Digging the dirt, cleansing the soul | AspenTimes.com
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Digging the dirt, cleansing the soul

Alison Berkley

I am a dirty girl.At least that’s how I felt last weekend in Moab during my first mountain bike trip of the season. I spent two days covered in sweat and dust, hair smashed against the side of my head in two braids under a ratty old visor. When I peeled off my socks and put on my flip-flops, I couldn’t tell if those rings around my ankles were tan lines or dirt lines and I didn’t really care. I figured I’d find out when I finally made it back to Aspen and got around to taking a shower.For some reason, I reveled in it. Let’s just say living in Aspen has made me a little soft. OK, so it’s turned me into a total prima donna, but whatever. I can’t help it if I’ve discovered I like pedicures better than pushing pedals. Don’t get me wrong, being outside and enjoying the scenery and all that da-da-da is great, but what’s really going through my head as I’m puffing my way through another workout is who I might run into at Eric’s that night and what I should wear in case I do.So it’s good to know I still have that hardcore chick in me, even if my program has changed a little bit. thing to prove with the whole lightweight down sleeping bag and Thermarest bit. I’m all about the doublewide foam core sleeping pad, down comforter, and two oversized pillows (one for my head and one for between my knees). I brought my favorite sheepskin slippers, my black velour Juicy sweats, and all the new skin care products I bought after my facial debacle last week. And who needs television when you have a headlamp and the latest issue of Us Weekly? After learning that Oprah is going to try to get Brad and Jen back together, I was sure to get a good night’s sleep.When we arrived well after dark on Friday night, it took us forever to find a campsite. By the time we unloaded all my bedding out of the car and got settled in, I went straight to sleep. My friend J.J. stayed up and was perfectly content to have his own little one man party, drinking all our beer and smoking pot from his one-hitter with my dog (God knows my dog needed it). That worked out fine for me because it meant we got to sleep in the next morning and he didn’t object when I suggested we go into Moab for real coffee.After drinking our lattes and perusing the travel and cooking sections at the bookstore, it occurred to me that we might want to think about going on our little 20-mile mountain bike ride. Just as I’m thinking, “What kind of idiots head into the desert for a four hour ride at 2 in the afternoon?” we run into all our friends from Aspen at the Porcupine Rim trailhead.Two minutes into our initial climb, my heart is pounding in my eardrums so hard I have to ride as slow as I can without tipping over just to catch my breath. When I finally manage to lift my head from being hunched over the handlebars in the I’m-going-to-die position, the rest of the group is so far ahead of me I can’t see them anymore. I struggle on the steeper sections where it’s hard to keep my front tire on the ground. I can’t understand why I’m hurting so badly even though I work out all the time. Then it occurs to me that maybe mountain biking is a bit more strenuous than hot yoga or jogging down the gravel trails of the Rio Grande.By the time I catch up to the rest of the group they’re all standing there staring at me like they’d rather be screaming, “WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?!” at the top of their lungs. As much as I love attention, this is one instance where I’d rather not be the main attraction. Fortunately, most of the ride is downhill. Seventeen miles to be exact, through red dirt, green sagebrush and rock spires that would eventually lead us to the valley floor and the banks of the Colorado River. Over the course of those 17 miles, something amazing happened. It’s like I had forgotten who I really was, lost track of the part of me that loves screaming descents and strenuous climbs and tight calves, the girl who loved to scare herself once in awhile and yes, even get her hands dirty.Instead of riding the brakes and fighting gravity’s natural pull, I finally relaxed into it, using my elbows as shock absorbers. I was totally amazed by what I could do (though having a sweet dual suspension bike doesn’t hurt either). Sections that looked impossible before seemed easy to me now, and all of a sudden I was dropping ledges, navigating tight spots and cruising through steep loose sections with relative ease. I realized all I had to do was let go – the hard part was all in my head.At the end of the day, I remembered how much I love being covered head to toe in the magical red dust of the desert, my skin pulled tight where my cuts had already scabbed over and bruises swelled to their formidable shape and color. I didn’t care about going to sleep without my usual bubble bath or washing my damn face with the 10 million little bottles of skin product samples that would stay unopened in my bag. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t care about being dirty because I had finally cleansed my soul.The Princess thinks she might actually get on her bike at least one more time this summer. E-mail your dirty stories to alison@berkleymedia.com


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