The more time I spend outside with people, the happier I am. This has a direct correlation to the fact that while exercising and being with people, my phone use drops significantly; in other words – freedom. I’ll admit that for myself, disconnecting permanently would do more harm than good. Although sometimes I daydream about just that.
This year I planned a trip focused on my favorite thing in the world: being outside with people. Of course, this took a lot of technology to plan.
In September of last year, I went onto the google calendar for our Moab house and reserved the first weekend of April. I made a Facebook event and invited 20 friends and college athletes. I updated the cover photo of the event to a picture of a road biker hammering a beer mid race- just so people would understand the theme for the weekend: “Bikes and Beers”. I texted people about items they should bring and coordinated arrival times. We used Google maps in order to take the correct route from Albuquerque to Moab, even though we’ve driven that road too many times to count. My co-captain Kornelius Groev connected to the Bluetooth in the truck and played straight bangers off Spotify for six hours.
This was all a productive use of technology because just minutes after arrival I was sitting around the campfire drinking beers with my friends. We arrived late, and others arrived later. By the time everyone was around the campfire it was really late. I looked at my friend Vegard and asked him what time it was, “2:00 am,” he said. While this was true, I responded, “No Vegard, it’s Now.”
We woke up the next day and drank far too strong coffee on the front porch, soaking up the sun and discussing rides for the day. We decided on Klondike Bluffs, rallied the troops, and drove out of town. Thirteen riders must be the largest group I’ve ever ridden with. This was basically a game of who will break their bike first.
I hit a tree about one hour into the ride, the same tree I always hit on Klondike Bluff. Also, probably the only tree on the entire trail. Since I had already come to a stop, we decided this was impeccable timing for a lunch break.
We looked over the gorgeous plain below the Klondike Bluff Rim while eating our bagels. We scoped each other’s bagels, all jealous of the next person’s. I mentioned that the view always reminds me of the Oregon Trail. I can always picture the covered wagons moving slowly across the plain below us. We talked about the wild west, feeling that if we just erased the thousand-dollar bikes sitting below us- we could have gone back in time.
We somehow ended up on a trail called EKG. For the rest of the ride we complained endlessly about EKG and tried to figure out who the hell lead us onto this trail in the first place. The group began to fan out a bit as the trail kicked our asses and rattled our bones. While we waited for others to catch up, each new arrival would say something to the likes of, “fuck this trail.” We all laughed because it could be worse-we could be hiking.
Whisperings of the cold beer hidden beneath the truck began. Personally, I had been thinking about the beers since I hit the tree an hour before. We arrived at the truck with numb arms, achy fingers from squeezing our brakes far too much, and empty stomachs. We all cracked a beer, clinked them together, and sipped them in the bed of the truck.
Some new members of the crew arrived that night. We inspected their bikes with laughs and cringes. One girl had arrived with a Rossignol hard tail rented from the University of Utah bike shop. The employee working that day had begged her not to bring the bike to Moab saying, “These bikes break so much.” Usually a good rule of thumb, don’t ride bikes made by ski brands. Another girl had arrived with her teammate’s campus bike, a very old hardtail. She could easily park that bike without a lock in Albuquerque and nobody would steal it. After our bike inspection we all checked our camelbacks and bike bags to ensure all our tools were ready. We thought, ‘tomorrow we become bike mechanics.’
That night we ran out of beer and regretted not bringing our own beer from Colorado or New Mexico. The beer selection at the Moab liquor store is concerning and expensive. This was probably the biggest mistake of the trip and I hope that readers can learn from our mistake. We also went to bed clueless of the next day’s adventure, like any good trip.
Friday’s coffee maker was fired, so on Saturday morning we discussed potential rides over a more balanced cup of joe. A Full Slickrock loop from the house was the decision. From the house means climbing up the grueling paved road which leads to the trailhead, but it also means not paying to get in- always worth it.
How do you get four girls who don’t mountain bike much, two of whom are essentially riding toaster ovens, to ride the full slickrock loop for the first time? That answer is easy. Simply don’t tell them there is a 1.6 mile practice loop.
Another strategy is to stop at the top of every hill and scream encouragement. Halfway through the ride, I had practically lost my voice. Also at halfway, my buddy Johan decided to jump into a pothole filled with rainwater nude. I think this gave us bad karma because the mechanicals arrived like a storm.
At the top of every hill, the girls would walk their bikes up to us with a new issue: Back brake not working, derailleur somehow rubbing on the wheel, snapped chain ring, the list goes on. With every new issue we would express outrageous positivity, and say something like, “Oh that’s fine, just don’t use your small ring.” As the bikes broke more the whole ride turned into cyclocross- a lot more running.
I was worried that these girls would hate me for dragging them on this death march. However, they would crest the hill each time, running their bikes, with the biggest smiles on their faces while screaming, “This is so cool!” I was absolutely stunned. After three hours, the bikes were destroyed, nobody hated me, and we were sitting in the backyard with cold drinks- a successful day.
That night we bought quesadillas at the famous Quesadilla Mobilla in town, then hiked up to Corona arch for sunset. That evening all twenty of us sat beneath the red sandstone playing High, Low, Hero (the best part of your trip, the worst part, and your hero). Each person spoke, while everyone listened attentively. Nobody could think of any real lows and we all laughed as each person claimed the two girls on the toaster oven bikes as their trip heroes.
I brought my camera on that hike and captured photos of my friends climbing up rocks and goofing around. As I looked through my viewfinder, I didn’t see people staring into their phones. Instead I saw people captivated and entertained by each other and the beauty surrounding them. I saw laughter, eye contact, and people really listening to each other. Most of all I saw solidarity between all. Solidarity that this weekend mattered.
These kinds of trips are always hard to exit. That’s why when everyone must leave, it isn’t as simple as one goodbye. We hug each other and awkwardly linger, just long enough to do it all over again. “Next years” and “next times” are promised as car doors slam and engines start.
As everyone departed, I noticed my phone in my pocket. I pulled it out and scrolled through all the notifications I missed while my phone slid around the trucks floor all weekend. I had multiple missed calls from my dad. I gave him a call.
“Hey dad, sorry I missed your calls. I lost my phone for the weekend.” He responded, “Well it must have been a good trip then.” As I backed out of the driveway I muttered, “yeah, it really was.”