The Pettit~Files. New bikes, soul rides and friends.
There are people in your life that you know are good for any adventure, good, bad or ugly. In the midst of a storm or complete pounding of UV rays, lost and contemplating mileage, refuel and safety, there is always a joke and a knowing that all will be alright, but your skin, muscles and mind will however never be the same. These days fall under the “soul” ride category, days where you have mini epiphanies and tragedies, hunger knocks, thirst pains, great vistas and places rarely seen and touched by man. Those who are down for such events are rare, unique, odd, oddly amazing and perfect company.
Robert LaRoche is such an individual, and in my four years south by southwest we’ve had many adventures. Usually twinged with remorse that we put ourselves in such situations, but after the first beer is cracked it no longer matters, but out on some rocky, unridable stretch with the sun and elements bearing down trying to break us we see the pure effort and endeavor of what we are trying to do, no matter the mental anguish and physical and psychological hell we’re in.
On this ride however it was meant to be an easy day, reconnect, be some of the first to ride Black Canyon Trail north a ways. Figure out the new Lapierre bike and get a firm understanding of the design, and build of the bike. The relationship between man and machine is critical to a man like me; I spend my life, hours and days planted and clipped in, I recon it to breaking a horse, that feeling when you are connected through movement and the instinctual happens. My foot finally healing up a little, or I should say enough for me to just say screw it, I’m doing this anyway, I got a brand new full suspension bike, my body will heal along the way. Papa Roche isn’t too fit either just yet so we were heading off in search of knowledge to see what kind of shape the trail is, ride something different and spend some quality bromance time together.
The first section is pretty, initial climbing lends to some curvy switchback descents and a forging of the Agua Fria, which, to our surprise is deeper than we both thought. Now with wet shoes and soggy socks we begin the climb out of the valley. The sun was out but not overbearing, the loose trail gave way to rocks and a lot of them, boulder fields that not long ago housed a flood and took our good soil away. When we chatted we both said the trail is a “little rougher” than usual, he’s been farther north than I have, and I asked what was ahead. I’ve learned a couple P Roche ism’s from our years together. The idea of miles and feet of climbed elevations are never too accurate, so taking that into full consideration, I adjusted my attitude accordingly. I was surprised I wasn’t hurting too bad; I’ve managed a couple of long days with the traveling and tried to keep a steady ride time going.
We crossed a pavement section of road with a gallon of water nearly gone from a plastic jug and he locks up the brakes and circles back. I know what’s next, the smell test then the shoulder shrug and dumps it into his bottles, I also know some story about his months in the grand canyon drinking earth purified water is also coming. I however still had enough to sustain. By this time already our initial plans changed. Instead of 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours now since we were “already” heading towards Cordes station we should just go there, bypass a little single track and take a couple miles of road then some technical, slow single track up towards the town.
I remember him and Melley, along with Yeah Yeah McMaster did this ride a while ago and all of them hurt for some time after. The cat claw was out and grabbed at anything the hellish plant could get ahold of. The trail was crossed with dancing lizards, snakes and tarantulas, I tried to avoid everyone I could, but some, by virtue got ran over, I considered this an even trade as now my body dripped blood down my knuckles, arms and shins so we marked each other closely being all gods creature and we abided by the eye for an eye clause.
The flowy goodness of trail gave way near a crossing of a large saguaro giving a brief moment of shade while I collected my thoughts and waited to hear the sound of Laroche coming across the trail. We again converged on mileage, time and just what Cordes Station may have. We rode washed board dirt roads up to and past Bumble Bee a small town with nothing in it, cars past and left a plume of dust for two souls to ride through. A right hand turn near a big water tank begins the single track, loose, loamy kitty litter earth, again covered in cat claw and slow going. I was enjoying life upon a full suspension, while my minimalistic mind and stubborn self don’t like any movement I knew the ride was noticeably much easier. The climbing was fairly tough and slow and I marked my water supply and fuel closely, knowing we’d be 60 or so miles, having a come to Jesus moment wasn’t on my list this Saturday. We finally topped out on another dirt road and began the splendor down towards town. It’s always a haunting feeling knowing, shortly, you’ll be going back up it, but still there is excitement heading towards life.
The celebration in town came in the form of Cordes Stations 130 years of township. Cowboy poetry and a slow rolling history of the city came from a man standing on a rusted old weigh scale. Heavy patina cars sat out in the fields marked with age and colored perfectly. The man whose family formed the town finished his drawn out dissertation of the history, then a cowboy poet came up. Laroche searched his seat bag for remnants of cash and came up empty. I had 26 bucks and knew we’d need all of it.
A lunch token was five bones, and everything eatable in the rustic gathering of oddities inside the “store” was an even buck. The first wave brought us Dr. Peppers, waters and Gatorade. The second outing took us out to the outdoor seating and the hickory smoked bbq in the half drum of a former 55 gallon bucket. Two grown men metaling about in spandex while others pool around a gold panning expo, others drinking warm natural lights, surprisingly nobody gave us grief, maybe it was the raised welts spewing blood that caused hesitation. A fine burger with cheese a bag of Doritos then we made our way to the condiment area. Two large jars of pickles, mustard, and ketchup. The pickles however are a delicacy to any salty endurance fool, so we properly gouged on them. Round three took us to the end of my paper monies as the lady said “wow, we like you guys” Leaving me to wonder if nobody else spent more than 20 bucks often. She turned the handle to an old brass National cash register and put away her cash.
Calories replaced rehydrated and heading back up the hill, the town left a soft spot with me. The funkiness was loud, ever present and comfortable within itself and I dug it. The sun was out, our blood was dry and we had a decent amount of downhill to attend to. You know that feeling when your body is crusted and irritated and doesn’t want to be bothered any longer? Well the best lines are through the cat claw, oneside a miserable line, sometimes a big drop off and the other the best “A” line but inevitably bloody. Your mind and the machine know what direction they should go, but your body cringes knowing at speeds the mini razor blood sucking vultures will indeed tear you apart, being scarred bikers we take the best line over our outer appearance. The skin winces in pain and the process extracts blood from our bodies but we are alive in the movement and presently unaware of wounds.
Life aboard the Lapierre xr was a rolling train of ecstasy, the miles came easy, the harsh Arizona landscape became tolerable and my mind was somewhere thinking of greater adventure s aboard the new machine. Laroche trailed a bit and I tried to block the wind for him, doing my deed for the elder statesmen and showing my respect. We took the washboard road all the way back to town. The chunky gravel broke to asphalt and we cruised through black canyon city, thinking of times we nursed ourselves at the first store on rides that took too much out of us. Back to the car and Travis Mcmaster left a note on the rig further proof that today was indeed great. The doors opened, we changed out of sweaty, and bloody clothes, loaded up the bikes and turned on some tunes and collected ourselves. As the songs came through the airwaves Laroche would laugh and say “damn JP, you were still in diapers when this came out” then came the conversation about when you aren’t in diapers any longer, neither of us having kids nor around them much.
Soft sunlight filled the air, we were the only car left in the parking lot. Laroche packed four ice cold coors original beers and with the mountains still blue we listened to the music, talked amongst ourselves and each other. I doubt that you could find two guys that understand more the need for adventure, measurable pain and the need to find and see parts rarely seen by others. I’m lucky to have met and continue meeting people, towns and experience that shape me. Directions that define me and movements that create history and a telling enjoyable past. Bikes are a gateway for me, and always will, the paths they show, the introspective gained from reaching a point or view under our own power give a greater understanding of what was created before us. It’s humbling to know that others saw the greatness and settled down to build a life, that we stop and take a breath and be allowed to have our breath taken away by life, the beautiful landscapes, friends and loves.
Whatever your journey, however long the ride, whatever skill level you’re at, we all try to achieve the same feeling. That internal peace that bikes lend us, that friends give us, and this life allows us. A connection from within to everything we experience, that’s why I ride.
GO OUTSIDE and be GREAT.