Friday, June 3, 2011

Drive to Ride

I try not to waste too much time demarcating the skiing and cycling season, as you probably gathered from my previous post. However, it is in my personality to observe nice, quaint occurrences of transition that align into some sort of serendipitous order. Looking back on this week, when I skied the still snow soaked peaks of the Wasatch on May 31st then went for a few short deviations on my bike commute the following day, it almost seemed unavoidable that my focus was changing. I could hear a Carl Sagan-like narrator voicing over, “With the onset of warmer temperatures and the turn of the calendar, our subject now switches his focus from turning a pair of skis to turning a crankarm. Soon, he will shed the winter coat on his legs. His neck will be sore and his ass will chafe like a Boy Scout in a Charmin-less porta-potty. He will increase his caloric intake and the steady diet of whiskey, akavit and beer will change to a diet of gin, tequila and beer. The time has come for the skier to burst from his Gor-tex cocoon and become a spectacle in tight spandex with a tan that only runs 4”above the knee and from the wrist to 6” below the shoulder.”

Today I did something a little out of character as a cyclist. I drove somewhere with the sole purpose of going for a road ride. This is odd because I take great satisfaction in activities that are supplemental transportation independent. And by supplemental transportation I mean the need of an internal combustion engine or some other means of movement (like a chair lift) that deviates from the activity you are doing. That is why I love road cycling so much in. Mountain biking can be done without a car, but rarely am I ambitious enough to spin a 44 tooth chainring for 2+ hours from my house to the trailheads in Mill Creek Canyon and then actually be in any shape to enjoy climbing another 1,000' of singletrack. Skiing has to be the greatest euphoria on earth, but until I hit Powerball and get that yurt in the Sawtooths skiing will always requires a drive for me. At least backcountry skiing allows independence from mechanization once you leave the truck. Resort skiing, and consequently, sitting on a chair lift makes me feel a little lazy and entitled, like some redneck carting their overweight children around on an ATV. And rafting, sad to say as much as I like it, has to be the worst. No other “silent sport” requires more of Henry Ford's legacy than river-running. On skis, if I liked what I just skied, I can get back up and do it again. Good luck getting back up river in a raft when you decide you would love to run that rapid again. And not only do you have to drive to the put-in, but then you have to shuttle another car to the take-out. That's why the backcountry skier in me enjoyed floating Grey's Canyon near Green River so much, after dropping the vehicle off at the take- out I got in an 8 mile ride back to the put-in.

Here's the thing with road cycling however. It is the most dangerous thing I do! Grizzlies treating me like a rack or ribs while I'm on a backpacking trip, an avalanche swallowing me in Little Cottonwood Canyon and drowning in a river all are a grim reality of my recreational pursuits, but none are as likely as getting mowed down by an Escalade full of snot-nosed teenagers within a mile of my home. And that possibility, in addition to the constant stopping and starting required to ride a bike in a large metropolitan area really affects my enjoyment of cycling. Half the time when I go for rides around here, it's to “recon” a safer route. I'm constantly linking together a patchwork of streets and neighborhoods where I have minimal exposure to traffic, interstate on and off-ramps and stoplights. I have many positive memories of my time in Twin Falls, Idaho, but what I will always miss the most about the Magic Valley was having open roads within one minute of riding from my front door. Riding in the rural landscape of Twin I saw more cows than cars, got my sprints from being chased by dogs rather than trying to make a green light and once I got out “on the grid”, my biggest nuisance was when the county had freshly chip-sealed the road. So today, I drove up to Park City, parked east of town near the US-40/I-80 interchange and rode to Coalville via Brown's Canyon and back. It was 45 miles and great. When I approached the frontage road near 40 and had to unclip for the stoplight, it dawned on me that I hadn't taken my cleat out of the pedals in nearly 40 miles. The ebb and flow to my ride was dictated by the terrain and my body, not traffic lights. While the drive to Park City and back eats up at least an hour, I probably gain 20 to 30 minutes of that hour back in avoiding stoplights and I have a lot less stress to go with it. I know, the risk of getting nailed on a country road is still there, but obviously, with less cars, the odds diminish dramatically. And, while it pains me inflate the egos of our neighbors to the east any more, drivers in the Park City area are more accustomed to seeing cyclists on the roads and therefore, give us a little more room.

I still can't justify driving every time I want to go for a bike ride. I doubt I'll every be one of those people who drives across town just to ride the “airport road” out to Salt Air (with the exception of when riding with Lexi), but when I have a day off, like I had today, and want to make the most of it, why would I spend it sucking bus exhaust and wondering if that diesel pickup making a left sees me?

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