Sea Otter was a whirlwind, literally. On top of howling gales that razed more than a few tents and at least one giant, inflatable slide, the event was bustling and prevented me from taking in much of the sites for myself.
The day after the event began much too early with a drive to the San Jose airport to drop Bill off for his morning flight, and then continued westward across California and Nevada. Driving up and over Donner Pass was pretty spectacular, though I don’t quite understand how the Donner Party could have become so hopelessly lost. There were plenty of road signs and even a handful of rest stops with gas stations. At the very least, they could have picked up some some Slurpees and a rucksack-load of HoHos every hundred miles or so. We finished up for the evening in Wendover, Utah, at the shadiest Best Western hotel I’ve ever experienced, but it was late enough that it didn’t much matter. After a short walk up and down the street to revive my road weary legs and settle the lump of meat* (may or may not have contained actual meat), courtesy of Arby’s, I passed out quickly and slept like a… something that sleeps.
The highlights of the next morning were a handful of strip mining operations and a drowsiness-inducing trip across the Salt Flats of Northern Utah. Once we reached Salt Lake, the landscape became more interesting again. South of Provo, we turned off the Interstate and onto the Price Cutoff (AKA: US-6), taking us through some miserable one-horse towns, but also some spectacular geology. Once again, though, my camera failed to capture anything but blur at highway speeds. I guess it’s time for something beyond a camera phone.
Rolling into Gunnison, Colorado, where Dan and I would get a much needed rest-day at his house, I did finally manage to get a shot that does the area justice. While it isn’t quite my kind of town (my kind of town would be something more like Boston, Chicago, or New York), I can definitely appreciate why Dan likes to call it home. Gunny has a lively downtown and is nestled amid some of the best mountain biking and backcountry skiing you’re likely to find anywhere on the planet. Maybe sometime on down the line I’ll get to spend more than an afternoon on a loaned townie bike exploring some of the best the area has to offer. For now, I’ll just enjoy a good night’s sleep in a real bed. Next Stop: Fruita
Sea Otter has been pretty hectic thus far. To keep ourselves from going mad, we jump on any chance to make light of the goings-on of the event. Sometimes it’s suffering through a million unrelated questions from a crazed local who only wants to hear himself talk - all so everyone else can enjoy the show from the other end of the tent. Today it was dressing like Ninjas to protect ourselves from the cold wind and swirling dust.
This was a regular feature on my old website that I had all but forgotten until something that happened this morning jogged my memory. I reached into the refrigerator for the tub of Greek yogurt and noticed the date on top of 4/14/2008. As a knee-jerk reaction, I was about to simply toss it into the bin when a tiny little nugget of Robért’s pure-gold wisdom came flooding back to me, replete with outrageous French accent…
“The label on the package says BEST BEFORE, not BAD AFTER!”
Of course, he was right; the yogurt was fine. As time moves on, I’m going to try to resurrect some of my favorite Robért quotes. Those of you who know Robért can maybe help me out with suggestions. The world needs to hear this stuff.
Despite my years as a neutral wrench, this will be my first mountain bike event. I’m looking forward to the experience, though I’m told it’s more or less just like working in a bike shop… but with more fresh air. After Sea Otter, Dan and I will be driving to Fruita, Colorado, for the Fruita Fat Tire Festival. Fruita is a purely fun event that was created because of and thrives on the quality of trails in the immediate area… or so I’ve heard. This will be my first trip to Fruita, and I’ll likely get a short ride or two in between shifts at the truck, but it’s going to be work work work for most of the event, of course.
As the weather has finally made its turn for the better here in Boston, my thoughts turn quickly to getting outside. I recently moved north of the city and live in very close proximity to The Fells, which is home to some great trails for mountain biking. The Fells, however, like many of the most popular parks managed under the Massachusetts DCR, is closed to mountain biking for a period of the late winter and early spring to mitigate trail erosion. I can’t fault the DCR for that decision, so I’m driven to find another venue - still nearby - where I can get my early season fix.
After interrogating some friends and acquaintances on the subject, I came to learn (well, not to learn, so much as to be reminded) of the existence of a small State Forest just a few miles away in Andover called Harold Parker. Having been mountain biking now for decades (the realization is as frightening as it sounds), it surprised me to think that I have never ridden at Harold Parker State Forest. It’s not so small, nor so out of the way that it could have been simply overlooked. Somehow still, it was, and I can’t help but feel that I’ve really been missing something.
This might hardly seem at first read like the high praise that it is, but indulge me for a moment. Harold Parker is enough. Really. I’ll use a few, simple (borderline: pedestrian) comparisons to illustrate my point– small enough that you can’t become hopelessly lost, yet large enough to let you feel like you’re really getting somewhere; crowded enough to feel friendly, yet quiet enough to afford some solitude; its trails are flat enough and smooth enough that you can casually and comfortably meander through most of the park, yet rolling enough and technical enough to challenge your skills and fitness –Do you see where I’m going with this?
It’s entirely likely that I’ve grossly understated this, but maybe that’s just it. Harold Parker State Forest is understated, in and of itself. It doesn’t have the flash and uniqueness, the spectacular views, nor the endless networks of trails that other parks in New England boast, but when you want nothing more than to enjoy a place for what it is, there just may be none better than this place.