The road up Big Mountain, gated during winter months, offers surprise and delight each spring. Receding snow pulls back inch by inch, revealing moose and deer scat, red rock gravel tumbled down from hillsides, new cracks and frost heaves. A bolt from a snowmobile, a mangled and misshapen glove, a ski pole basket. Familiar landmarks, and the intangible but certain promise of new growth.
While the road is still closed to motor traffic, intrepid cyclists ford fingers of snow and ice to reach bare asphalt and continue their upward journeys. This year the plow came early, shoving aside, during the first week of March, what little snow remained. On a bright April day the road, though free of snow, is not free of gravel and rocks and red dust, nor the rare but deadly shard that pokes up and into unfortunate bicycle tires.
I felt it, argued against it, doubted myself, convinced myself it was true, and finally, braked to a slow stop. The rear tire—of course—the one with the complicated derailleur to navigate as I take the wheel off and endeavor to put it back on. The chain goes under this one—no, over—no, this way around the cassette . . .
Biking Buddy Bob played the hero role, removing my tire, stripping the deflated tube, then checking for the culprit, the minuscule piece of glass, rock, metal I had run over. Nothing. I handed him the new tube, the cartridge in its dispenser. Five minutes, maybe a few more, and we were again pedaling, heading down toward the reservoir, Little Mountain summit, home.
I ride thousands of miles, outside, each year. I bicycle our Wasatch canyons regularly, grunting and sweating as I climb, grinning like a fool as I descend. I clean my chain, wash my bike, re-lube. I keep a spare tube and cartridge and sunscreen in my tiny seat pack. Ten bucks and an expired driver license in my front bento box. And I get a flat tire perhaps two or three times a year. Tube, seven dollars. Cartridge, two dollars.
Each spring I participate in the greening of our world. Trees sprout buds, gray-brown trunks and limbs flecked with pale green hope. Red twig dogwood deepens in color, thickens. The shoots of winter-dormant plants green the hillsides, creeping their way up the canyon, each week another few hundred feet higher. Trees then burst into leaf and blossom, bird’s nests once again veiled by fluttering leaves. I tuck behind Biking Buddy Bob’s wheel and float down the canyon.
I pedal as summer heats the earth, as brilliant yellow arrowleaf balsamroot dies, cracks break apart earth, the creeks quiet and laze downhill. Crisp morning air, hot midday sun, sweat, dirt, grime, brownies at Brighton, a PayDay at the East Canyon Resort store. Sunflowers burst, their heliotropic heads following daylight east to west. When they, too, die, stalks thin and dry, and temperatures drop, the world again changes in front of my wheels, and I pedal up the canyon and skirt lumps of snow pushed against the berm. More layers, toe covers, pink cheeks, the thrill of a hot shower back home. The gate at the base of Big Mountain is once again locked. Snow falls, then melts.
Tube, seven dollars. Cartridge, two.