Have Dirt, Will Travel


Have Dirt, Will Travel Written By Mark Sirek, Photos By Scott Haraldson

Launch Day at Mission Control

This sojourn to your chosen vacation destination is coming to an end, and everything you’ve gone through to begin this next enterprise is behind you. You all decided early on to just go straight to the trail and deal with finding a motel room later. The need for dirt has reached DEFCON 1. The unbearable wait to leave your workplace behind for a bit, and the hours spent in transit—all things that seemed insurmountable—will soon be forgotten. And while the travel time with your people is great for some focused BS and learning new tunes that will become this trip’s soundtrack, let’s face it, it’s not pedaling. The miles to your highly anticipated recharge are counting down: 3…2…1.

You finally roll to a stop and shut off the car. And in that silent moment when the music and engine noise stop, no one says anything. There’s no need. This is a moment to cherish. Looking out the window, it’s hard to describe the stoke.

You spill out, stretch atrophied muscles, and look at your friends. You know those smiles all too well. No question what page this crew is on. The laughs come so easily that you have to up your concentration game as you start to pull out all your gear and prepare to ready your rig.

Before you grab your bikes, however, it’s time to “jettison the unspent fuel” from all the in-transit snacking. There are usually a couple of ways this is going to go. If this ride of yours is in remote territory, you hopefully planned ahead and brought some “mountain money.” If you didn’t, you can take comfort in the fact you’ll never forget that crucial roll again.

Another way is to find yourself at a world-class destination trail with well-maintained restrooms. Take into account, however, that a trail becomes a destination because it gets visited by a lot of people, many of whom are currently weighed down with the same issues you are. That can make being alone in the forest the better choice for a number of reasons. 

Now that the unwelcome cargo has been dealt with, the next half-hour will involve a variety of routines, developed from personal experience and group observation. The backseat contortionist changes into riding gear and gets his or her first hints of the charley horses yet to come. To complete that act, it’s inevitable that the door they’re hiding behind gets accidentally opened at the peak of nudity. Between the inner dialogues that make you wonder if anyone here has ever done this before, come the outer dialogues about who has a pump, a chain tool, or extra food. You should be good, right? What could go wrong?

There’s still one last formality that always has to play out. With frenzied companions on bikes performing last-minute system checks in circles around him, the poor sap with the car keys yells: “Hey, is everybody okay for me to finally lock the car?” Three or four times the answer, “Yeah,” gets followed with—wait for it—“Shit, can you open it again, sorry.”

The frazzled Key Master asks one last time, “Are we good?” 

Damn right we are. Initiate launch sequence.