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On the Trail: Desert Santa

MOAB, Utah I was perched on the edge of a high sandstone mesa overlooking Moab, Utah, and I could see everything from there to forever. It was a bright fall day, and I was feeling righteous, having ridden my mountain bike about 90 minutes and 1,100 vertical feet to be there.But I’d lost my riding buddies, who had (according to another rider) taken a wrong turn onto a four-wheel-drive trail. The three of us had planned to descend from this high promontory together, down a rough and exposed trail to the Colorado River.You never know where your friends go when you get separated in the outdoors. But having ridden with these guys, I felt confident they’d reach our rendezvous point, just late.How late? And how long should I wait?Hmmm. I’ll give them 45 minutes, and then I’ll head for the car. If they don’t show up here, then they’ll show up there.I lay down on my back, rested my head on my helmet, closed my eyes and waited. The sun was warm, the breeze light and it was utterly silent.Until the rumble of the engines and the crackle of tires on gravel. Two red Jeeps and a Hummer were bouncing slowly up the last rocky ledges to the top. I waved as they pulled up, grumbling under my breath at the noise.A big, bearded guy about the size of a refrigerator stepped out of the lead Jeep and asked me first if everything was OK. I said yes, explained about my riding buddies, asked if he’d seen them (he hadn’t), and explained where I thought they’d gone. He was heading that way and said he’d look out for them.Then he blew my mind.”You wanna half a sub sandwich?” he asked. “It’s just gonna go to waste.””Hell yes!” I crowed, a sudden rush of saliva moistening my chin.This big graybeard reached into a cooler in the back of his red Jeep, pulled out a 6-inch Italian sub and a bottle of cold water. He smiled, and I thought to myself, “desert Santa Claus.” I thanked him so profusely I think it embarrassed him.We wished each other well, and he and his friends rumbled on their way. I mowed down the sandwich in perhaps a minute, then headed happily down my trail in the opposite direction.My buddies appeared at the car about two hours later, having ridden several more miles than me without the aid of a sandwich. I’ll never say a negative thing about Jeepers again.


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