Austin to Angel Fire

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With no fanfare, the mooring lines from my life in Texas were released and I set sail with my truck. A mountain bike tour of the Rockies was my broadcast message to everyone. Lessons in self-discipline and camping were to come. The highways served as canals to my target destination. Time to go off the edge of my personal map.

It's not easy; getting rid of accumulated personal possessions that you've inscribed meanings to. Charging highway speed into the 'Big Empty' can be daunting. Our preconceptions and expectations can be tricksters. What characters lay ahead on the road? Where monsters and dreams have equal opportunity to become passengers. Have you tried it yet? Dipped a toe? It is a full commitment cliff jump to see if the water below feels as good as it looks.

I set up my tent in darkness after a ten hour drive. The mountains had been luring me back with siren songs the entire time I lived in Austin. When I woke up: ELATION!

Took the time to just close my eyes and listen to the river. Inhaled the clean air and admired the amazing golden glow bounce of cliffs and trees. My chest cavity was filled with gratitude and optimism with this opening omen. The hole the mountains left in my soul was impossible to fill but now I was back. My sentimentality was folded away with my tent tarp and my focus spot lighted over to the upcoming day: Angel Fire Bike Park.

On the lift up to my cherry run, a conversation was struck up with a fellow rider. When I explained my trip, he shared his enthusiasm about my adventure. The gentleman invited me to follow him down to Boulder Dash as a warm-up. Sure enough, it was a thrill ride! A heavy lunch was resting in my stomach and was almost evicted out. Great speed, rollers, and table tops, AF! Also noticed immediately how taxing on my legs the down hill was. Curiosity blazed for the other dirt slaloms webbed through the resort. Intel provided by park personnel navigated me towards Hungry Hippo.

This trip is about skills improvement. Cross country riding in Wyoming had been most of my two year experience. In Austin, a full-suspension demo was found at a bargain and gave me extra confidence. Crashes and slide outs were part of the learning curve. 'Stay off the brakes!', foot balance, and cornering were my main focal points at the start. The first two became important for this story:

Lemonade was the name of the trail. Colored blue for Intermediate, I railed down it with little precaution. On a steep, sweeping track to the left, with some recent wash out, my eyes rattled as my hands went numb. My reaction to the speed was to bring my ass back and get low. A death grip on my handlebars became apparent as I surveyed possible outcomes if I blew this curve. The fear was short lived though. My testicles felt the sensation of high speed rubber nubs coming into contact with them. TOO FAR BACK!

I cleared that section and came to a stop. Laughter erupted to the chagrin of nearby woodland creatures. My imagination played out what could have happened differently. Ejected off and thrown over the formidable hill to my right? Or my loose shorts could have been sucked into the rotating machinery of my bicycle. Hey, crazier accidents have happened. If my body did marry in mutilation with my bike, I might have been laying there for a while.

Armed with my bike park pass, the next day I headed up the Enchanted Circle to Red River, New Mexico. A lift up and then a service road ride down just whet my appetite for something more. A local shop recommended I find the Enchanted Forest Cross Country trails three miles from town. The internet is great but asking locals is my preferred mode of gathering beta. Disappointment never dawned across my face as I streaked past yurts and open vistas. A storm beckoned me to wrap up the exploration and it came down hard by the time I was leaving the parking lot.

So much in life is purely timing. My thoughts drifted to my friends in Colorado that were expecting me. I packed up my camp site in Taos Ski Valley and set my sights for Denver. (To be continued)

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