Monday, May 7, 2012

San Tans by Moonlight

By Brigham Rupp

With the sun already setting while I placed my singlespeed hardtail over the tailgate of my Tacoma, I'm not sure why I thought I would have plenty of light for a ride. But I thought I would. Five minutes later I was at the trailhead with the sun already well below the rolling desert hills in front of me. Black cactus silhouettes gave way to yellow, blending into pink-lit clouds as I started sprinting through the desert.

By the time I cleaned the main climb and arrived in the depths of the San Tan park, it was well dark. Reason said to turn around and head back, but I hadn't had my fill. I knew it would be tricky, but I'd ridden the trail a hundred times and the moon was at 3/4s. I figured I'd be okay and I continued. Within ten minutes, I was riding primarily by feel. There was enough light to see where the trail lead, but the contours and obstacles were invisible. As I rolled along at a slower than normal pace (that felt faster than normal) The dark desert folded around me, wrapping me in heat and noise. Paranoia started creeping in around the edges of my mind: crickets sounding like rattlesnakes; Cactus looking like a lurking coyotes.

Despite all the times I thought I saw something, the wildlife left me alone tonight.

On the home stretch descent, my hands and elbows started to hurt. I realized the pain was from the surprise jolts from unseen rocks and lumps and rises. Then the revelation came. I let out the tension in my arms and loosened my limbs, allowing them to rise and fall with the trail.

Finally, I was really, literally, feeling the trail. Riding by feel! Is this what they mean when they say "feeling the trail"? No longer will my eyes govern the flex of my muscles. My bike will undulate beneath my stance as if on upside-down water. Biking was about to get even more fun!

While coasting through the trailhead and placing the bike back in the truck, I thought about the little piece of earth I had just joined. Me and it alone, in some sort of mutual understanding. I was welcome there, even a part of the desert. The ground was glad to have me. The cacti and bushes were pleased to see me weave around their spines. The mountains felt the tickle of my tires on their backs, and the insects called after the squeek of dusty brakes.

I have to get home, I have to go to bed and get up for work. But I'll be back, friend.

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