“Far into the west lies the hidden conglomerate of stone towers, standing rock, and the sandy, forgotten floors of The Maze. Remote and desolate and…and…”
“What the hell are you talking about man!? Pedal!”
I pedal in silence for a few minutes. Listening to the lyrics of whatever is blaring into my ears, or savoring the mental holiday from my own ongoing editorial barrage. But it does not take long. Thoughts start to creep back from the depths and then, almost unknowingly, I’m at it again.
“Hayduke country. Open and vast and deadly. Blackbrush, cholla, sage. Wide and mysterious. Dropping into the subterranean world of the White Rim I cannot help but feel as if I am standing with one foot in that dark and evil Third World the Hopi ascended from. A world where demons incessantly work to escape, to follow. To terrorize.”
“Oh come on.”
“Now you’re just making stuff up.”
I turn and look over my shoulder for the umpteenth time, expecting, always expecting, Rick to be there, charging forward. Running me down. Nobody there. Not yet. For nearly three hours we had ridden together. Side by side. Single file. Yo-yoing across the plateau. A little conversation. But mostly in mutual silence. Each of us settling into the private rhythm of our own cadence. Our own thoughts. My silent speechifying continues.
“Individual liberty. That’s what made this nation thrive. The free market!”
“Not now. Please. Not here!“
“Why not here? During an individual time trial? It’s freedom, in microcosm.”
“Pedal. Shut up. And just… pedal.”
I hadn’t meant to leave Rick behind. It happened in a flash of terrestrial and musical confluence, when a particularly appropriate song with a driving beat flooded into my ears at exactly the moment I started down a long, rolling, wonderful descent. A wide grin spread across my salty face as a sparkling energy coursed through my legs. Euphoria. Splendor and awe. The White Rim and musical ecstasy.
Love that will not betray you,
dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man
you were made to be.
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
At my heart you see,
The beauty of love
as it was made to be.
Tears streamed down my face. Not from emotion. Not entirely, anyway. But from wind and speed and freedom. The overwhelming sense of space and time and the extraordinary and joyous world filled me with energy and life. No more brooding editorializing. No more imitation Edward Abbey monologuing. No more economics—thank the Maker. Only freedom and dirt and speed. Rock and sand, rain, and wind. The Blue Dome.
I looked back. Rick was gone.
Alas, I was not wrong to expect his return. For some hours later he, and Brad, rode upon me suddenly, and with seeming ease, halfway up the terrible and beautiful Shafer switchbacks.
I finished the 100 mile sojourn just in time. The playlist had been exhausted. The pavement beyond the National Park the same. Somewhere on the wind, the smell of bar-b-que. Fatigue, mental, and otherwise, started to dominate my brain and body. And once again, thoughts—not entirely my own—were turning over in my addled skull. Although this time, not exactly unwelcome.
“Life without music would be an intolerable insult.”