the vehicles. The unique aspect of this trip is we combined extremely capable off-road vehicles with extremely capable off-road full-suspension mountain bikes, namely Bucksaws with soon-to-be-released RockShox Bluto forks. Two Land Rovers and a 4-Runner decked out with an Adventure Trailer and two rooftop tents caravanned us over rocks and sand to some of the best singletrack I have ever ridden. When the trucks couldn’t go any further, the bikes were unloaded and ridden to the rendezvous point of our journey.
Car camping usually isn’t a luxury we at Salsa get to partake in…especially car camping in this grand of style. As the sun began to set, we unloaded our bikes for a few miles of doubletrack down to a small creek where we would camp. The trucks showed up a bit later after taking the long way around, and we set up camp. When I say set up camp, I mean “set up” camp. Tables, tents, cookers, margaritas, cups, plates, chairs, all of our camp gear, and changes of clothes, fresh water, snacks, and the list goes on and on. I could get use to this type of living.
Paul is the owner of an company that sells a lot of unique products for overland off-roading. His business, Equipt Expedition Outfitters, brings in rooftop tents as one of their products. My family has been looking at all types of camping situations now that my youngest has turned three-years-old and a rooftop tent has been on my list. Paul graciously asked if I would be interested in staying in the tent on the roof of his 4-Runner. “Heck yeah” I said!
Group dynamic can often be determined around the first night’s campfire. Lively banter started at dinner as we compared notes on the Bucksaw bikes we were riding and the trucks with the amazing gear that helped us get this far. Friendly chatter bounced back and forth and some of our crew chopped wood whiles others poured margaritas. I’ve been on some great trips, but this group dynamic was amazing.
As the sky got darker, the fire grew larger. I was the first to throw in the towel and head off to bed. There are two things in life I know that I need to have: food and sleep…and beer might come in as a close third. So I climbed up the aluminum ladder into my ivory tower and crawled into my sleeping bag. It was not five minutes after my head hit my pillow that I was out.
My wife claims I can sleep through a tree falling through our bedroom ceiling. This however was no tree. The screams that can make your hair on your neck stand straight up in movies had nothing on the call that pierced the otherwise calm night. I sat straight up in my perched tent. What in the world could be making this noise? To Describing it with mere mortal words is impossible. However a conversation that occurred at that night’s campfire popped immediately in my head. Tim had asked us if we had ever heard a bobcat. I couldn’t recall if I had or hadn’t. He described the bobcat’s cry as, “a crying baby stuck up in a tree.” This sound was not like any baby I ever heard!
The screeching, howling, growling, screaming, crying, panting, groaning, and grumbling went on for 15 minutes. Then silence for a couple of minutes as the beast repositioned itself nearer to camp, before launching right back into the monster ballad for another 15 minutes or so.
Rooftop tents have taken a new level of interest in my life. That fortress was the only thing comforting me enough to close my eyes and return to sleep. Once the first sign of daylight peeked through the zipper, I looked out upon the camp to see who had survived the night. Christophe was still snoozing in his bivvy that I would later characterize as a fruit rollup. I snuck out of my sleeping bag and crept down the aluminum ladder so as to not scare the beast if it was behind the truck waiting to eat one more camper.
Once everyone was awake, we each shared our own tale from the night. Surprisingly, not all had heard the occurrence. Adrian and Paul slept right through it.
When comparing notes over the coming nights at the campfires that accompanied new campsites further down the trail, we discovered this was no bobcat. Nope, the sounds we heard that first night sounded just like the YouTube video that comes up when you Google “mountain lion sounds.” Gulp…
All photos courtesy of Adrian Marcoux…
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Justin Julian (Red)
I am lucky enough to be the General Manager of Salsa Cycles. I hail from central Missouri where the hills hide some of the most fascinating treasures. Moonshine being one of them, great singletrack being the second. Bikes have been an important part of my life from the ripe ol’ age of 3. I have raced, rode, crashed and enjoyed motorcycles for going on 34 years now. The bicycle has been a critical part of my motorcycle career (loosely used) in terms of training, enjoyment, rehab, and escape from the day to day. Both of these two-wheeled contraptions are the reason I exist. They are very much part of my life and being. Cycling and motorsports are also a strength and bond that connects my wife and two boys. Live to ride, ride to live!