In the spring of 2017, I decided I wanted to "settle down" in a place for a few months. Suzy needed a makeover, I needed a consistent place to do some consistent work, and I needed to fulfill my physical therapy requirements for the year. (I still do a short-term physical therapy contract every year, to stay current with my licensing and relevant in the field.)
My biggest decision was: do I want to spend a few months skiing or mountain biking? (Ha, rough life.) I finally decided I would settle down in Arizona and split my time between the mountains of Flagstaff and the desert of Sedona. The riding there is technical, difficult, and would provide a fun challenge for me over the winter. It would also be a great place to do a lot of mountain bike skills coaching, which is my favorite work that I do. I ended up doing physical therapy work in Flagstaff for half the week while living at my friend Spenser's place, and spending the other half of the week in Sedona coaching mountain biking, doing fun rides, and living in Suzy high atop a beautiful desert plateau in the middle of nowhere.
I met some fun people along the way, including 67 year old fellow mountain biker and vandweller Craig Bierly. Instead of following the typical retiree path, Craig decided to move into his van and mountain bike all over the USA. We hit it off immediately, and spent multiple evenings over those months lounging under a velvet, star-filled desert sky outside our vans, drinking moonshine and discussing the wonders and the challenges of the world and our chosen lifestyle. Craig introduced me to his Sedona friends and I was invited on the Sunday morning "old man's ride," where I was schooled in technical riding on "locals' only" secret trails by a group of men who were mostly over 60.
I got to learn the Sedona area well by coaching for the Ladies AllRide women's mountain bike camp, guiding a fun group of beginner women and coaching them on terrain that was a little scary for them, and watching them all rise up to the challenge and support each other along the way. I spent my time practicing the most technical lines in Sedona, working them over and over until I finally was able to ride them (and there are still some that I will have to master another time!)
I raced the Sedona Big Friggin' Loop, part of the Arizona Endurance Series, 65 miles of nonstop technical challenge as well as routefinding. The course was unmarked and the race was self-supported, and I'm pretty sure we literally rode every trail in the Sedona area, starting with my favorite -- Hiline trail. I had been working lines on that trail all winter and I was psyched when I passed no less than 20 racers on the descent! The race was brutal as I had not been training for endurance events in the previous months, and it took me 7.5 hours. It was heaps of fun.
I experienced the technical forest trails of Flagstaff, following local rippers around as they darted through the pines, over rocks and up steep climbs and down loamy berm-filled descents. I coached a few private MTB skills sessions here. I did quite a bit of night riding in Flagstaff too, which is one of my favorite things!
In early Spring I left to spend two weeks in Italy, speaking and teaching at the Unconventional Life business accelerator event in front of 50 entrepreneurs from all over the world. When I came back, it was getting warm and my time in Arizona was coming to a close. It was time to head North again, this time all the way to Alaska.