Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Day 24: I Surprise Myself

#YourTurnChallenge was a 7-day blogging challenge started by Seth Godin's Special Projects Lead Winnie, which I was honored to take part in. And I'm gonna keep going!!! I've decided to extend the challenge to 30 days. I will blog everyday from Jan 19th until Feb 17th. Wish me luck and happy reading.

The first moments of my weekend adventure would be set with the pace of forgetfulness. Who would have thought that being a bit absentminded would affect the blissful turn out to an epic weekend. But this was Single Speed Arizona, anything was possible

Friday morning I woke at the butt crack of dawn after a few hours of sleep. It was time to hit the road. After the 6+ hour drive I arrived at my buddy Scott’s house in Mesa. Scott and I were fellow Pirates from Nebraska but he had branched out to become part of the Drunk Cyclist, this years host for Single Speed Arizona. SSAZ is a yearly weekend event that is filled with lots of beer, crazy shenanigans and a mountain bike race. For the race you must ride a single speed bicycle. That means no gears.

Once Scott and I loaded up his truck I ran inside his place for a quick pee break. This would mark the ‘moment. I would forget my bag with my cell phone and wallet. I won’t come to this realization until we were almost to the campsite, a town away. My first thoughts of concern were for my blog posts. Once again I out smarted myself. I had already written my posts and scheduled them to be delivered. I had hoped to re read them one last time before sending them out but it was outta my hands now. Guess the single speed gods were making sure that my first SS (single speed) event would be lived to the fullest.

The first night was filled with setting up camp, a night trail ride to registration, bands, beers, whisky and would end with a uhaul full of bikes, bikers and keg stands. I was starting to feel the stuck up, law abiding LA stick that had started to work its way up my ass last year start to loosen. I could now start to relax while we sat around a group sized bond fire sipping intoxicating beverages.  

The next morning was damn early. There is this amazing ability that I lack, to function in the AM especially after a night of drinking. SSers are dripping with this talent. As the sky was just starting her wake we were loaded on the shuttle ready to head to the race start.  I needed coffee.

As we arrived to the start o the race there was a pep talk with instructions, don’t be a dick on the trail, heard. At about 9:30am we were given the go to take off. Looking like a herd of crazed Banshees we speed down the main road in a long flowing line to the trailhead. My nerves were outta control and legit, I hadn’t ridden more than 5 miles of singletrack in the past couple of months. I felt I was in way over my head. I told myself that all I needed to do was make it half way then I could chill, drink beer and relax. You can do this, you have nothing to prove, so just bike and take in the nature.

As I hit the singletrack I realized I would be hiking instead of riding, a lot! As I got down on myself for my lack of skills I caught up with the Back Of The Pack Crew. This group of bad ass, big hearted, crazy fun and sweet dudes (and ladies) ride for the pure love of riding. I awkwardly hiked my bike over the rocky creek crossing to sit with them. As I sat catching my breath the crew was just chilling, taking a moment and enjoying the views. I also caught up with my new friend Amy. She informed me that everyone was walking as much as I was that no body gave a shit and that we were going to have a kickass day. I felt the stress, nerves and anxiety fall into the creek and wash away.  It was gonna be a rad day I thought. And with a smile I took a swig off someone’s flask that was filled with the most delicious Rye. The day would continue like this. I had no phone, no computer, no contact with the outside world, had no idea what mileage we were at or even where we were. I couldn’t take pictures, tweet, facebook, instagram or text. I was forced to be in the moment and I relished it.

 During a typical bike race people obsess about how many miles they have gone, how many miles to go and how fast every mile was. This race was much different. This would mark the first time that I’ve ever done a race that no one cared about the mileage. Actually no one had a computer (to track mileage, time, and elevation) on their bikes. I was in the middle of nature with a bunch of positive, informative and protective bikers. I would end up having the best ride I’ve ever had and finally ride my ride, not anyone else’s. I was enjoying every view with every moment.

Once I rolled into the half way point I felt a need to finish the ride. Even though I had reached my goal and this had been the most difficult trail I wanted to ride on so that I could spend more time with these super rad guys. I also didn’t want to miss out on seeing the rest of this amazing Arizona singletrack.

The terrain, the beauty of Cave Creek singletrack continued to blow me away as we started the second half. The crew started to dwindle down. It would end up being just four of us, Frog, Jolly, Joey and me. As we rode along the guys would point out plants, rocks, minerals, mountains. I had a private guided tour of their back yard. Awesome. When the sun started to set the sky wrapped us in the warmth of pinks, oranges and blues. Taking a moment to look back and take it all in my bones started to fill with a euphoric peaceful feeling. With the visions of beauty fading to black the mental challenge of not giving up set in. We rode on for about 2 more hours in the dark passing cows, brushing up to a bull, getting dive bombed by an own and crossing paths with a Colorado toad. I was fatigued, bonking (mentally and physically shutting down) and ready to be done yet giddy with the idea that I actually was doing this.

Back of the Pack Crew

It took 11 hours to finish but I came in DFL for womens. Dead Fucking Last, which is a big deal in the SS world. Where have you been all my life, I am always last, I could be pro!!! Okay, moving on. This will mark my biggest challenge and accomplishment on the bike to date. What’s more important is that I made a ton of new friends and spent time with the bike in nature. I got outta my comfort zone, let go of society and truly lived in the moment. The bike is constantly teaching me the ways of the world, this day it was the guys in the back of the pack with the lesson plan. They reminded me why we all ride bikes, for the pure love of riding. It also reminded me of why I write, metal smith and travel, for the pure love of it.

Thank you SSAZ, Drunk Cyclists, Back of the Pack Crew, Scott, Amy, Frog, Jolly, Joey and many more for a weekend full of letting go to be in the moment with no consequences and to just piss in the wind to see what happens.

 *I'd love to hear from you, have questions? Comments? Please contact me at casey [at] caseyshepparddesigns [dot] com Thank you again for reading*  

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