30 Days on the Road

December 18 — 2017

Hailey Elise sets her sights on the steeps of Green River.

30 days on the road. Might seem like a lot or not much at all. With a bunch of designated stops along the way and very little else planned, I couldn’t help but be entirely present as we crossed the border from Canada into the USA, about to embark into the unknown of life on the road. My partner, Ollie Jones and I planned to drive south through Oregon to California, on to Nevada and finally, to Green River, Utah—a 7,000km round trip. We hoped to not only take our bikes on a journey but to experience everything the road had to offer along the way.

Little did we know that the timing of our trip couldn’t have been much worse. We left Canada just as a massive 5,000-mile-long storm stretched across the pacific from Asia and hit the Pacific Northwest. Our first few days were spent driving to keep ahead of it. Biking in Bellingham and Northern Oregon was out of the question unless you were keen on swimming. With no place to take shelter after a ride or dry out our gear, we chose to drive on in hopes of surpassing the weather.

The key to making the best of the wet weather is to go along with it. A brief stop on the Oregon Coast was all Ollie needed to refresh himself for the long drive ahead.

We zig-zagged across the Oregon coast and passed the California border. 48 hours later, we had finally broken free of the monsoon. Camping became easier and the stress of battling the elements took a back seat. Flannel, boots and jeans changed to shorts and the bikes finally came out. We went to straight to Santa Cruz to ride among the Redwoods and thankfully, we avoided personally experiencing the poison Oak. After spending so much time being ‘damp’, the temperatures felt perfect for riding. As much as we wanted to spend every minute on our bikes, we made sure to take in the local beaches and since we both love to eat, the notable food scene.

Seeing the world from the front seat of your vehicle slows down the changes you might experience when you fly from one location to another. Coming from a place where outdoor activities govern people’s lives, it was easy to settle into SoCal’s playful rhythm.

Staying in one place for too long isn’t part of the road trip game. You keep moving or keep driving. It’s not even a matter of ‘needing’ to do so, it’s a want. Seeing what’s over the next hill or in the next town is the motivation to continue on for a few extra hours or even through the night. Hungry for more, we left the coast to go inland and towards the desert. Before we knew it, we were in Death Valley. Hailing from Whistler where it's easy to be completely surrounded by trees, the desert was a spectacular change of scenery. We eased our pace and made sure to stop at every sand dune or viewpoint to drink in sights.

A quick stop in Death Valley to catch the last bit of light as it leaves the desert.

Falling asleep wasn’t a challenge because of the heat, the sky was so full of stars, it was its own night light.

We arrived in Utah on the tenth day of our trip and dove right into this year's Redbull Rampage event. This was my first Rampage and for those of you that haven’t been, I would say to put it on your bucket list. When you’re there in person, watching the athletes work through their lines both physically and mentally, it fills you with all sorts of emotions—excitement, fear, and awe just to name a few. And of course the stoke was high after watching the send fest so we went in search of places to ride as soon as it was over. Grafton, Gooseberry Mesa, the old Rampage site and even King Kong were ticked off the list. We were supposed to carry on to our final destination, Green River, but we kept delaying to enjoy more of what our wheels could sink into in Virgin.

Ollie on the Grafton Road Gap. This area not only had some features, but there is a spooky historical graveyard right as you exit the trails. Needless to say, I refused to camp here.

The old Rampage site is the perfect place for progression with endless jumps and steep lines scattered all over the mesa. It was overwhelming at first what with how much there was to do and the size of some of the features. But after taking a few moments to collect myself and remembering to just have a good time, it ended up being hard to leave.

Another reason we couldn’t leave Virgin: More sand dunes!

The time came to leave the red dirt and trade it in for the grey kind. Little did I know that spending the extra days riding in Virgin would help set in motion a chain of events that would lead me to have to ask some serious questions of myself.

Green River, Utah.

Green River was set as our final destination because I wanted to ride big mountain lines that you couldn’t find anywhere else. I’ve always been a fan of riding steep terrain and being able to mix that with the sensation of skiing (thanks to the moon dust dirt) sounded like a dream. Green River is a funny little town of about 900 residents. Many of its buildings are abandoned and the ones that aren’t play host to businesses that choose randomly when and what time they will be open.

Day one, hour one in Green River, Utah.

We drove to the zone most famous for mountain bike lines and then took our bikes out right away. Ollie wanted to start filming but I just wanted to ride. Hiking up and down after riding hard for days prior, I could feel my legs push back almost instantly but the excitement of a new place and new dirt made it impossible to quit. When the following day came and it was time to work, I felt scattered and fatigued before I even touched my bike. A single shot turned into a relentless battle in which I ended up losing over and over as I crashed into the moon dust. We called it quits that day. But this scenario repeated itself again and again for the next few days. I couldn’t seem to regain composure and ride the way I had envisioned riding that terrain. It was supposed to be an opportunity to challenge myself but I kept looking at Ollie and saying, “I don’t want to send, I just can’t right now.”

Cut, bruised and ego in pieces, I sat and tried to deconstruct what the hell was happening and why I couldn’t seem to stay on my bike in the place where it mattered most to me to do just that.

We ended up stopping early on what was supposed to be our last day and paying for a site in the only trailer park. This sort of thing is a luxury when you’re on the road. It provided a chance to shower, gain access to wifi to binge watch Stranger Things, and most importantly, to rest.

After a good night sleep, we drove back to the riding site, this time with no expectations. We planned to get whatever we could for footage and then leave to begin the long drive back home to Whistler. However, as soon as it was established between us that the intention was to just ride, I felt myself relax. It was a rough start to the day as I struggled to let go of the blow to my confidence but as soon as I had a few successes, it was right back into it.

Left a little bit of myself in the dirt. Green River was hard, but it was also awesome.

I wish we would say we came, we rode, and we conquered Green River but it was a very a different story. In the process of driving away from the sleepy little town with the grey dirt, I struggled to really identify the factors that had led to my breakdown. Looking back, I believe it was fatigue and the pressure that I set upon myself that brewed the perfect conditions for some hard moments. But even still, I know that I have a lot of exploration left to do when I'm faced with those feelings again.

We left Canada to go on a trip with our bikes and to see what we could see only a drive away from home but what really happened as we navigated everything in between each destination, was a whole lot of soul searching.


Previous Next Post Links