Stop and Smell the Roses, er, DIRT (shut down your computer and help out this weekend)!

 “WHOOOAAAA!!”… the unmistakable, unabashed howl of getting airborne on my bike, flying through the crisp air and feeling like I suddenly grew wings the size of an albatross!  THUD.  That would be the jolting sound of my body slamming into the dirt and reality setting in as I realize neither my bike or I have wings of any sort and the log I was trying to huck over had attacked me and pitched me into the terra firma.  Dragging myself up from a rather pretzel-like position, I look up and catch the highly amused expression on my partner Dave’s face…and then the Geico reptile blows by us both on a tricycle.

All true with the exception of actually seeing the famous car insurance critter on wheels.  That’s only partially true because it happened in a dream I had last night.  I woke up from this unique reverie with an intense desire to head out for a long, grueling ride on the trails (sans the Geico charger), and it couldn’t happen fast enough.  Oh wait!  This little thing called ‘LIFE’ with its day to day responsibilities, challenges, and ceaseless to-do lists must take precedence over my insatiable thirst to pedal myself silly for several hours.

I opened the bedroom curtains and saw another beautiful day had begun in Santa Cruz with cerulean blue skies, the temperature hovering around 65 degrees, and a refreshing light breeze carrying a mildly salty scent from the nearby sea.  Despite the fact that I had budgets, resumes, chores, and the always harrowing task of figuring how to stretch one paycheck to the next on my mind, all I wanted to do was RIDE.  My mind drifted to the last time I embarked upon a major pedal that literally left me writhing on the pavement  with every muscle in my body on fire; the Demo Forest in Aptos, CA.

At the top of Demo with friends, anticipating the descent!

Demo is brutal.  Elevation Gain/Loss +4,568/-4,439…sweet single-track trails and some epic technical sections but the climbing is truly diabolical in my humble opinion.  Dave was preparing me for this ride for weeks, and I worked for it though in the end I realized I could have pushed myself a bit harder.  No, I am not a masochist.  Anyway…it’s incredibly beautiful up there (literally in the middle of nowhere), almost otherworldly.  The color green played itself out in a million personalities, from neon to lush and darkly mysterious.  How I noticed this while I was dripping with sweat, mumbling incoherently to myself, and questioning what I did to deserve such suffering, I’m not sure.

The agonizing ascension was well worth it.  Pedaling downhill, carving through epic berms, and hauling my bike into the air beneath me made me forget about the trials and tribulations of everyday life.  I was in the thick of it, enjoying the total mind-body-spirit connection with nature that’s unlike anything else.

My daydreaming ceased right there when my cell phone began to vibrate annoyingly against my leg.  I knew I didn’t have the time to do a Demo-type ride so I handled my necessary tasks, hopped on my bike, and rode a couple miles out from my house to West Cliff Drive (one of the most visually stunning roads in northern California, with ocean views that humble your heart and calm your soul).

West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz

My point?  Getting out of the proverbial box and enjoying the fresh air is a necessity.  You don’t always have to show your appreciation for nature by zooming at breakneck speed down a steep trail (or surfing a wave big enough to topple the Empire State Building) because sometimes mixing it up and slowing down allows you time to really notice the beauty that surrounds you.   When you take time to notice it, you begin to love it, and when you love it you conserve and protect it.

This Saturday is Make A Difference Day.  If you can’t make it Saturday join us Sunday at Nisene Marks State park (on the south side of Demo Forest) from 9:30 to 2 pm. Think about what you love about nature, and sign up for a project this weekend.  “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” –Winston Churchill

Contributed by Shawna Peak

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