Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Ride Home

Week four of the Fat-Bike Ski-Mo Sufferfest. My hands and feet ached constantly, along with the screaming saddle sore on my taint.  This is a sufferfest, and we suffer until it's fun, or we suffer the whole way home.

In the land of wolves.
Riding through Yellowstone on the return ride was 5º with a -15º windchill. Once again the wind was in my face, serving me an ice-cream headache between the sunglasses and helmet.

I had 50+ miles to ride to get through Yellowstone Park. Camping anywhere besides Mammoth would be illegal, and I had been warned by the rangers before.

Pushing hard across a wild and beautiful landscape, it felt raw and primal to be cycling past bison, elk, and a pack of six wolves. I saw eagles, bighorn sheep, foxes, moose, ducks, geese, coyotes, muskrats, beaver, hawks, herons, ermine, mice, squirrels, ravens, a few birds I didn't identify, rabbits, deer,and mountain goats. Then I howled at the wind. I love this place.

The ride home is when I let go, and truly savour the experience.

In the winter, the cold bonds all life in the wild together. It is the time of death, and the hunter Orion is highest in the night sky.

At the end of the day's ride, with the moon overhead, and the temperature dropping again below zero, I stripped naked, and soaked in the hot springs. My mind wanted to explode as I took in the night sky. Was this my reward? I drifted off, and imagined myself becoming part of the landscape. A man, wild in nature again.

Days later, I got my ass kicked, riding 14 miles up Bozeman pass from Livingston. Yeah, it's not a steep pass, but it's long, and the wind is in your face almost every time.

How many times have I done this ride with ski gear? Six, seven, eight? I've lost count, and think how absurd it is I'm riding a five inch wide tire fat bike. Getting slower, not faster.

Haven't I learned anything? Maybe I should buy a mo-ped, move to the beach, and pick up surfing!

The Black Keys keep rocking on the earphones, but I log a slow pace. I'm fighting the wind to stay upright, and cursing to make sure it's not a one sided battle.

"Is that all you got, you fucker?"

There's no shame. I'm sure of that. The wind doesn't care, and will take you down if you let it.

Mind numbing fight with the elements. 

After three hours, I'm still miles from the top. I scream. This is the way home, and I'm not stopping. I must look like a mad man with tourette's, screaming profanities at nothing.

Doesn't matter, because there's nobody around. It's lonely on the bike. Days on end of sitting in the saddle, growing weaker, getting mad at the wind and the traffic, pushing ahead, wondering how far till water, or camp, and always thinking about food.

It's a miserable way to taste freedom. But keeps me coming back.

Making it over Bozeman Pass on the frontage road, I chose to ride the long way home on the state highway, over Jackson Creek, and down to Bridger Canyon. This added another four miles of hill climbing, and all with a mind-numbing headwind.

Making over the last big hill. I screamed, "Yee-haw!" The Bridger Mountains shown bright in the afternoon sun. I felt comforted by the familiar sight. I was close to home.

The big tires lumbered down the pass, bouncing like a large tracker gaining speed. My taint screamed louder, as I tried to find a comfortable place to sit in the saddle.

Why am I doing this? I don't enjoy pain, and I'm not impervious to the cold.

Is it the adventure? The need to feel alive? The struggle? The unknown? I surely don't know, beyond the abstract sense of that which guides me, I'm an addict. Addicted to flow.

Catching a tailwind into Livingston.

Another cold morning for a bike ride.

 Feeling the flow. 

Elk crossing.

Ice on the Yellowstone River.

Riding with a full moon.


  1. I find it very interesting that we both found a way to use taint in our latest creative n wild endeavor. In the genes? We'll have to ask mom and dad. ;)