A few years ago now, my friend Joe Parkin guest-edited Dirt Rag magazine, and he asked me to write a story for it. With Dirt Rag sadly gone and the story likely to disappear into my magazine pile forever before long, I decided to put it here for safekeeping.
This is a story about bikes and friends and recalcitrant trails, and the ways that our worlds collide in ways we never quite expect.
I have included Joe P’s original introduction, because it made me laugh at the time, and it still does. I reproduced this thing from my original file, so any errors belong to me. Don’t blame Joe. He’s totally innocent. The Oxford commas, for example, all mine.
My friend Jen See has a big brain—as in Ph.D. big. Despite that, she writes a lot of stuff about bikes. When she’s not writing about bike-related things, she surfs. A couple of years ago, she gave me a copy of Chas Smith’s Welcome to Paradise, Now Go to Hell, which is a totally awesome read, by the way. [Jen: Heh, that’s where my copy went!] Recently, she went on a media trip that included a trail that I don’t like at all. She didn’t either. Mostly. Though she ended up finding something positive. I asked her to write a piece that felt like Chas Smith [Like I could really ever ghostwrite Chas!] but was still completely Jen See [That part, I can do, for better or worse]. I think she did it. —Joe Parkin
We’d driven out to the desert with mountain bikes and beers, the necessary ingredients for a weekend of trouble making. Up a muddy road, the campsite sat high on a mesa overlooking the torrid landscape of southern Utah. We pitched tents and pulled cactus thorns from our fingers. Clouds billowed overhead, promising a future storm. I didn’t like the look of that, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Sometimes I regret my life choices.
I went out to get some photos to finish up a project on Friday. Everyone dreams about golden hour and lens flair is hella trendy. But you know what I like even better? A nice, thick, coastal fog. No dumb shadows to get in the way. Soft, mellow whites. And deep, beautifully saturated colors. I mean, I know saturated colors aren’t exactly trendy either. But I love ’em. So fuck trends anyway.
You’ll get to see the photos from this project along with some words soon. This railroad track actually has nothing to do with it. I just happened to see it along the way. We have a lot of railroad tracks in coastal California.
If you need some comic relief, I highly recommend watching the video clip in this next one. It’s funny, and kind of endearing. Adam Sandler says he’s terrible at surfing. Then goes on to explain just what happened the last time he paddled out.
Click for the video, stay for some words about surfing Malibu and etiquette. Also, I have so gotten shut out at Malibu. But I can never resist the temptation to head down and try it once in a while. So dreamy, you crazy crowded right-hand point break place. So dreamy.
Also, some bikes. I went to Rally’s team training camp and I did the usual interviews. Training camp interviews can be really amazing. You have time, for one thing. You can sit there in the rental house on the rental couch and really talk to someone. But there is a certain same-ness to the narrative. The beginning of a new season is always hopeful. The athletes you talk to, they have goals and plans. They all want to be better than last year.
To find a way to make each story distinctive and to find a way to illuminate the individual becomes the challenge of these things. For this story, I sat at the kitchen counter as Matteo Dal-Cin made dinner for his teammates.
I’m heading out to the desert this week. I’m taking a film camera which is going to be so weird. I don’t really do film? But I guess now I do. Also, I’m taking Edward Abbey and John McPhee. I’m supposed to ride bikes out there, too. That’s a lot of things.
desert spring. sgarro national park. tucson, arizona.