Outdoor essay: Reaching the breaking point on a ride to Taylor Lake
I moved here from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., four months ago. I am an avid bicyclist and motorcyclist. Whether I’m out on my road bike heading up to Maroon Bells, on my mountain bike up on Boy Scout Trail or headed over McClure Pass on my motorcycle, I am rewarded with some of the most spectacular vistas this part of the world offers. For me, every ride is epic. One particular adventure stands out. On July Fourth this year, friends of mine, Craig and Tanya, asked me to join them for an off-road motorcycle ride. They had an extra bike and offered to let me use it. The plan was to ride up to Taylor Lake out of Aspen. I hadn’t been on a dirt bike for probably 15 years, but I said I’d give it a try. How bad could it be, I thought. Was I in for a surprise! That morning Craig pointed me toward my ride for the day: an ’80s model dirt bike that had definitely seen better days. Badly worn tires, something leaking from the engine, handlebars that didn’t seem to turn freely and a torn seat, just to name a few of its problems.
“Oh, by the way,” Craig said, “there’s no front brake and not much rear brake.” For those of you who don’t know, this is not good! Not wanting to wimp out, I jumped on and started it up. “Let’s go,” I said. With a little luck, I’d be OK. We were headed up Ajax Mountain, then out to Taylor Lake. I really didn’t know what to expect, which turned out to be a good thing. With no front brake, the ride up Ajax was harrowing enough, but the trip over to Taylor Lake was, at times, downright scary. Sketchy uphills and some steep descents. Did I mention no front brake?I’m quite sure the ride is much easier and more enjoyable on a working motorcycle. At this point I should probably mention that Tanya was with us … on the back of Craig’s motorcycle as a passenger. It was just short of amazing watching them get up and down every gnarly section of trail!
We ended up at a small lake a little farther up the mountain from Taylor Lake, having to traverse a difficult section of trail to get there. My luck was holding, but I was wiped out, sweat-drenched and in need of a break!And the worst was yet to come.About 10 minutes into the ride back, my luck turned bad. The rear brake quit working altogether. And on a steep hill, no less! I managed to limp back to the top of Ajax, but I was done. This was too much for my skill level. In fact, Craig rode the bike down Ajax. To this day, I’m in awe of how he did that with no brakes and without killing himself! I rode his bike, with Tanya on the back. It took us twice as long to get back as it did to get there. What a day. We were tired, hungry and filthy.We stopped in Aspen for a nice dinner, and we were probably lucky to get into a restaurant. We were covered in dust and looked like we had just tumbled down the mountain!At the end of the day, I thought back on the experience. Even though I had quite a few difficult moments, I was treated to spectacular sights like I had never seen before and a certain sense of accomplishment for surviving the challenges of the day. And I spent that time with two of my favorite people.
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