Checkpoint 1: Flagstaff
Met up with Nathan and unpacked my whip. We headed out his front door for a little ride up the local mountain. Trails of note: Schulz Creek and Little Bear. Turns out climbing to 9000 feet on a singlespeed you haven't touched all year can be a little painful, but the descent was well worth it - rocks, flow, drops, sand, amazing views and switchbacks. Nathan dropped me like the low-land dwelling out of towner I am, but it was a great ride. Later, a reunion with some good college friends brought us out for some Thai food and some 80s themed dancing at a local drinking establishment. Flag is a cool little town, with some serious riders and some even more serious transvestites.
Checkpoint 2: Durango Colorado
I peeled myself out of bed and jumped in Nathan's car with Rocco and Chris. The goal was to drive across "The Res," surviving the Res Wind and chasing Res Dogs and make it to Durango with time to ride before the darkness and drunkenness set in. A few false starts, for instance one to turn off an iron that was already off, prevented us from arriving in time to ride. But drunkenness did ensue.
New Belgium Brewing hosted a killer party with a band, dirt jumps, a bunny hop competition, and plenty of beer to go around. The perfect warm up for a World Championship Race. We slept like true Pros, wedged in the only open floor space in a condo with 18 other racers.
Also hung out with Chris and Kate of Albany fame, see also www.blk13.com.
Checkpoint 3: The Race
The race was scheduled to go off at 11 am, giving us plenty of time to get some coffee and sign in for the race. One of the organizers brought his childhood baseball card collection as give-aways, and I hoped that channeling a young Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens as spoke cards would only help my chances.
Here's my race report: 1000 racers. Lap 1: 6 miles of road / fire road climbing. 45 minutes of hiking, pushing your bike uphill in a long line of racers. Ridiculously rocky technical fun ridge riding that was partly unrideable because of the traffic. Fast descent. Lap 2: Much more flow. Just as much climbing / hiking. More sun. Bacon, whiskey, beer - none of which I was in any condition to consume. Super fun descent - I saw a girl puncture her thigh in a nasty crash. Then, 3 hours, 18 miles, and 3500 feet of climbing later, it was over.
Post party ensued, the centerpoint of which was the basketball game between "Italy" and "New Zealand" for rights to host next year's race. I use quotation marks because there was only one local - a Kiwi - between both teams. The really is nothing funnier than watching a bunch of skinny cyclists with little coordination playing ball for 45 minutes. The other highlight was the art show inside of Ska Brewing - featuring all of the entry forms sent in. 10 of the entry forms were selected to be photographed and framed and auctioned off. I was delighted to learn that I was one of the featured artists.
Later I learned that Greg "Hball" Herbold was gifted my artwork after the show was over. Ironically, I learned this only hours after talking to HBall on the phone for a work-related project, so I called him back to let him know he knew the guy behind his priceless new art. Small world.
Checkpoint 4: Phil's World
On the way back to Flagstaff we stopped for a little shred in Cortez Colorado, on a trail system known as Phil's World. It is the home of the 12 hours of Mesa Verde, and we got in a nice 2 hours on some of the flowiest, rollercoasteriest, fun desert singletrack I've seen. Thought we were going to get bowled over by a vicious thunderstorm, but the rain passed just in time to rip through "the Ribcage" - the greatest collection of over-sized pump track I've ever ridden.
Checkpoint 5: Grand Canyon National Park
Seeing as I had to travel west from Flagstaff, I figured I'd detour slightly and see the world's biggest hole in the ground. I parked at the visitor's center, and pulled my bike out of the trunk. Riding along the shuttle bus roads, I was able to see the canyon from 5 or 6 vantage points in an hour and half. Descriptors coming to mind include: huge and beautiful, and remote yet accessible. Threw my bike on the shuttle bus rack and headed back to the car to head to Vegas. A surprising highlight of that trip was crossing the Hoover Dam. Pretty remarkable that it was built 80 years ago, and even more remarkable is the bridge they're building across the canyon right now.
Checkpoint 6: Interbike, Las Vegas, Nevada
Finally, Interbike. What a show. I won't go into it, as the normal rags will have far better coverage than the working man can provide. But I did get Eddy Merckx and Johan Museeuw to sign my Paris Roubaix book. And I got to see my bike cables on Contador's and A. Shleck's bikes. That was good enough for me to celebrate with a little karaoke and a nice sushi dinner.
Final Checkpoint: Back to Flagstaff
I headed back to Flag to catch a flight home. With a day to kill we fed Nathan and Rocco's pet spider, and then J-Money took me for a hike in Sedona. We headed 5 miles into the exposed, dry, skin-melting desert to find a glorious oasis: a cool, spring fed swimming hole in the middle of the canyon. The water was so nice on a hot day, and on the return trip we got some malted shakes at an alien themed diner. Sedona is one strange town, but goddamn, they can make a milkshake and fry some pickles.