Friday, February 15, 2013

Your basic 50.

We woke to the restoration of bluebird, but with bodies tired and sore from a few days outside of their 'usual'.  I stumbled in wonder around camp for half an hour admiring the contrast, and I don't just mean between dark and light.  How strangely, beautifully different this place is from any I've ever called home.

On tap for the day = one of my all-time favorite places to ride tech: The 50 Year Trail.  That moniker is sort of a loose catchall for the general area we rode.  I remember hearing Scott and Louis utter the names "Sonorasaurus", "Cherry Tank", "Upper 50", and "Lower 50" at various points through the day--I think those were the actual trail names.  Nomenclature aside, a quick glance up from the trailhead tells most (but only most) of what you need to know: Sonoran desert scenery with a quasi-alpine backdrop.  

Like this:

And the rest of the story?  Louis was our guide.  

If your heart and head lean toward technical riding, if you fear no vegetation, and if you appreciate creative line choices, seek him out, follow him closely, buy him dinner, and tip him well after.  For he will take you places that few have gone and fewer still will appreciate.

This was only my second time riding with Louis as guide.  The general plan is never discussed, but best I can tell Louis takes you to a handful of 'qualifier moves' early on, not just to ascertain your level of skill but also to understand how you deal with failure.  Because it's the kind of place where you (yes, you) could easily break yourself off even if careful, even if everything is going to plan.

Louis has a penchant for lines with consequences, like this one, where the pitch and traction combine in such a way that you *can* ride it clean, but it's unlikely you'll have both wheels on the ground as it happens.  

Little too much front brake and it's going to be ugly, not that it ever is with Louis--he is as clean a rider as I ever get to follow.

This one looks like a basic up move, but what you can't see is the steeeeeeeep roller into it, mandatory manual off the slab and through ocotillo, two quick pedal strokes to the pictured "up", then a gap *immediately* after the up, after which you drop down into more ocotillo.

Many of his lines are like that.  Some see him as a sadist because you spend so much time thrashing through and over pointy veg when riding with him.  I see brilliance--he just doesn't let veg bother him, which opens up soooooooo many creative lines in this, his backyard.

Don't be misled into thinking it was all thrash, bash, and chunk--we had many miles of smooth, fast, swoopy, truly laugh-out-loud singletrack.

Throughout the day we had several mechanicals to attend to: bent der hangers, broken chains, deflated seatpost, loose chainring bolts, another bent der hanger, even a mystery rattle.

He's not wearing Levi's and a sweatshirt because they're breathable.

The bulk of the trail and moves were new to me, which means with each new line Louis cleaned I had to stop, step off the bike, walk it once or twice, then decide whether to commit or pass.  Although I could *see* most of the lines and whether they went or not, that doesn't mean squat.  I figure I committed to ~85% and walked away from the rest.

Gotta leave something for next time, or so I told myself.

The lower we got the more I recognized certain lines or sequences, and the closer I felt to comfortable.  Not that one can ever let their guard down here, nor when following Louis in general.  He has so many lines *perfectly* memorized that what appears simple, basic, obvious, just might have taken him 10 or 15 calculated attempts to learn.  In short, the subtleties in cleaning each line are not apparent from watching him--he's just too smooth.

Scott within his comfort zone on an oldie:

And then *just* outside his zone on another:

Greg, "actively observing":

With the sun balanced delicately atop the Tucson Mountains, about to leave us for the day, we arrived at what I'm henceforth calling the Lame-O Roller.  Because although Scott lives within shouting distance and has had years of opportunity, he has, to date, lamed-out.

Once Scott stepped aside Louis hit it 6 different times, varying the entrance and exit 'just so' with each pass.  I hit it too, but with at best a fraction of the passionate artistry he did.

Thanks Louis--not only for the guide service but for showing us how to build, ride, and care for an unparalleled trail system.

Thanks to *you* for checkin' in.