“Dude I’ve been trying to get ahold of you!”
Cedar had been calling me and leaving messages for a couple days. I’d been ignoring them because… life. (sorry man!)
He caught me one day while doing some work at a coffee shop.
“What would you think about doing a demo ride/bikepacking trip with Advocate Cycles right after Interbike?”
“Well heck,” I thought, “I’ve asked, practically begged, two other bike companies to do this with me in the past…”
Advocate Cycles is a legit up-and-comer bike brand in the adventure-by-bike segment. Keep an eye on them, it’ll be good. I knew of Advocate after talking with Lael & Nick about their upcoming Baja Divide.
I took a half a moment to ponder Cedar’s request. “Yes,” I said, “and if we sell any bikes I want to be deputized as an Advocate dealer on the spot.” And so it was agreed.
Cedar (Hayduke) is a dyed-in-the-wool bike industry guy who’s in it for all the right reasons. (it certainly ain’t money) He’s one of the warmest hearts I know, and an absolute ripper of a bike rider. It needs to be said twice– Cedar is fast. Really fast. Like come into your neighborhood and steal your DH Strava KOM, onsight style. I had the honor & pleasure of introducing him to bikepacking a few years back, in Garner Valley, and then on a 2 day tour of the White Rim outside of Moab, UT with local Idyllwild legends Dawne & Marlin. We’ve been through some shit together. He knows the best & worst of me as a person and I consider him a dear friend, even though I only see him a couple times a year these days. He’s now an independent rep for Advocate Cycles, among other brands, which tells me good things about the heart of this new brand.
“I’ll make the intro to Tim.” Cedar said.
Tim (Doc Sarvis) has been in the bike biz a good long while too, more recently in that white-collar capacity shop guys dream of. (it ain’t what you think) Having worked for one of the major distributors and no stranger to bike design, Tim set out on his own with a new vision for an adventure bike brand, some fresh ideas, and the experience & contacts to make it happen.
I’ve sorta known Tim for some years, though never well enough to say I “knew” him.
All I really knew of Tim was that he’d named his flagship 27.5+ bike the “Hayduke,” after everyone’s favorite protagonist badass in Edward Abbey’s The Monkeywrench Gang.
I used to read that book to the at-risk teens I worked with doing wilderness therapy backpacking trips (building an army for good, not evil, I thought) and figured anybody who’d name a bike with a name that clever must be doing something right.
And the fact he was even receptive to this ride idea tells me his heart is in the right place.
Let’s do this.
I sent out invites to a bazillion people. And most of them showed up. A motley crew of homie bikepacker friends and a few new guys with a bunch of XC experience. We departed Idyllwild midafternoon after a delay from the Advocate guys coming back from Las Vegas.
The fast guys blasted out ahead in no time. Our group of a bazillion (I didn’t get a good count I must admit) broke into “fast” and “not as fast” groups. I was in the latter. We smelled the roses. We sat a spell. We had lights, food, and a pleasant disposition. And the knowledge we didn’t have to be anywhere until Borrego Springs tomorrow at 2ish.
“let’s hit the chill button” I said/thought/willed.
There’s a certain comfort that comes with experience in the backcountry; that feeling of “I know I’ve got all my shit here. I’ve got my food, my water, my shelter… my beer, my burrito, my friend, or what have you” With experience comes confidence, and with confidence comes enjoyment.
We took in some of the Golden Hour light at the top of the Reflector Site, which is sort of famous among bikepacker types who’ve ridden the Stagecoach 400. (interestingly enough, it never was a reflector) We enjoyed sips of tequila and fresh lime there. We descended down Jim Truck Trail, where I once lead a group down into a near-miss with a barbed wire booby trap. This day, we had fun, and were in the right place at the right time.
Shelly (Bonnie Abbzug) is easily faster than any of us in the “not as fast” group, decided to stay with us. She was being charitable, maybe, though as a I’d prefer to think she was “keeping it real.” She can drop any of us on or off the bike, but decides to stay with us anyway. Shelly… where do I begin? This brilliant woman is an insightful, joyous bundle of extrovert. Unrelentingly positive. Unabashedly friendly with anybody, at any time. Hilarious! She’s as fast on her bike as she is in her wit. And she keeps it so real. She’s a charmer, on that short list of favorite people I could count on one hand. And it happened to be her birthday weekend.
Shelly is Bonnie Abbzug
Into Anza Valley
Some time passed and we rode due south on “dirt Terwilliger.” I saw a Sheriff’s SUV drive past an intersection ahead, then, in reverse, back up… to get a look at us.
My heart skipped.
Out came a familiar voice. Dave. Homie Dave. My homie of homies. Dave See. The guy I’ve cut my SoCal bikepacking teeth with. My first overnight trip to Bailey’s Cabin was with him, in 2009.
There: a Sheriff’s rig, and and the Advocate Sprinter van. Dave limping around. He broke his hip in late spring and pretty much hasn’t been the same since. He was helping shuttle the Advocate guys in to the drop zone. I miss riding with him.
Dave was driving the Sprinter when they spotted us riders coming up the road.
I chatted up the deputy (I can use all the LE friends I can get) and it turns out his buddy has been on some of our rides. He thought what we’re doing was pretty cool. I asked him about crime fighting in Anza, and he confirmed it is indeed the real deal. ”
“Who saw Brad most recently?”
We were chilling at the Sunshine Market, our last stop before dropping down into the real deal canyon. I’d called Mrs Singh a week ahead and given her a heads up.
We’d lost Brad Holland. He’s new to our crew. I love him. Instant crew. He’s one of us now. He’s down in Palm Desert. Wild, and he keeps it real too. He was demo’ing a Hayduke from the guys at Advocate and having a jolly good time with his day…
Nobody could remember. It was dark.
Cedar blew our turnoff and continued south, in the dark, past our critical resupply.
We figured it out. Because that’s what we do. It’s dark and scary and we’re hungry. But what’s that matter? We’ve got this. We’ve got shelter and food and water and we’re all gonna be alright. Dave got Brad in the Advocate van. Cedar called me and a hilariously disjointed convo enused. We all made it ok.
We rode as a group down into the canyon, in the dark.
“let’s stop when the canyon opens up. The road will take a sweep to the east.” I said.
We stopped, in the dark. Turned our lights off and let our eyes adjust.
In some time, we headed down canyon, to the cabin.
“Where have you guys been?!”
They’d built a campfire, which was perfect.
We set up our campsites, and prepared our meals.
Because it was Shelly’s birthday weekend, I broke out some fresh ceviche, which I’d packed on ice for the trip down. The guys joked about the dangers of eating raw fish while we feasted on what could’ve been the most yummy meal ever enjoyed at Bailey’s cabin.
“shhh!” Shelly said. “let them make diarrhea jokes while we eat it all” she said.
I busted out cupcakes (yep) for everybody in the group. Graham cracker crust, marshmallow-in-the-middle, badass cupcakes. Pulled the frisbee out (an old hoods-in-the-woods cutting board trick) and piped each cupcake with chocolate frosting. Each cupcake got sprinkles too. We sang happy birthday. It was pretty darned good. The birthday girl was happy.
Morning. I did my best to ignore the early stirring. When I did get up, I tossed the frisbee into the circle. (another hoods in the woods trick, because it’s not just a cutting board you know)
Our Monkeywrench Gang had melded over the night. Cale, and Kate were up, and living large. They’d packed in camp chairs, and even a small table. They get it, I thought. It’s never, ever, about how little you can carry… it’s about how well you can live.
Ride Fast. Live Slow.
How fast? And what about that slow part?
We made good coffee. I packed my Aeropress. And fresh beans from the up & coming Black Mountain Roasting Company, who’ll hopefully soon be joining us at the shop.
And Shelly pulled out a loaf of homemade Banana Bread. Not just banana bread, but badass Shelly-made banana bread, with coconut crumbles on top. Because she’s awesome.
We departed Sunday morning out into the wash. It got thick, fast.
The miles below Bailey’s Cabin are wild. No real through traffic to speak of, except some of us bikers, and some horseback riders really. The Willows get thick.
Crazy thick. I lead the group through the Willows, and I’m here to tell you that in 10 years of riding bikes down that canyon, it was as thick as ever on this go. We made progress in inches. My bike stood itself upright in the thicket while I made forward progress to beat down the reeds. We pushed through, soaked in the water of the desert oasis, back into the desert heat.
As the canyon flattens out, the deposited sand gets softer. Fast moving canyon gives way to slow moving sand, sometimes even in washboard condition. We see the citrus groves getting closer. We keep on keepin on.
When we arrived at the edge of Borrego Springs, I checked in with Dave & Tanya, who were driving cars for our shuttle. They were on schedule, which meant we’d have a good bit of time at the Mexican restaurant in Borrego to enjoy ourselves and unwind a bit before heading back to the barn.
Our Monkeywrench Gang was bigger than Ed Abbey’s. And maybe a bit more complicated.
We had Kevin- he’s so stoked. He brought dehydrated beer on the trip. So stoked!
Robert- thoughtful, collected, good dude. Takes good pictures
Eric Apple- I’ve ridden with this guy. He gets it. North Carolina keepin it real.
Jim, from Advocate:
Jim was our “Seldom Seen Smith.” A real bike guy. Diabetic! Thoughtful, patient, solid.
Angel- our token Mexican. He didn’t pack his usual awesome food on this trip. What’s up with that man?
Andrew- Kevin’s friend. Cool bike, rasta colors. Do we call him Andy or Andrew?
Grosso- Stagecoach 400 guy. Spandex, singlespeed. (I have his 30 bucks Shelly)
Cale- I bet this guy looks awesome in a skinny suit. He’s got style for days
Kate- like a vision in the desert. Grace. And awesome hair.
Brad- Are you shitting me? Brad’s the best.
We made our way to a Mexican restaurant I hadn’t been to before. It was good. They made good ceviche. And even better margaritas. We got in our shuttle vehicles and made our way home.
That’s all I’ve got. We had fun. You should’ve been there.