BUTCHER PA­PER

Bike (USA) - - Contents - BY KRISTIN BUTCHER I PHOTO: SVEN MARTIN

We all have that friend who ropes us into do­ing things we’d rather not do. And if we’re lucky, we have a lot of those friends. For bet­ter and worse, I’m luck­ier than most.

Colleen’s that friend who al­ways has an ad­ven­ture up her sleeve, whether it’s a ran­dom road trip to go ride at el­e­va­tions in the five-digit range or Christ­mas day ski runs in bl­iz­zard con­di­tions. She’s also the friend who doesn’t bat an eye at cel­e­brat­ing your birth­day by stay­ing out late be­fore go­ing for an early ride, and then trad­ing bike shoes for quad roller skates at the lo­cal rink.

We were grab­bing a bite at the same dive bar where so many of our best-worst ideas have be­gun when she ca­su­ally tossed out her lat­est fancy plan.

“We should go for a big ride to­mor­row,” she said. This was her first day of feel­ing rel­a­tively nor­mal af­ter be­ing sick. I nor­mally would have taken her se­ri­ously, but I’m more than fa­mil­iar with the overly am­bi­tious feel­ing of mis­tak­ing fi­nally not feel­ing like death with the abil­ity to do all things.

I hadn’t ridden in months and had al­ready con­sumed enough Moscow Mules and fried samosas to know that the next morn­ing would range from gen­eral in­testi­nal dis­tress to over­whelm­ing life re­gret. As Colleen talked about link­ing mul­ti­ple trail sys­tems that in­di­vid­u­ally were enough to cook my legs, I nod­ded sup­port­ively while fan­ta­siz­ing about eat­ing a plate of ba­con for break­fast in bed.

“We’ll start rid­ing and bail out when­ever we feel like it,” she as­sured me as I or­dered an­other drink. You know those friends who talk a big game, but then find some ex­cuse to avoid ac­tu­ally ex­e­cut­ing their grandiose plans?

She is not that kind of friend.

When she called the next morn­ing, I not-so-se­cretly hoped it was to an­nounce a last-minute can­cel­la­tion, “It’s a rough morn­ing” she said. “Let’s leave in an hour.”

The tem­per­a­ture dropped steadily while driv­ing into the moun­tains, and I be­came eter­nally grate­ful that I grabbed one more layer be­fore run­ning out the door. In true Colorado fash­ion, the icy-cool morn­ing sun­shine was slated to climb to­ward a balmy 50 de­grees, only to be eclipsed by a snow­storm that evening. As the pierc­ing air in­vaded my lungs, it evicted the fog from my brain much more adeptly than my mi­crowaved cup of yes­ter­day’s cof­fee. My hands flick­ered back and forth be­tween tight fists and en­thu­si­as­tic jazz hands in an at­tempt to stave off the painful numb­ness climbers re­fer to as the ‘scream­ing barfies.’ As we took off and the trail turned up­ward, my blood slowly warmed to a sim­mer and lay­ers made their way from my body to my pack.

We climbed un­til the feel­ing of bit­ing cold was all but for­got­ten, re­placed by a canopy of sun­shine that was a strange jux­ta­po­si­tion of warm and crisp. I’m a pocket-sized fe­male, which means my trade­off for be­ing per­fectly com­fort­able in air­plane seats is that I’m per­pet­u­ally cold. Reach­ing the mo­ment where I’m wear­ing short sleeves on a 40-de­gree day like some sort of tem­per­a­ture-reg­u­lat­ing su­per­hero is noth­ing short of spec­tac­u­lar.

Though I felt bet­ter than ex­pected, it was ap­par­ent that my train­ing reg­i­men of

sit­ting on my ass hadn’t ac­cel­er­ated my fit­ness in the way that I’d hoped. It wasn’t go­ing to be a day for the record book, but I’d set my sights on get­ting to the trail with the big boul­ders. It’s a beast to climb with rock slabs that sneak in ex­tra miles by en­tic­ing you to ses­sion sec­tion af­ter sec­tion, try­ing to see if you can fi­nally piece the puz­zle to­gether this time. At the end of the ride, those same gran­ite out­crop­pings be­come a “Choose Your Ad­ven­ture” story in de­scend­ing.

I didn’t imag­ine I’d com­plete this trail with­out dab­bing, which means it en­tices the perfect mix of fu­til­ity and de­ter­mi­na­tion to be just my kind of trail.

Af­ter fi­nagling my bike up a par­tic­u­lar boul­der­ing prob­lem I’ve been work­ing on for years, I made it to the top de­pleted and happy with more miles un­der my legs than I thought pos­si­ble ear­lier that morn­ing. Now all that sep­a­rated me from a post-ride beer and burger was a quick des­cent back to the car.

“Which way back?” I asked. Colleen’s con­fused look turned into the face your friend makes when she re­al­izes you think nar­whals are imag­i­nary, like uni­corns. Not that I know that look, and be­sides, have you seen a nar­whal? They’re ridicu­lous and I’m still not sure their ex­is­tence isn’t just some big ruse.

Ei­ther way, I could prac­ti­cally hear the words, “Oh, honey …” rat­tling in her head.

“Umm, we’re on an out and back. We’re only half­way,” she said.

Af­ter ve­to­ing my sug­ges­tion that we try and get an Uber in the mid­dle of the woods, we turned around and be­gan ped­al­ing back in an en­dor­phin-ad­dled exercise in déjà vu. Know­ing that there were still hours of ped­al­ing and a few thou­sand feet of climb­ing ahead made the next miles feel al­most easy, but I knew it wasn’t go­ing to be that way the whole ride.

Af­ter all, it’s al­ways the last hour in the car ride that’s the most painful, re­gard­less of whether you’re on a four-hour trip or an all-day ex­cur­sion. Our con­stant chat­ter turned in­ter­mit­tent as we watched the dis­tance be­tween the sun and moun­tain­tops has­ten to a close. When the smell of farms set­tled in—our lo­cal har­bin­ger that snow is im­mi­nent—the air be­came silent but for the sound of churn­ing hubs.

With dark­ness and the first flakes of snow greet­ing us as we rolled up to the car, my hands once again did their dance to try and keep warm while putting my bike on the rack. It turned out that the big ride I only agreed to be­cause I never thought it was go­ing to hap­pen be­came an all-day suf­fer­fest that would rank as one of my fa­vorite rides ever.

As we in­dulged in hard­earned burg­ers and na­chos at the brew­pub, Colleen looked at me and said, “I think we should go to Mex­ico.”

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