Apparently making up for lost time now, my neighbor Tony sends out word of another autumn ride, this time to the south. I RSVP in the positive once I’ve secured permission from the boss.
As riding days go, this one isn’t starting too well. “I can’t believe I forgot my pants,” I lament.
My neighbor Tony and I have come about an hour from Boise to Hemingway Butte to ride desert trails to the south. Since our last ride, I’ve replaced the battery. I’m excited to have electric start again, assuming we can ride.
Maybe it was stuffing my jacket into the bag, which I don’t always do, that made me think I already packed my pants. Tony sort of offers to drive back for them but I think we both know that isn’t feasible.
“It will look stupid but I think it will be fine,” I insist after proposing I just go without pants.
Tony is rightly skeptical. “At least take these,” he finally says after some back-and-forth, pulling off his denim shorts to add over my cotton pair.
Unhindered by trees, wind comes steady across the alien terrain colored brown, orange and grey. It’s cool but not cold and I end up not even wearing the jacket I brought.
Perhaps others lead lives of ceaseless merriment but I think mine is more like these Owyhees. It can look drab from a distance but there is splendor to be found if we pause and consider endless small details.
“What kind of bird do you think that is?” Tony wonders aloud, nodding up the hill at a raptor using the steady wind to hang motionless in the air above a point on the ground.
“I’m not sure.”
I feel a bit like that bird lately, working just to hold my ground. Company revenue where I was employed through September went below what was needed to cover my salary so, for the first time in thirty years, I’ve been without income. It’s disconcerting.
Tony leads us through gullies that echo the magic of area slot canyons with whimsical outcrops, bulbous and grinning, decorated with tenacious if tenuous-looking plantlife.
I know I’ve mentioned it many times but I get the same feeling every time I move through these miniature landscapes — the desire to get down, maybe even lie on my side, and push toy trucks around the dirt and rocks; to make tiny houses with sticks; see what bugs might be hiding under stones. I never quite grew up that way.
We pause at three successive trails heading into the hills to our right, the way Tony would like to lead us, but each is closed.
In lieu of those routes to the right, we continue across the Owyhee Front for a reunion with Sinker Creek.
“I think my back tire is low,” I mention as we come to a stop to consider a wye. I step off to add a few pumps then hand Tony the camera to capture the day’s proud ensemble.
To the right is again a “no” so we’re going to make like water and flow through a gully to the left.
I am glad for Tony in the lead. I can ride my best speed through tight gullies knowing he’s already ran into any oncoming traffic.
Tony lets me know when we’ve stopped for a snack that Rocky Road is not a good energy bar flavor. I’m strictly a peanut butter-chocolate guy so it’s a disappointment I’ve never risked.
“I found your glove,” I hear Tony call from the truck. We’re back at the lot now, loading up. I was too ashamed to say earlier that not only did I leave my pants behind but I couldn’t find one of my gloves. I was sure I’d packed both. I guessed it might have blown out of the truck.
Tony was kind to ask the guys parked next to us at the lot if they had an extra pair. A kid-sized pair of stretchy knitted things (like glove liners) was the answer, perfect complement to the denim shorts and knee-high socks I would be sporting.
At least the glove is found. I don’t know how it got inside the cab from the bag in the bed of the truck but I’m glad to have it back for the next ride (for which I promise to wear pants).
As I hand Tony his denim shorts I notice the button is attached with a tiny zip-tie. I can’t believe his wife lets him mend his clothes like that. Obviously I won’t tell anyone.