It was April or May when I registered for Unpaved Pennsylvania. Jason Malec, a friend and Flaanimal pilot form Philadelphia had invited me to the ride, or was it a race? I wasn’t sure. What I did know was that Jason said that the day would be super challenging, beautiful, and would fill up quickly. There wasn’t much time to consider whether or not to go so I made haste to put my name on the starter’s list.
In August a group of Rodeoers in Colorado struck out on a ride through roads not-yet-ridden-by-us. The ingredients that make these sorts of rides are always dynamic. Peder had been brewing on a Mosquito Pass expedition for years, Jered was in town and wanted to do big high mountain rides, and I tossed out the invite to the team. Eight of us jumped in on the adventure.
The word “Adventure” is rapidly transitioning from an awe-filled catalyst to a very tired marketing word these days. Flip through any cycling magazine and you can’t go very many pages without seeing a tidal wave of products advertised as the very keys you need in order to unlock this mythic “new” genre of our sport.
And yet, true adventure is unimpressed by the collective marketing departments of our industry. True adventure has been happening for centuries and will continue to happen long after humanity has achieved singularity with holo-lenses and virtual experiences. Adventure just means pointing your willing self into the unknown and having the naivete, courage, or even audacity to proceed directly into it. No fancy gear required.
A poem by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Tire Pressure? Feels about right, though there’s no way to tell for sure.
Headset? Seems tight.
Shoes? Right, they’re still in my bag…
A burst of giggling erupts as I kneel to unzip the suitcase. Maybe I should have waited to don my kit until after I finished fiddling with my bike, or at least put some sweatpants on over my bibs. It’s too late now; there is already a gaggle of Albanian school girls, friends of my host-family’s daughter, gathering outside the open door to my room. They avert their eyes as I exit, shoes in hand, and return to my bicycle in the yard. It has similarly attracted a group of neighborhood children who scatter when I approach. Taking the handlebars, I swing my leg over the saddle, but before I can clip Eduart, the patriarch of my host-family, stops me. He’s spent the last hour silently watching me assemble my bicycle, but now he’s clearly concerned. He doesn’t speak English, and my Albanian is still pretty poor, so he simply points to my brakes and inquires with a thumbs-up. I squeeze the levers and return the hand gesture to assure him that everything’s fine, then aim the bicycle down the gravel path which serves as our driveway and kick off.
My phone lit up. Text from Peder.
His timing was uncanny. It was Monday, I had cleared most of my to-do items for the first half of the day and I was beginning to consider whether or not I’d be able to head out for a ride. My monitor glowed with the Doppler loop of Weather Underground’s precipitation map. Even though we’d been hit with a couple of days of solid rain and the clouds still sat threateningly low, the map actually showed surprisingly few green and yellow blobs of wetness.
“It’s not as wet as you think.” I texted back. My attention was fixed on a spot on the map thirty miles south of me. For about a month I’d been drawn to a place where the flowing undulations of Colorado’s prairies are suddenly, unceremoniously violated with sharp spires of sandstone sticking out of the ground at sixty degree angles. That place was called Roxborough State Park. I had never been there and I had no good reason why not. The idea of finally visiting for a first time has been a dripping faucet in the back of my mind for a better part of a month and on Monday I was considering shutting the faucet up.