Death in the Desert

I’m intent to get better at this dirt riding business and have resolved to ride some dirt every weekend. This particular weekend I had a ton of schoolwork, but I figured if I start out early enough I could get some good practice in and still be back around 1pm. I ask Marisa and Brian if they are up for a short, easy, newbie ride and they say sure.

The sun climbed higher in the sky and the temperature was heating up. We had been out quite a while now and were starting to get exhausted. My water supply was looking dismal, so we took a short break.  Marisa and I joke that this is “Brian’s Dirt Riding Boot Camp”. The terrain gets a little more difficult with some rocky climbs and larger washes.

“Neither one of them took a nap in the wash (although Becky hit the last corner in a damn impressive two tire drift and blew out the back side like an AA rider (of course, she had a death grip on the bars and was screaming at the time.)” – Brian

I know now that Brian has no concept of the meaning behind those words and I am now skeptical of any time he calls a trail “easy” “noob friendly” or “fast”.

Since we were not going to be out long, I tossed a couple small water bottles in my tail bag and hit the road. Brian hauled Marisa’s TW200 on his jeep to a trailhead and led us out.

Things started out well. The terrain was exciting, starting out as nicely groomed dirt roads, but eroding into a rougher jeep road with enough rock and sand to keep things interesting. Marisa and I chugged along at our noob pace, while Brian drove ahead to take some sweet pictures.

I had discovered momentum was the best way to get over most things and zoom up a rocky climb only to completely blow the turn at the top and fall over.

I almost picked it up fast enough…

We discussed a lunch break and Brian says he’ll pick out a good spot with some shade. I’m zooming along with my momentum technique only to find Brian parked in the middle of a wash. Yes there is shade there, but my whole ‘speed through the sand’ plan isn’t very condusive to quick stops. I decide to go around him and park on the other side. I was going a little faster than I realized though and did a pretty sweet but petrifying manuever to get out of there.

I don’t even remember why I fell over here. Just a random sand nap I guess. That’s Marisa trying not to run me over.

She continues past me and starts chugging up the hill out of the wash. It was too steep for second gear and the bike stalls and falls over. She tries to grab it up right away and burns her hand on the engine.

There aren’t any pictures after this point because we have stopped giggling about Brian’s Boot Camp and moved on to jokes about how he’s drug us out to the desert to kill us. After a while we are hoping it’s still a joke…

It’s over a hundred degrees out now. I’ve drank all my water and Marisa is miserable in her non mesh riding jacket. When she removes her glove, sweat pours out like a water faucet. There are holes in her glove from the engine burn and blisters are forming. We stop for a while and Brian offers to load her bike on the trailer.

Now, I have to give Marisa a ton of credit. She could have stopped riding at any time, but she wouldn’t leave me on the battlefield alone and did the whole track like a trooper. She’s one tough cookie.

Brian assures us it’s not much further and we press onward. 

At one point  I get caught up on a large rock in a wash and dump the bike yet again. While lifting my bike up for the third time that day I nearly pass out. Reality sparkles back from the blackness but I’m feeling strange. Everything is in high contrast, sounds are buzzy and I’m starting to feel a bit delusional. I mooch some water off of Brian, but he’s low too and before long, there’s no more water to be had.

We only have about eight miles left, according to the GPS.

We climb a steep hill of baby-head rocks and find ourselves with an obvious road block. Brian suggest we turn back and take the longer, but possibly easier route. This road is blocked for a reason. I look back at the baby-head climb and deduce there can’t be much worse ahead and I don’t want to go back down than crap. We skirt the blockade and press forward.

There are rusted out abandoned vehicles decorating the trail. Miraculousy, no one drops their bikes for the rest of the trek. At one point I have a close encounter with a tree…but the bike stayed up, supported by its crunchy little branches. I launched myself up and out of a rocky wash without paying enough attention where I would go on the other side. When you get dehydrated you stop looking ahead and start picking bad lines. The good part is, you are too out of it to be scared and I found the whole thing hilarious.

At last the GPS states we are right at the road! But there’s one last wash out and it’s a steep one with a tricky turn. Marisa and I park and stare at the obstacle. Brian can tell we are beat, he takes pity on us and walks the bikes over the last wash while we remove our gear and lay out on the ground. We’ve made it!

Well, sort of. There’s a fair bit of pavement left and I’m so out of it I crawl along at maybe thirty miles an hour. I keep visualizing myself flying off the road for no reason. I’m distrustful of the pavement, everything looks like sand traps and loose rocks.

At last we arrive at the Coffee House in Arivaca and drink a million gallons of water.

Brian buys me a smoothie and all is forgiven. No one died and we get to say we pioneered a tough trail as one of our first rides. He is hassled relentlessly for trying to kill us and the ride becomes known as Death in the Desert.

One thought on “Death in the Desert

  1. I can totally relate to your desert dirt riding experience! The first time I ever rode off road it was on a BMW 650 GS [basically a less capable version of the KLR with less ground clearance] and it was at least 90384903843 degrees in the desert and I went riding with a bunch of really experienced dirt riders. I had no idea how challenging riding in the dirt would be [I really thought it wouldn’t be harder than street riding, which is super easy and I’d gotten extremely comfortable doing for a few years]. I would up falling left and right every time I hit deep sand [I had street tires with most of the tread worn down from previous street riding] plus my gearing was too high and street biased. I fell on a downhill rocky section and landed on my backpack that had my bottle of water in it [pre-camelback days] and the bottle broke because I hit the rocks pretty hard, so I had no water! It was quite the eye opening adventure. Since then I’ve definitely gotten better, although the dirt is still really challenging…just wanted to say I could relate to your whole ride.

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