Alone in Flagstaff

After two double espressos and a toasted bagel at the cool Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, I was ready. It was a sunny April morning and I looked at the map one last time. Tiger‘s engine sounded as pumped up as I was. Off we went. Trails were waiting.

Running and riding a motorcycle have often felt similar to me. The differences are obvious: wheels vs legs, sitting vs moving, 8 mph vs 80 mph (let’s not discuss what Tiger can really do; my mother might be reading). But both the bike and my running shoes facilitate a sense of freedom. And focus: both force me to concentrate and forget the distracting rest. I have described running as being quiet; riding a motorcycle can be that, too.

Better on two legs; going where horses can't

Better on two legs; going where horses can’t

In Flagstaff I had stopped for the night as I rode from Los Angeles to Santa Fe. During 10 hours on the bike  I had experienced desert heat, cool mountain air, empty and straight highways, stunning Rocky Mountains roads, curves to die for, a bone-chilling top speed, and a sense of joy I had almost forgotten existed.

The next morning I rode about 10 miles to a trail head whose name sounded promising: Sunset. Although the sun had, in fact, just risen, I was excited about the steep, 4 mile incline to a promising view of Flagstaff.

My run and the sense of excitement and promise actually started when I got on the bike. The unknown adventure began as I pulled out of the parking lot. Leaning into the smooth curves of highway 180, still empty and all mine, felt as liberating as moving my legs lightly to attack a hill.

After parking I headed toward the summit. My breathing calmed and I found my way up. Quick strides, sharp moves, complete focus. My new-ish Saucony Kinvara Trails held up well. A sip of  water on the top, and I flew down in two-thirds of the time. Again, small and controlled leaps, letting gravity do the work. Letting go.

As I found my bike at the trail head I realized I had not seen one person. I was alone. Separate from the world, and yet completely part of it.


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