It's much easier to feel lonely than it is to get alone when you live in the city. There are ways to find vestiges of privacy in your home--by watching tv in the basement, building stuff in the workshop, or etc.--but the feeling of being alone isn't quite the same when you know there is someone upstairs.
On most bike rides, I'm accompanied by at least one other human being, if not by five or ten, and that's an arrangement I don't want to change. However, there is something restorative and imperative that happens when you go on all-day ride by yourself. Over a lengthy period of time, not much could be worse than my own uninterrupted company, to be sure, but it's vital that it happens on the occasion. Why? I'm usually just thinking about stupid cat videos or singing the Genie's song from Aladdin to myself when I'm alone. It's the same dumb stuff I think about when other people are around, but when alone I can think dumb stuff ad infinitum. This mental decompression is somehow important to my well being.
Last Monday, my Surly Straggler and I took the bus to Boulder. This allowed for some quality reading time, but then also involved an entire ride's worth of heavy book portaging. I should've taken a few zines instead of Les Miserables.
The bus dropped me off in Boulder, and I got out of Boulder as quickly as one can buy a burrito and get out of Boulder. If you've never been there, you should know that proper etiquette when introducing one's self is to state your name followed by your race category.
I took the Boulder Canyon bike path out of town, which winds alongside the road and the river up into the foothills, where I was mostly alone except for a few rock climbers above. (Note: a river magnifies space in such a way that it plays odd tricks on one's sense of aloneness , as one can be near a river with quite a few other people and still feel alone.)
There's a very pleasant pair of loops called Betasso Preserve a few miles up Boulder Canyon. I don't think I've ridden a cross bike on singletrack before, and I have to say I really like it, really, quite a lot. Despite the small volume tires, the bike rode like a buoyant tube over the crests of a wave pool. On future rides, be they solo or club rides, I'll be riding that Straggler more often, for sure.
After completing the Benjamin Loop at the north end of Betasso, I caught the link trail to Fourmile Canyon Drive. Fourmile eventually turns to gravel, and climbs for what feels like ever. It was a two burrito climb for me.
One thing is sure about Colorado: if you ride far enough away from city limits, no matter the time of day or the season, you're sure to encounter men in hats cutting wood with chainsaws. It's a guarantee. I would've taken a picture to prove this, but these appear to be the kind of men that you stop and photograph only if you can ride quite a bit faster than I.
As I climbed Fourmile, I heard at very regular five-minute intervals a loud gunshot-type noise. Having grown up in redneck country, and living in the part of the city I now live in, you'd think I'd be better at identifying what is a gunshot and what is not, but I just can't tell the difference. I therefore assumed that what I was hearing was some kind of construction noise. Just before I turned onto the Switzerland Trail that it was a one-armed man shooting a black powder rifle at what had once been a motor vehicle, five minutes being the duration it takes a one-armed man to load and level a black powder rifle, presumably.
All throughout my ride of aloneness, I saw impressive evidence of last year's flooding. Switzerland Trail is marked as an "alternate evacuation route" for such floods. Suffices to say that if you drown on the Switzerland Trail, you would've needed an Ark to survive. Switzerland Trail is rocky doubletrack that goes up. That's all it does.
Just when you think you've reached the top of Switzerland Trail, you find it goes up some more. You aren't done going up until you see this:
Switzerland Trail finally intersects with Gold Hill Road and then becomes Forest Service "road" number 93. Forest Service "road" number 93 is mostly flat and quite a lot of fun. It's rough. It rocks n' rolls. If I hadn't been so worn out from Switzerland Trail, I'd have turned around and ridden it again. Eventually 93 "dead ends," according to a small brown vertical forest service sign, but it's not true. It gets very rocky,
93 eventually does kind of dead end, and you have to hike maybe twenty very steep meters to get up to this very steep dirt road, which will in turn dump you right out onto Lefthand Canyon road.
You can descend Lefthand Canyon road at about four billion miles per hour, even if you're running a single gear with a ratio that could be described as "34 : something embarrassing." There is some flood damage on Lefthand, but the Straggler didn't care to slow down for the rough sections.
Riding by yourself can be a challenge. The instant things get difficult, it's tempting to call it a day despite extensive preparations. The urge to quit can be a healthy thing to have to face and defeat. That said, I'm spending this Monday on the couch. So there.
The last time I rode this route, I was on one of the largest group rides I've ever been on. Both days were pretty extraordinary. Do stuff alone or do stuff with other people. Just do stuff.