Night up in Telluride, at Yitka and Steve’s little apartment, talking about the usual stuff.
“We have to be out of here in May, our landlord wants to turn the downstairs closet into another room so that he can rent the place out as a two bedroom for the summer festivals.”
“Think you’ll stay in Telluride?”
“Oh, we don’t know. I went to look at another place, it was a studio with a hot plate. It didn’t have a kitchen, and it was filthy, like they hadn’t cleaned at all before I came over. It looked like a dorm room. And they wanted $1200 a month for it. I can deal with not having a kitchen when I’m camping, but I want to be able to cook if I’m paying rent in a place.”
“Man, that’s way worse rent than the valley.”
“But it is great here. And I got into UTMB! It’s like my dream race. And my friend has a place we can stay in Chamonoix, so we’ll probably go there for most of the summer.”
It’s past nine, and I haven’t eaten anything since that tortilla and pepperoni I had with coffee back in Montrose. Steve has an end of the season work party, I can come, but I turn down the invite. I don’t want to impose too much- but mostly I’m just beat. Still trying to get back in the rhythm after riding chair lifts and sitting at a desk all winter.
I walk to the other end of town (maybe five blocks), to grab a burger at the brewery. Lots of little old houses, tucked away restaurants. People buzz around the streets on fat bikes and hang out on their porches. Nothing is too built up because the town kept the ski hill separate. Just a gondola ride away, but that’s far enough.
The burger’s good, and a few minutes later the couch is better.
The next morning, Steve gets ready to pick up bread, and ride up to the restaurant (at 12,000 feet on the hill) on a snowmobile. We’re eating ramen.
“Yeah, I think I left right before the coke came out.”
Up Lizard Head Pass away from town. Snowmobiles are beached in the dirt next to the road. At the top of the pass, some people are skiing, but the stake only shows two feet of snow left. Might be some bad fires this summer.
Over the top, into a headwind again. Damn. This should be a couple hour long descent, but it turns into a full afternoon of pedaling downhill. A few miles outside of Dolores, I call it a day and set up camp next to the river.
The next morning at the little market, the owner sees my bike and asks which way I’m headed. I tell him that the plan was to go down through Teec Nos Pos.
“Teecs? How are you gonna get down there?” He opens up a map.
I point to some dirt roads. “Well, my plan was to go around Ute Mountain here, and head down through the Navajo Res.”
“That’s a sacred mountain. The tribe’s not gonna want you up there. Nope. They won’t like that at all.”
“Oh, didn’t realize. Maybe I’ll go another way.” That undoes my route a little. The only other way down there is more straight, windy highway.
I make Cortez a while later, and stop in the bike shop to see if they have any suggestions.
“No, man I don’t think you can go that way. You need permission and a member of the tribe with you to go on Ute land. I’m not sure what the rules are on Navajo land, but it might be the same thing. Maybe you could try it, but they won’t be happy if they find you up there. That’s a sacred mountain.”
“No, I won’t do that. I’ll figure out something else.” Typical white guy, it never occurred to me to ask for permission.
And man, I really don’t want to ride more highways. I sit down in a coffee shop. The wind pushes the metal sign outside parallel with the ground, chains strain. Dust and trash rips down the main street, keeping pace with traffic. I’d been talking to my friend Garrett a few months ago about maybe carpooling down to the race. I’ll see if he’s still going.
The messenger app dings. “I’ll find out about my ride. Willing to drive down if you are. Come to Durango!” Sweet. Looks like I’m going to go with the tail wind and swing to the east.
I toss my coffee cup, and ride out of town. Laps on the Phil’s World trails until the sun starts to set.