Sunday, June 26, 2011

Flowing Through a Hot Rock Garden With Cactus

Summer heat, hills, rocks, cactii, solitude at Dreamy Draw: a perfect combination for a yin-yang flow ride

Chieko Mori and her koto music may seem like an odd choice for accompanying a video of a Trail 100 mountain bike ride in Phoenix on a blazing hot summer day. Allow me to explain.

It's been a few months since I hit the trails on my mountain bike. But I got the itch for rocks and bumps, and knew that I would have the trail pretty much to myself due to the heat. I drank a lot of water beforehand, and also on the ride, and even with that, the 107F heat was almost too much. I'm not quite used to it yet, and as the video shows, my selected ride starts out with an uphill I-think-I-can chug that I have never really enjoyed as a ride in itself. But as a necessary gateway task to get to the better part I do enjoy, I'm willing to use that granny ring and seek a working relationship with heat and gravity. It proved to be a challenging relationship though, this day: on the way up the hill, sun verily beating down on me, I felt how long it has been, and how I'm only partly acclimated to the heat this early in the season. So I slowed down, pounded down the water, and started seeking flow and balance on the ride, rather than speed.

Add to that my current reading choice, Before the Deluge: The Vanishing World of the Yangtze's Three Gorges by Deirdre Chetham, and you can understand why I was thinking about my old friend The Tracker statue, which is located just south of this mountain preserve, and is gazing in the general direction of my ride. 

Statue of a guy pulling a boat along the Yangtze River, looking at my trail area

Take a look at Chieko Mori playing her koto. At the start of my video, below, the two ideas seem very far apart, the hot rocky spiky trail ride against the delicate music of the koto. But, in the end, as I do my best to flow like a river through the swoopy turns of the downhill stretch to Tatum, and particularly at the end of the trail when I set the camera down and show myself emerging, it feels more coherent to me. The run down Tatum past the oleanders is just for fun.

The rocks of the trail and the cactus lining its sides, with the heat beating down on me, would all initially appear to be working against a feeling of flow and ease, right? It would be very understandable, expected even, to emerge from this ride dehydrated, bloody, tired, and beat. But in fact I felt quite the opposite. As if it had gone by very quickly, as if the ride at the end was smooth and easy, and those elements of nature were actually working with me, or I with them, understanding how to be in harmony with them, how to be near the cactus and ride over and around the rocks in the searing heat as parts of the whole. If you fight them they bite back. So I just roll them and think of koto music.

The zen moment was at around minute 8 in the video when the only other bicycle rider I saw out there rode by. She greeted me with a cheery "hello," and flew on by. I did not give chase. I thought of giving chase. But this was the yin-yang heart of the ride: one cyclist alone out there is in the zone, but meeting another does it become a race, like the old saying? I guess that depends on what music each is hearing, alone, at the moment of meeting. Get up. Go ride.



  1. That's some neat terrain out there. I can almost feel the heat coming through the video.

  2. I have a relationship with that land going back more that fifty years. I'll tell about it someday. When we left (Quartzsite)I felt it was life or death. We are still alive so if that is a good thing then we did right. I still have ties there.
    What I'm saying is that I can taste that dirt, feel those rocks and smell the dryness of everything in the video. I know the sound a foot or wheel makes on that path.
    The dirt of that part of the west will never wash out of my skin.

  3. limom om.

    RTP it's heat-o-vision! Trail TV!

    Oldfool, I keep telling people that the crunchy sound my tire makes when it leaves the cement and hits the gravel path makes me happy. I guess you understand.

    Steve, tell that to the dried up gecko I found on my driveway.

  4. Very nice video, it's actually odd how at minute 7, at minute 9 and at 10.40 the music seems to go faster, and the bike too.
    Great, great video!

  5. Thanks for the compliments Seb. I try to find an audioswap that matches the mood of the ride, and sometimes there are happy coincidences in the editing and tempo.


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