An Alien Holiday

Paula and I loaded up the bikes with food and water for 3 days, clothes and sleeping gear for sub freezing temps.

My bike was really living up to its ‘Behemoth’ title, now carrying a zero degree sleeping bag on the seat and a tent on the handlebars. I was really impressed with how it handled though — there’s a reason this bike is so much fun to ride, hard.

Head for the rocks. To a very remote, semi-secret and hard to reach place. A place known only as Area 52.

Paula impersonating the saguaro (just to her left).

Following the AZT 300 route, through all manner of desert, eventually you come to a curious grove of trees. Like an oasis, but with no water, it calls to the cooked riders of the 300.

At 60 degrees the sun felt better than the shade to us, but it was fun to investigate.

Rocks and river are getting close now.

This slickrock ramp is the entrance to ‘the place.’

Area 52.

This will do. Unload the bike, set up the tent and begin devouring rock.

Paula went for the tent, having done a speed workout just that morning. Her legs were screaming at her as she pushed her loaded bike up the final pitch to camp 52.

I made a run up to ‘the anvil’ and ‘the keyhole.’ Neural rust had taken over some of my Area 52 mental map. Time to reinforce the pathways by putting tire to rock.

I had to hit the campsite huck a dozen times. Just so smooth, so much fun. And killer light.

But all too short. Nights are long in December.

Are we here?

Or maybe up there?

It was easy to forget what planet we were on as we walked around in the moonlight, through crumbly moonscape. Awesome.

Christmas morning.

Who needs presents when you wake up next to your sweetie, with bike and endless rockscapes only a breath away? Bright sun, no humans for miles, the emptiness of the wilderness and legs that ache to be spent throughout it.

Area 52, a dreamland.

A place where sherbet colored rock oozes, white gravel slides on hollow shells, where the riding is only limited by your imagination. Cycling as self expression, as art.

A place where strange creatures roam.

And strange things grow…

… and die.

OK, OK, the riding is also somewhat limited by your skill and willingness to take risk.

I kept it pretty conservative, with car and civilization far away, and with no one to inspire/push me to ride stuff above or at my comfort zone. But I did find some nice ‘up’ moves to burn leg muscle on. Like the above double step, which only went after taking a slightly different angle, allowing just two inches more ‘purchase’ and just enough to kick the front wheel up.

Can I get from here to there? Only one way to find out.

Paula floated around on foot (free running?) finding all kinds of interesting stuff to take photos of (most of the photos are hers). It was really fun to finally show her this area, because my words always fail to describe it. You have to be there to understand.



Eventually it was time to head back to the white rock, camp, dinner and another long but peaceful night.

I couldn’t resist the temptation for a third ride back up onto the mesa the next morning. With fresh neural pathways (some burned deep with adrenaline) it was a flash to cruise through the heart of 52, all the way out to above the waterfall, with only a dab or two. Then back, feeling the flow, and hitting the campsite huck just one more time before packing up.

First a bit of fully loaded free riding on the way out…

Then 4×4 roads…

ATV trails. It was cool to see our two tire tracks still fresh in the sand. We hadn’t heard or seen anyone, and this was further proof — no one had been on the road in three days — except for some deer prints on top of our tracks in a few places.

Climbing away from the Gila River and the rocks of 52.

Wouldn’t be epic without a little hike-a-bike.

We set a nice mellow pace on the roads back to the car. Saguaro spotting was the game, and we found many an interesting one.

The world is an amazing place. We were lucky enough to experience this small part of it, together, and at the perfect time of year. Thanks Paula — an awesome bikepacking trip!

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