By Lukas Brinkerhoff –
The air has cooled making the desert’s morning brisk, the days are pleasant and the evenings are euphoric. It is fall in the desert we know this because of the change of temperature and the fact that there are pumpkins at the grocery store and the middle section is covered in giant spiders and things that go bump in the night. Soon these will be followed by an almost complete avoidance of anything having to do with Thanksgiving in an effort to extend the Xmas shopping season. Before we know it, there will be fake trees lining that same section in the stores, videos of people fighting for the latest gadget and of others just wishing they had a decent meal for dinner.
This time of year is a paradox for me, it’s my favorite time of year, but the holidays grind on me in ways I’m just beginning to understand. It was only a few years ago that I swore them off. I told everyone I wasn’t buying any more gifts and I wouldn’t be accepting them either. Give the money to charity instead. Please. And just like that I had three holidays that used to involve things I despised opened up to me to do what I love, ride my bike in the awesome fall and winter weather of Southern Utah.
It’s not that I hate holidays. I mean, who hates having a day off from work and seeing a few stores close their doors for a day? I certainly don’t. However, I have a hard time celebrating the giving of thanks amidst an obesity epidemic by gorging myself until I can’t move. And then having a piece of pie. Not to mention celebrating a deity, that when in human flesh preached giving away everything, with the worst aspects of consumerism. It just weighs on me.
It only took a couple of years for new traditions to settle in. My wife and I developed our own way of celebrating by creating the Mooseknuckler Holidays.
Thanksgiving. Don’t eat turkey, ride the Goose.
Well, at least that’s how it started out, but with three awesome mesas to pick from, it was hard to say we were thankful for all the riding available to us if we only rode the one. Late November in Southern Utah is about as perfect as it can get for riding. The temperatures are long base layer and knickers worthy and you want to pedal because when you stop, there is a nip in the air. And if I were to be completely honest, which I rarely am, there are few places that can inspire the giving of thanks over a simple meal more than witnessing the sunset over the Zion curtain from the Guacamole trail head.
Christmas. Dance on the pedals like you’re three dancing around an Xmas tree.
The day we celebrate the suffering of Christ has morphed into a hideous metaphor of why that is almost impossible today. The best way to celebrate suffering is to suffer. In that vein, we head out on a long ride that links as many trails as possible. One of the favorites is the BCP to SCRR connector.
Starting at the Navajo Trailhead for the Bear Claw Poppy, head up the Micro Loop to Stucki Springs riding it out to the point and then down to the step over to the dirt road. Pedal the usually dusty road up to the Santa Clara River Reserve and ride all of its possible loops starting with the Rim Loops. Then head up Sidewinder to Suicidal and end with the classic Barrel Roll ride. Now all you have to do is get home. Retrace your pedal strokes back down Stucki and then come down the Bear Claw Poppy as your reward for the long day you just put in.
By the time you hit the trail head, you will feel elation that you rode instead of sitting around the house thinking about all the things you didn’t get and contemplating that feeling of emptiness that always occurs once all the gifts are opened and the wrapping paper has been tossed. If you are religious, pull your tap shoes off and sit on your tailgate sipping whatever it is that you drink. Sit there until the cold gets under your skin and you are shivering. The sun will have gone down and you can revel in the cold as it purifies your soul and opens your mind to whatever it is that you are seeking.
The New Year. Go forth and do that which is epic.
It’s no secret that I like to drink, but the celebrating of starting over by drinking yourself silly and then actually starting the new year with a hangover seems antithetical. After a few bad hangovers together, we decided to instead spend the New Year away and doing something that we would define as an epic start to the New Year. A kind of hard reset, if you will.
Last year we headed south, farther south than St. George, all the way to Black Canyon City. We found a small camping area off of Bumble Bee and made it our base camp. One day we rode north. We rode until our legs were beginning to turn to mush but the reason we flipped around was solely due to the waning light. The weather was around 70 and the trail was majestic. Day one was a climb out and then descending back. The climb is one that you only know you are climbing because the valley keeps getting away from you, but the constant grade reversals in the trail keep you from feeling burnt.
New Year’s Eve we rode from Black Canyon City finding our way around the Black Canyon, across the Agua Fria and riding through a Saguaro forest. Similarly, we rode until we hit the border of how long we would have daylight. And that night, we sat around a fire with some good friends, talked about the stars, had a couple of beers and went to bed just as the red necks were firing off their guns in celebration of midnight.
We awoke on New Year’s Day refreshed and ready to conquer anything that came our way.
There may be lots of reasons for the season. Outside of the axial tilt of the earth, all of them are personal. Mine is that the weather is cooler and it makes for amazing riding. It’s simple, just like turning the pedals of my bike.