Dirty Girls and Dragonflies…

A couple of my girlfriends and I decided we were in need of some girl camping and mountain bike adventures. Hurray! That’s 2 mountain bike adventures for me this year! I’ve broken the mountain biking once per year cycle!! Two of these lovely ladies live in New Mexico. We settled on a plan to check out some of the trails that they really like in Fort Bayard, New Mexico. Two of us from Arizona piled our bikes into a rental minivan and hit the road bound for Fort Bayard! The girls and I mountain biked, drank beer, hung out and caught up with each other by the fire. It was perfect. 

As with most time spent on the mountain bike, it makes me reflect on things, work through parts of myself that hold me back and appreciate things about life that are magnified when you’re working through internal and external obstacles with a bike and trail. This internal rumination isn’t intended. It just happens as a result of pushing through the bike/trail/body/mind challenge. Anyhoo, the rides I had with these ladies made me appreciate the intimacy and trust involved in Cycling. The intimacy I’m referring to isn’t romantic or emotional in nature. It’s pure familiarity, knowledge and trust in a person or group of people with whom you’ve ridden for a long period of time. 

This is a really beautiful thing in road cycling as a part of a peloton or pace line, feeling everyone’s effort being smoothly joined into one giant fast and powerful effort. Each individual trusting each other not to screw up and cross wheels with someone, or fail to point out dangerous obstacles in the road. The speeds the group reaches together is so much faster than what an individual could produce alone. I imagine it’s what it would feel like to swim with a school of fish or fly with a flock of birds.

The girls and I set out to ride a variety of trails within the Ft. Bayard trail system, including Dragonfly Loop to see the petroglyphs and The Big Tree Trail. The Big Tree is nationally ranked as the 2nd largest Alligator Juniper Tree in the country. The petroglyphs were awesome and Big Tree was very impressive. The company was the highlight of everything. The four of us played outside like little kids all weekend.

I felt so grateful to have the guidance of Rachel’s trusty wheel on the trail! I became best friends with her through Road Cycling. She and I rode countless miles together in the cold and dark early mornings in the winter and in the sweltering heat of the summer. The interesting thing is that, on the road, I am her wheel. Over the years, Rachel has done a lot more mountain biking than I have. She’s worked really hard on her skills and continues to attend clinics to fine tune her technique. She’s great at it.

I had much more confidence about committing to the line that she carved through the obstacles and scary sections for us because I know her so well. I know how she rides and know she isn’t going to try to Evel Knievel me through the desert. She knows my strengths and weaknesses and will push me to make me better, but not enough to be reckless. We went through a few sections that would have challenged me so much more, had I not been zooming through it behind her. We bombed down some pretty chunky downhill sections and zipped through a really narrow, fast section that had a drop off on one side. I just told myself to hang on, trust and commit. Rachel wants to preserve her skin and bones and wants me to survive and like it enough to come back and do it again one day.

I appreciated so very much reflecting on all of the years and miles that Rachel and I have spent on the bike together. I rode behind her friend a couple of times, but it felt very different. Her friend is incredibly skilled and wonderful, but I don’t know her. I wasn’t as comfortable as I was following my friend’s line. I don’t know her body position on the bike like I know Rachel. She was fantastic, but her physical cues were different and harder for me to read.

Knowing and trusting someone in this way is the purest and simplest form of intimacy. I know that my friend knows everything about me and wants me to have a fun ride. She wants me to be safe, but she wants to push me when she can because she knows I want to (and can) be better. She’ll make me stretch my skills, but she’ll be thoughtful about it. I also know her strengths, weaknesses, risk taking habits, bike body language and temperament. It made me happy to have this connection and trust with my dear friend. It was refreshing to think about a close connection with someone that isn’t complicated like romantic/emotional intimacy. It was heart warming to be certain of my friend and know that I could trust in what I know about her and myself in the challenging moments. I thought it was interesting that I felt more comfortable hurling myself and my bike down boulder laden hills with her than I feel about dipping my toes back into the wild kingdom of dating.

Here’s a video one of my friends made to highlight our adventures:

The way I felt highlighted for me that allowing myself to be vulnerable and open enough to trust someone also allowed me to grow. Sure, we’re talking mountain bike skills here, but these lessons transcend the cycling metaphor into real life. It also showed me that true intimacy and connection is knowing each other at our best and our worst and supporting, encouraging and inspiring each other to be the best versions of ourselves. It is also acting with respect, patience, love and kindness when we are the not so great version. This is what I hope to find in a partner one day.

It was appropriate that we spent so much time admiring the many dragonfly petroglyphs. I’ve read that the meaning of the Dragonfly symbol in many Native American cultures was to signify happiness, speed and purity. The dragonfly also represents transformation and life’s ever constant process of change. Maybe the ancient influence affected my brain a little bit on these rides.

I have 1 more friend adventure to share and am trying to settle on a Date #17 idea. Thank you for reading!

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