What is one to do when life gets a bit overwhelming, the world around getting a bit small, and the weather a lot blah?
Run off for an adventure in the desert -- that's what.
We tried this solution last Thanksgiving, and I ended up stranded on a snowy cliff in Canyonlands, lulled by the thawk-thawk of the emergency blinkers while Chris slugged himself up the hill in search of help. Ah, sweet sweet memories.
Anyway, we've been itching to return to White Rim together ever since. Only this time, even that 20% chance of precipitation kept us away... as that seems to mean 80% chance of feet of snow or flooding rain in the desert. But this weekend, the weather looked PERFECT and perfect it ended up being.
Chris crammed in some last minute packing on Friday (as we only made the final decision to go while sitting at our weekly Starbucks date that morning) while I taught the children. He picked me up from work and we drove the I-70 slog before camping super cozily in the Hotelement.
Hubby has an excellent write-up to recap the adventure, so I'll just throw in my own random memories:
1) The Shafer switchbacks were fun, and by no means would I ever want to ride up them. That seems painful. We saw some really cute mountain goats, which we took to be a good sign since the only other time Chris saw them was on his own first time around the Rim. It was very strange to start a ride by dropping down into something first. Colorado always starts with a big climb -- never a big descent (unless a chair-lift is involved)
2) My knee started to hurt at mile 8... a bad sign because my previous big ride two weeks ago (my first road century) left me unable to stand up straight that night from the knee pain. Despite having knee problems since I was 12, I've never really had bad knee problems biking; however, these last two big rides have been genuinely excruciating. Luckily I learned from the century that the pain doesn't stick around forever, and turning around wasn't an option to me, so we kept going. Both would bother me the rest of the trip and keep me from being able to sleep for the last two nights, but the overall experience was well worth it. There's no doubt that turning around then would've ultimately been more painful than continuing.
3) Our plan was to ride 70ish miles the first day and then the last 30 the second day. Essentially we did all of the hard stuff in one day, minus the last climb and road section.
4) I got extremely overwhelmed around mile 30. The canyon was SO BIG and I knew I wasn't even halfway through the day. I knew I couldn't turn back, didn't want to keep going forward, and generally felt emotionally trumped. Luckily, as he always does, Chris pulled me through it, got me back on my bike, and made me feel better. I'd have lots of peaks and valleys both days, but hubby was the ultimate friend and stayed sweet through all of it.
5) Murphy's Hogback is a heck of a grunt. Luckily there was the promise of lunch carrying me to the top. And Chris helped push my bike up part of it -- that's how sweet he really is.
6) Everywhere we go, no matter where it is, we run into someone Chris knows. It has become the standing joke "who will you see today?" but honestly, it's no joke, it really happens. Just prior to reaching Murphy's, we ride past a guy who says "Hey Chris!" Haha... it's always so funny.
7) The last climb of the first day -- Hardscrabble (i.e. "not-easy-or-fun-scrabble") was hard. I was hot and tired. Sick of pushing my bike up sandy pitches. But I knew that on the other side there lay a piece of ground with our tent's name on it. That kept me going up it. Plus Chris said that once you reach the top, it's all downhill to the campsite. Ok, so there are little uphills, and I sure let Chris know about each one of them. Haha.
8) Camping was great. I've never seen so many stars in my entire life. We even saw the Milky Way clear as could be. Unbelievable sight and perhaps my favorite part of the whole trip. My sleep that night was terrible and quite frustrating, but frankly, how bad can spending the night in a warm canyon really be?
9) Getting up was hard, as I hate getting up in the morning, but I was looking forward to an easier day and then returning home to my pup. Sitting on the bike seat was a horrible horrible experience. It quickly brought back Kokopelli memories and I squeeled in butt-pain as Chris tried to remind me that it does go away after a few minutes. Yowsers. The knees were not happy and pedaling was not pleasant. The view, on the other hand, was stunning down by the river and the terrain refreshingly flat.
Once we reached the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks, climbing actually made my knees feel a little better. As long as I could get into a textbook smooth pedal stroke up the hill, the pain virtually went away. Because of this, the climb was remarkably great. We even saw an airplane flying around inside the canyon -- sketchy for sure.
10) We got to pass the spot where we got the black E stuck last year. Even dry it looked a bit gnarly. Glad we made it out of that one in one piece. In the end, the broken taillight was nothing and our laziness in not fixing it ended up to be a wise decision as that car is now probably a paper-weight somewhere. It was good to revisit the spot and lay those bad memories to rest.
11) The last slog of the trip was a bit irritating. The dirt road that leads to the final paved road was, eh, as I expected. I'd already ridden part of it in March and knew it was fairly boring and generally uphill. Together, Chris and I had some good conversations, snacks, and laughs and it made the time pass relatively quickly. The last paved section was a slog that I don't particularly want to revisit. Sure, there's a big climb and then it's generally down to the car -- but generally means that there are freaking hills thrown in there to make you hate the world. I didn't think we'd ever make it to the car. But eventually we did.
12) I couldn't wait to eat the cheese danish awaiting me in the car. After shoving half of it feverishly in my mouth in my post-ride starvation, I looked down and noticed that the next bite would've been full of mold. Oh ew. Makes my stomach churn even now. Pringles were a good substitute once I saw that nastiness.
The trip, overall, was awesome. The scenery, company, and weather were unbeatable. The vastness of the canyon quickly put life and troubles into perspective, and after initially being quite overwhelming, ended up being just the therapy needed. I have, once again, pushed myself far far beyond my boundaries. The road through your own perceived limitations is one full of ups and downs, tears and joy, pain, exhaustion, and pride. The key is traveling the road with someone who can put up with you through all of it. Someone who will lift you up when you're down, high-five you when you're excited, and distract you through the pain with thoughts of Golden Shepherd puppies. While I probably would never do these types of adventures without Chris, I can't imagine not doing them.
Who would I be if I didn't have the opportunity to see myself totally broken down?
It is all too easy to get wrapped up in life, believing that "here" is all there is out there. Sometimes my world gets consumed by my 26 kids, their problems, their futures, my inability to fix the unfair world that they will grow up in. Now and then, even if it's painful, I just need to drop into a canyon, stare into the Milky Way, be with the love of my life, and Monday morning I return a better teacher, friend, and wife.
Thank you again, Chris, for taking me through canyon and bringing me back up to the mountains.