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Bike Bonding

Get out with good friends in those places where you can fortget about the travails of the world.


Few things make you feel more in place than lying on your back next to a campfire in the desert looking up at the full moon and talking about nothing in particular after an epic day of mountain biking. On this night in Rabbit Valley, the conversation focused on that moon—how it was once untrammeled; how we feared it could be covered with some Elon Musk monstrosity for rich people that could be seen from down here on Earth; how, if that happened, even this simple, ancient pleasure of looking into the sky and gazing on landscapes untouched by human works and left to the individual imagination would be taken from us.

Then we heard it—a low rumble, an engine, a whistle. “Train!” We hopped up from the ground and ran across sandstone illuminated by that moonlight until we reached the edge of the cliffs of Ruby-Horsethief Canyon and peered down the Colorado River below, where a single light led the train along the riverbank. It brought something childlike out of us (OK, a few beers and edibles may have helped too) and, unlike a tech-bro resort on the lunar surface, this human work felt right. The railroad was what opened up the West after all. Bringing out settlers who tamed these quiet spots in a way not too different than the hordes of COVID-flight work-at-homers who have crowded every trailhead and campground in our time. Honestly, I can’t tell you why that moment felt so right and close and silly and peaceful. Sometimes, just laughing with friends heals all.

We certainly all needed some healing. My two friends and I had endured tragedies, deaths, career bumps, relationship woes. But none of that matters when you go biking out in the desert. That’s why you go.

Rabbit Valley is my favorite place to ride bikes. Sure, the trails at nearby Mary’s and Road 18 are better and beautiful and well maintained. Rabbit Valley is rough. Hot. Easy to get lost. Committing. This is where you go to push it a bit and suffer with good friends. These rides leave you with your hydration reservoir long sucked dry and your toe nails black-and-blue from constant knocking against rocks. You will push your bike. You might sing to deal with it. You will forget about all the shit that plagues your adult life. And I wonder out here: Is this who I really am? Is this life? Or is it just play? Does it matter?

I have shared these rides with my wife and my closest friends. My buddy Isaac, with whom I got out on so many rides when we were both in grad school and filling in the days with escapades in the far reaches of the Cascades, first turned me onto the place and the glorious 46-mile pukefest known as the Rabbit Valley Holy Grail. We did a lot of pushing between moments of joy bombing slickrock along cliffs with the wind up canyon our only other companion. During the pandemic, I introduced my friend Stacy Bare, who has dedicated his life to helping vets and other broken men find themselves again in the wild, to this monster ride. And the past two years, I have brought my old, dear friends Mike and Mark, those type of friends you can not see for years and click with again immediately once you get out on skis or bikes again, here to give it all we have and talk nothing under the moon.

This bike bonding is what we need in these days of societal anxiety and smartphone overload and humans continuing to slaughter each other despite everything our race has supposedly learned. So I hope you, too, can get out on bikes with friends in a place that means something to you. And I hope the moon can remain something far away and full of hope.

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