The car sped northward. Into the storm. The grey and swirling clouds gathered above, but no rain fell. Behind us, to the south, St. George. Church Rocks, Starvation Point, Zen. My legs ached. My stomach growled. How long had it been since I’d eaten? 1 hour at least. Three days of riding with—no, chasing—national champions around the desert had unleashed the food monster. Hungry, relentless, and pitiless. Feed me! I did my best to silence its persistent, nagging, notifications. More!
Our three day assault on the trails of St. George was over. Camp Lynda 2011. A million miles of dirt and rock and sun. Nirvana. Zion. The perfect singletrack, recently healed from floods and roaring rains, yawned into the sunshine, soaking up the light eagerly. Not unlike the blinking, pale-legged riders that squinted under its welcome glare. Mud became sand. Sand sapped and grabbed tires. Riders became hikers. But only briefly. The red rock of the desert reflected the winter light, dazzling and bright. Winter? Here? The dormant barrel cactus, creosote, yucca, and sagebrush painted the desert floor in a muted, pale conglomerate of brown and green and yellow. On the horizon the Pine Valley mountains towered in snow-capped wonderment. Like the La Sals of Moab, or the Henry’s of The Maze the Pine Valley mountains erupt from the depths of the low desert, shocking, abrupt, deliberate. Obvious from everywhere.
Time melted into the routine of ride, eat, sleep, ride. I could get used to that—Ride. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
Noah slept in the car. 15 years old and equal parts talent and determination. 15 and faster than I’ve ever been. Will ever be. But even he was spent. Everyone was—are. Tired, groggy, elated. I closed my eyes and tried to rest. But I could see only dirt and rock and sand speeding under wheels. Bright blue sky, the distant Gooseberry and Little Creek mesas.
Starvation Point is empty. An edge on the edge. Void. In all directions there is only more of the same. Scrubby brush and round bald rocks. Some volcanic and blackened, others white and soft. And yet others yellow, orange, and green with lichens and bacteria. The emptiness of the land is haunting. The occasional and isolated, incomprehensible human-inhabited trailer only adds to the off-kilter obtuseness. Home of Herbert and Edwina McDunnough. The openess of the rolling plateau is contradictory to the crowded, folded rock of the Green Valley mesas and the singletrack of Rim Reaper, Barrel Roll, and Zen. Instead of ledgy, switchbacks, there is only horizon. Bleak and monotonous. Deadly and beautiful.
We pulled into a gas station. Nowhere, Utah. In the filthy, grime crusted bathroom there was a dented and scratched aluminum vending machine selling cheap prophylactics and headache remedies. The use of the former invariably and inevitably leading to the impenetrable necessity of the latter. Two birds. One stone. The storm waned. And again, we sped northward. After cresting one of infinite number of rolling hills between here and there, we were confronted with the southern slopes of Mt. Nebo. Shocking. Sudden. Buried in snow. Rising 11,928 feet above sea level. The highest, and most southern of the Wasatch peaks. The towering, gloomy scene is stark and grim after days of sunshine and warmth. Of red desert, sandstone, and scratchy, thorny brush.
Dirt still persists in my shoes and is caked to my knobby, if under-inflated tires. There is mild sunburn on my face. The glove line on my wrist resembles mid-summer, rather than mid-winter. I feel hungover. Agitated. Worn out. And hungry (yes for more food) for the desert and the endless, cascading tablelands and tawny rock of the northern reaches of the Mojave desert. The skittering lizards and the creosote and the snowy, illogical laccolithic Pine Valley mountains. The smiles of dirty, dusty mountain bikers weaving yarns of past adventure and future ambition over a plate of cheap steak and creamed corn. Sore legs and scorched earth. Heat in January.
It’s been two days. The food monster lingers.