Who the Hell is maadjurguer?

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I like to ski, mountain bike, drink beer, cook and listen to any jam band I can get my hands on; all while making a complete ass of myself. Hopefully this catharsis is as interesting to others as it is to me.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The camel, the lion and the child

Riding the AZT 300 has represented for me, a series of complex wanderings upon wonderings. It's much more than the ride...it's always been about something else.....perhaps one day, it will just be about the ride. After my second DNF ended in a heap of salted sweat, cramps and puke; something subtle happened.

What is this, this life we seek? Is it the defined path we find ourselves upon, riding ever northward. Or is it the virgin grassy slope which wraps around our field of view; engulfing us in the harsh landscapes of our minds? 

Within this thought, I move forward in thirst, laden by the mass of water which I've carried for so long; sloshing around yet entirely forgotten. The trail writhes up and down, left and right, as a serpent in the hawks talon. It goes only one direction, yet turns every which way until it dives down forever........ 

The flowers along the path grow into the unrepentant sun; willing towards a higher place, away from the eroded fragments of yesterday. They display a power to create something for themselves.....I, take from it its beauty and am in turn, strengthened with a power......the power of wonder.....wonder which bends my reality....

The sunset on the first night, refraction en masse, bends much more within my self, my I.  It stops my legs from pedaling.... my dusty rotors squeal out into the calm desert night as my bike comes to a halt.  I pull  my camera from my pack and peer westward over the Santa Rita's through the viewfinder. "Click"......."Click"......"Click".......the sound of the shutter snapping open and close does violence to the silent night. The abrasive rustling sound of my pack fills my ears as I lower it to the ground....feeling the weight come off my back.  As I raise the camera to my eye once more....I pause, viewing the colors through that tiny glass....and lower my camera to my side.  I stand there, mesmerized....unladen. For what lasted just a few minutes, I watched the refractive show play out on a canvas of moisture in the atmosphere.....it is here I listened to the silence, uninterrupted by nothing but my breath.

I wheel off into the sunset taking care to watch the newly darkened path in front of me....my eyes still trained on the glowing embers of a blackened ridgeline.  As the sky deepens above and the fire fades from the mountain ridge, I notice movement from my left....fast.  Just above the tops of the grass, dark ghostly outlines appear out of the ink of grassy darkness beyond.....featureless shapes running towards me and across my path.   A pack of javalina spring in front of my wheel, disappearing back into the savanna darkness to my right....shortly after this moment, I lie down and fall asleep in the desert night to the sound of early summer crickets.

In the earliest light of dawn, I roll over on the rocky ground to find a weathered and bleached skull of a javalina roughly 3 feet from my head; strong, sharp tusks extending from its solid jaw.

On this new day, I no longer felt the weight of yesterday.  Such is the norm for a bikepack....the burden of the first day, driven out by the exhaustion and palliative peace beneath stars, is replaced by a new world.  On this landscape, I take from what is in front of me when I want.  I drink from the waters where I see fit, resting under the shade for longer than the previous day's self would have allowed.

Beneath the cottonwood trees, a symphony of rustling leaves play soothing sonnets to the wind, as I remember the previous days heat. The weight of yesterday and the path I rode seemed so long ago as I sat in the cool, moist sand next to the Cienega. The smell of a desert stream is like no other.....and I take it in, knowing full well that the protection of this oasis extends no farther than a few yards beyond the tree line.


My decisions at this point became clearer about riding the same path as I did the previous day.  More of yesterday, will I find today.....more ruins and memorials to the past washed from the desert, now gone, will I see. Yet as I ride off into the dryness and unaccommodating shade of the bajada, I no longer feel as I did previously. The race for me ends in Tucson. As I ride forward.....always forward.....my mind releases every bit of bondage I felt the previous day and I become lighter. I now ride for me and not for a goal I carried in the past.

In the weeks that follow, I contemplated this turn. I climbed high into the mountains and shared in the views which stretch forever over the desert I previously found myself.

 I peered upwards into the sky through the vanilla scented arms which warm in the sun.....

....and I watched as inquisitive children discover new games.....

Bones from the winters kill of deer, cast on the forest floor, now playthings for those who know nothing of burden. They write their own rules, and operate as an innocent and "self-propelling wheel"....tibia-fibula fragment in mouth.....

Upon waking in camp the next day, I peered outside my tent, upwards, into the alpine. As the clouds lowered in a soupy grey mass....I remarked to Staci that this is what the sky always looks like before a snow. As if on cue, the first snow flakes fell on us from above.....drifting slow at first, growing into a steady state of pea-like graupel and dendritic flakes.

Later that day, I return to a spot where the Spotted Coral Tongue Orchid and Rocky Mountain Iris grow, finding snow instead.....

Watching Graham play in the falling snow, we observe his inquisitive nature and child-like behavior.....how wonderful it must be to see the world through such a lens, constantly present and forgetting........

.....a reflection of us, captured in his eye.....and in his eye....we see the possibility of us, as the child.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Unplugged

Recovery takes on all forms....active recovery being the form I needed the most after a long and hard week of work on the bike.  A slower form of movement and an appreciation for a different pace has provided for a venue fueled by Friday-night leftover pizza and Saturday-night baked goods. It's a wander through time and space that I've learned to love once again.....unplugged from the bike for a day.....I rediscover why I fell in love in the first place.

Venturing out each Sunday for the past month, I've fallen for the Santa Catalina's all over again.  Her protected heart of canyons harbor such dense life zones and micro-climates, that to walk in her presence for more than an hour, will bring you to new worlds.....

I unplug from my routine...one foot in front of the other...no bike to pedal.   I climb on past the point where I stop thinking of the bike and start remembering the music.....the sweet, sweet music that only the desert makes when you absorb it for hours on end with no distraction.  It's the wind-whistling sound you hear when you hold your breath next to a saguaro and hear it speak back in tones nearly imperceptible......

I'd long forgotten this song....in fact, I'd forced myself to forget it.  Riding at paces too fast to hear, I moved beyond it's tune, only taking in it's sound when I consciously chose to.  Here, I am forced to listen to it exclusively....and I am moved.  I have unplugged my headphones and hit pause.....and in doing so, I have rediscovered something......something vast.....something amazing.

Things I tuned out, still speak to me....only now I can listen.....my self imposed distraction no longer, I listen to her babbling streams flowing over worn yet strong slabs of mylonitic granite.  Unyielding, yet transformed into smooth and curved lyrical forms from the ever-present influence of water flowing over her face for eons, she sings back.....

The tinijas altas, as I like to think of them, hold all memories throughout the seasons.  They hold the tune during the stanza of drought and in the crescendo of a monsoon storm.....they persist only through the graceful influence of water which has shaped this place....and us....for we are creatures from the waters and we are drawn to its music....always....

As I look up and focus upon the details of your skyline, the far-off pines at elevation come into focus above the cliffs and spires. Like keys on a keyboard, your white fingers of granite stand in contrast to the darkness of the evergreen forests which blanket your slopes.  Your fingers play upon the tableau in front of me.....I hear the chords you play within my soul....

Stepping back from the bike on these Sundays, I realize that we all need to unplug from the music that plays within us like a favorite song....and open our hearts to a new tune. Foreign at first, a new sun rises until we realize the landscape never changed.....it was us that was moving through it all along.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Irrational Circumstance of Unwarranted Fear

I’ve been itching to get back out on a bikepack for a while. I've been consumed by a work/training/social schedule and have been neglecting the most crucial part of any training program for a multi-day ride….the mental mind-melt composed of frustration, demoralization, empty fuel stores, exhaustion and the inability to turn that frown up-side down. Given all of this, I carved two days out of my schedule to break myself…and there is no better place to start out on that deconstruction process, than the AZT of the Canelos. 

A friend dropped me off on Friday morning at Parker Canyon Lake…a beautiful calm day with blue bird skies met me there with a gentle breeze out of the south and no hint of weather to harass me. The harassment would come at the hands of the first 30 miles. Rolling off onto that crumbly downhill from the trailhead, I heard the vehicle pull away as my thoughts turned to riding the 100 some odd miles and 10,000 plus vertical feet of climbing back to Tucson.

In the first 10 minutes, a tear in the fabric of confidence developed. A pull of the thread and an unraveling of the woven form of perfection found itself into my brain as I kicked off a lose boulder as I rode around a right-handed climbing switchback; leaving me on my ass and dazed, seat rotated 80 degrees to the right and my bag torn partially loose from my handlebar. "Damn", I thought, "not a good way to start".

As I continued on into the world of the Canelo’s, where dreams of flow are abandoned and lay in ruin, the hills did their thing and ate me alive from the inside out. It starts with that little tug, like a scab you just can’t resist picking….and pick you do, until your mind lies open and raw…vulnerable to the doubt.

Doubt that eats at you with every turn, climb and HAB. "Surely I should be making more progress than this"! The stresses of my life come spilling from the dam; busted and crumbling like the trail beneath my feet and tires…..I can’t hold the thoughts back any longer. This is an awful place to attempt to find peace; the crumbling topography that steals from you your energy, providing little. It takes from you, returning only pain if you let it. To find peace here is to let yourself be beat and accept it like the Light Brigade, "Theirs not to reason why....". Yet I purposely wonder this time, stubbornly holding onto the myth I constructed for myself that transformation can happen in the Canelo’s, knowing full well the transformation happens only after you finish the Canelo’s.

The flood from the dam overwhelms me as the sweat drips from my forehead. My cursing form searches higher, slower and begrudgingly onward. Unsatisfactory light, a dry landscape and lack of motivation create a scenario where the only purpose my 35mm camera serves is to weigh me down…..yet my thoughts are far heavier.

I must continue, because I have no retreat…..I was dropped here and to get home means I work my way across this fractured landscape. Up and over the initial ridge, descending into the first valley and being sucked down into the basement, only to heave back up onto the next ridge…a ridge I call Barbacoa. Named after the immigrants who leave their cans of shredded meat next to this shredded ridge of death on their journey north for better lives. I leave only sweat and effort…and a shredded psyche.

Still, I find much to be appreciative of in these hills; though fleeting in their joy for the few moments I study their rocky form, I find relaxation and peace before the toil begins anew. Flowing out of this maze of negativity, I am thankful for the opportunity to have traversed through here yet another time with nothing more than a broken pedal which I fix on the side of the trail.

As I make my way north to the Santa Rita’s, I stop at the Sonoita gas station and buy some burritos for the next day’s breakfast and lunch….tastes I know well from my previous AZT300 attempt. I know I will go farther this time without the death mud and sideways sleet that met me last time….but much work must be done to turn that thought into reality.

The singletrack of the AZT in the Santa Rita’s is much tamer than the Canelo’s and while it can be herky-jerky on its own, my perspective for having endured the Canelo’s earlier in the day is now altered. Every climb is fundamentally rollable, every descent is aesthetically beautiful and the flow in the grasslands of the Sonoran highlands is positively Elysian; me flying above it all like a raptor in flight. 


Moving beyond Kentucky Camp, I push into more HAB out of Helvitia Road, stopping to photograph the fading light of day…shadows which grow long in a light which warms by the minute. 

The filtered sun beams through ridges of juniper, casting an incandescent glow onto the tops of grasses which pulse like waves on the ocean I ride…each top glowing with the fire of a lantern element, golden and dream-like.

A dream which is interrupted by yet another primal instinct which starts creeping in….hunger in my stomach, a dropping temperature and a quickening of dusk. Bivy sites are studied on the topo chart, passed over when I reach them…and the process continues 3 times more….until the topographic expression on paper fits my perceived expectations. I find a bivy with clear line of sight of a valley below, on a pass which will capture the first warming light of day to warm my bones after a cold nights sleep.

A sense of calm now comes over me like a warm blanket….your toil is over for today. Now you dine on the falling day and coming stars….

Several times through the night, I wake as I often do….taking stock in the movement of Orion tracking through the sky….aiming at me always….

The dawn comes with a tangerine glow spread like a layer of marmalade over the craggy eastern skyline. 2 sparrows buzz my prone position on this hilltop, flying east and fast, issuing a whistling sound from the tips of their wings….I laugh in wonder, watching them fly onward into the coming dawn. Wisps of cirrus capture the movable veil of rose and amethyst that tell me it’s time to pack up and ride. As I stand facing east, moving my feet in motions to warm myself, the first ray pierces the limestone ridge to my east and shines onto my face….my chest begins to warm, and I smile.


The shadows of my hilltop project onto the hillside to my west….growing. This is my hilltop, I am the only human I can see…..all around me, birds, coyotes, bobcat and snakes share the view…but I control it all with my eyes in silence, contentment, and love……I control nothing beyond this, and in this realization, my sought after transformation is complete.

The rest of the day could be described as one continuous thread of flow and euphoria….the HAB comes and goes with not a single thought. Not positive, not negative…it just is. The joy I feel is confined to the day, the beauty and the love….the pollution of stress, the insignificance of worries and the fear of things I cannot control is now gone.

The irrational circumstance of unwarranted fear has left its mark.; a dichotomy in days, a ride of contrasts and a changed mind tell the story….a story I will forget someday, only to repeat the lesson anew…..I long to hold onto this lesson a little bit longer this time.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The movable veil

My mistress winter has taken me south to new trails. Trails seldom ridden and others familiar, yet new.  With all that the festering neon distraction has to offer most of humanity, I am reminded that I am not the "most" part of that failed equation.  I can't say "Never" when I say that I'll never live in Phoenix again, but my time away from the city has convinced me that it's a mass of humanity that is festering and is a significant distraction from the true matters of the heart.  The matters that create the passion, the art and the love within all of us; they must be followed, or we die inside a slow death.  I am reborn....once again.

On my path, I've started going long once again.  Let my unicorn socks be the proverbial gauntlet thrown to the ground...and this, my letter of intent. I will do The 300 once again.  This time, I have plans.......plans provided by The Mindful Athlete

A storm begins to clear up high above 7000ft, yet the desert below basks in the warm light....the change in perspective is simply a matter of where you look, how you look and choose to ride.

Looking up and climbing where you dream can get you away from the city and take you to some amazing places if you only dare to dream big enough....and pack a lunch for the effort.

These are new places where the gusts of wind and time have left the Arizona Trail quenched from the effort and ready for something new to make it's mark. My tires leave their imprint over the wind washed and rain dimpled dust left fresh from yesterdays storm. Climbing up here in search of my dream, I leave my mark on this trail again, for the first time, and it too leaves its mark on me.....smiles and feelings of amazement fill my soul with every twist and turn......

I climb up over a ridge wondering what is on the other side only to find beauty as expected, yet one which feels new.  The amazement I feel in the snow white needles of a cactus in the flat light leave me searching for the words.....

Other button cacti appear on the trail. If not for a feeling that I needed to slow down to soak it all in, I would have missed this beauty with the pink coral center.....

.....the heart of which becomes infinitely complex the more I focus and look within....the intertwined spines support each other in ways I tried to count, until I give up from the futility and realize that to appreciate the indescribable beauty of some things is good enough....just enjoy the moment that has chosen you to be here.

Trails that I've ridden before, also appear to be washed in a newness that have otherwise escaped my notice on past rides.....

The giants of the desert stand against a blue sky; a sky punctuated with the moisture flowing up from the south and crashing into the topography of a sky island at 9000ft asl......

The trail that I've ridden before, is now the most velcro-like, tacky surface I've ever ridden.  The faster I go, the more it grips me, holding me close to her surface.  I lean my handlebars over in ever tighter turns and yet I can't break my tires loose....she has a grip on me like never before and I yell out in amazement with every thrill bending turn around cholla and shindagger studded cliff bands....

These rides are the ones you never want to stop....where your food and water stores run low because you go out for another detour....and another. My mistress winter looks over it all, an icy redoubt from on high; pines frosted from the storm and shrouded in a movable veil of clouds and light...and inspiration. Never exposing herself for too long or completely, her mystery changes with every turn of the trail.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Succubus

I could not take any more....so I popped smoke and called for an evac out of the festering neon distraction. I had become combat ineffective, a shell of the person I'd spent so many miles building up. It's amazing to me that after a year of laying off the distance, the fire to go long never went out.  It ate at me, clawing my insides until I wanted to scream from the angst of holding it in. So I ran, packed the only things that matter to me, and went south to better trails; leaving behind everything else not required to bike, ski or take care of my dog. Nothing else would be required, because nothing else, IS required. I had compromised myself based on a faulty premise....so I fixed it. Every time I make a move, my footprint gets smaller, more refined, more efficient and reflective of the core that is me.  I am left now with everything I truly need....and it all fits in a truck and a trailer.

She draws from me a level of energy every time, the serpentine track of tan underlying a sea of grass. The sound of my freshly lubed Chris King Hub rings into my ear along with the staccato crunch-snap of quartz and feldspar sand beneath my tires.....

The intent in my latest move was to be closer to the siren that calls me toward the rocks.  I can't escape her, so I might as well join her....a fatal dance that I accept.  I'm a big believer of training like you fight, and fighting like you train. If I intend to ride 300, I will dance with her, every day, until I can read her every curve in my mind, anticipate her temperamental moods and lead with authority.

The climb up here was proper, out of the lower Sonoran Desert and into the Sonoran Highlands....her smooth curves cutting in and out of the ridgeline, traversing cliffbands and cutting across vertical curved reefs of Shindaggers....

As my mind wandered along with my bike, I find myself in that long state that I often seek.  A place where the time disappears and the shadows move around me as the sun arcs low against the winter sky.  It's a state of consciousness which is defined by nothingness....no worries, no thoughts and no pain.  Just breath.....heartbeat.....and pedal stroke.  How I long to live like this!

My lunch break is taken in a copse of Juniper which act as a windbreak to the cutting western blow, chilling me to the bone once I stop. I position myself between two granite boulders in the sun, absorbing the thermal radiation flowing from the mass, and chew on my lunch....working fast and hard to gulp it down so that I may get moving once again.....time spent stopped is time spent cold.

Turning for home, I cycle across the savanna, framed by massifs which hold the early winters snow just below an infinite sky blue.  A blue which drives the wind against me, slowing my return.....the succubus extracts her final cut for the day.  How I long to be back, paying from my body, her personal toll.