DFL the Divide: A Friend Tour with Bikes
Photos by Brian Zglobicki, Ester Song, Collin Samaan, Tod Seelie and Spencer Harding
Words by Hannah Kirby, Adam and Serena Rio
It only felt right to do this post as a posse, there are far too many voices and perspectives for something as myopic as my lens alone. So, I present to you, our second #dflthedivide trip. The photos are all mashed together, in a collaborative edit by myself and Tod. Below are three written perspectives as well. Together they are far more eloquent and enjoyable than anything I could have done alone, a perfect allegory for the trip itself. I Love all these ding dongs a whole whole lot…
The nascent days of cycling were drenched in money and bikes reigned street supreme in the absence of cars. Only the rich had the luxury of owning a bike and the luxury of time to ride the bike, but not nearly enough luxury to own two. Your singular bike had to race, it had to commute, and in a life yet without cars, it had to carry you long distance on vacay.
In 1869, British boy John Mayall rode a bike from Brixton to London, the world’s first long-distance bike ride. In 1884, Thomas Stevens would ride and hike his penny-farthing around the world. Cyclist Frank Lenz, while on what would be a fatal transcontinental tour, developed a crafty remote for his huge boxy wooden camera, pioneering selfies and inspiring little John Prolly’s to come.
I’m struck by the juxtaposition when I sit in front of my house on Skid Row in downtown LA, between history, myself, and the residents here. The infamous and unprecedented homeless community lives a life without cars as well. This unsolicited lifestyle forces a nomadic expertise, one that transcends money and oftentimes practicality—but still incredible innovation. Moving houses with skateboards and shopping carts and tireless rims, it’s an inspiring feat to witness.
People ride to salvation, salvation from heartbreak, salvation from responsibilities, salvation from the mundane, salvation from this penitentiary our capitalist society has thrown us into. People ride for fitness, they ride for pleasure, they race thousands of miles, they ride for a lifestyle, they ride to see this goddamn gorgeous world. People ride in spandex and credit cards, people race on too few hours of sleep and travel hundreds of miles daily. And that’s okay too.
Not all bike tours are created equal but they’re all equally important. The definition stands flimsily. Adam is an austere farm boy, riding to escape a too real reality on a vintage Performance Synapse and a crude basket. Trigger-happy-bike-tour guide Spencer fabricates dreamy realities with his photos. He rides a bike riddled with custom while still rocking punk short shorts. Colin rides on the sheer passion for the sport, his legs and mind powered by weed and his fat bike heavy enough to sow legends. Ester moves on color and fashion, unshakable in her tenacity, riding for the beauty and the trip. Rat hadn’t touched a bike in a literal year and still smiled the whole 7 days, surrounding himself with buddies and wheelies, his whole bicycle secured by Voile straps alone.
One day, I was riding with Adam on his fucking awesome junkyard bike. He looked at me through a crooked-toothed smile, “I like to pretend,” he started “that was on some epic world-saving quest, instead of just vacation.” It was funny, we laughed, I said nothing, it didn’t deserve repeating because it was too true.
I tour with my friends and my soon to be friends. I like decorating their bodies and braiding their hair and taking drugs and swimming cold and naked and cooking so tenderly for each other. I like going slow unless its downhill and I like snacking. A lot. There are times touring when it’s hard and I wonder what the fuck I’m doing. I ride for the experience, to try something nutty. I’ll try anything a whole bunch of times.
Not all tours are created equal, but they’re all equally important. There are a billion ways to tour, but I ain’t touring any other way. At least for now.
Avoiding the Doom-Makers: Pillow Fight Pass and The Crystals of Fortitude
Don’t forget your courage-fortifying crystals for this one, faithful reader! An EVIL has settled like a fog upon this land, a murky and boring vail over what was vast, and magical. Like pin-pricks of light, 17 characters of unparalleled gumption and tenderness were hand-selected by wise-ancient hands unknown, for a quest. A quest for light, purpose, and folly.
Day 0: Human Water Spiders
We met! Yes, we met, with the sleepy eyes and the coffee mouths of the road weary, the airport sick. We know some of us; we don’t know some others and our time is spent half-assedely assembling our necessary crystals and bicycles. There are 17 of us and there are now 17 different and sincere accounts of what our route entails. We KNOW that there’s at least a 100,000-foot obsidian mountain replete with creepster ghouls and spooky Ginns en route to our first oasis. Spooky stuff. We go tubing as a way of accepting the inevitable. Tubing is fun. Our enchanted bodies chant encouragements to the brave tubers among us as they jiggle through the rapids like oh so many drowning spiders.
We go to our new home/yard and make a glorious feast, and laugh hard at one another’s faces, knowing that some serious friendship shit is about to be going down over the next week. Several warm’n’pleasant hours later our heroes fade into their sleeping cocoons knowing that today, like tomorrow but unlike yesterday – they had avoided the doom-makers.
AWAKE HEROES!! It’s the 5:30 AM night demon that haunts every shitty traveler! goddamn motherfucking sprinklers! Panic responses vary drastically. Sam stays in the tent thinking that someone is spraying him with a hose through the tent door and may be re-evaluating kinship because of this. Kurt is laughing (hard) because, wisest Kurt, grabbed the inside spot. Colin is running backward and making a variety of noises. Hannah is paralyzed, standing with an expression of sleep combined with terror and is holding an inflatable sleeping pad like a surfboard <– this image is burned into my mind, hopefully forever. Ester is staying cool while weaving a ripper of a spell that inevitably bests the sprinkler demon. Ray giggles. Others slept on. Damp, giggly and tired our jovial heroes lay in a pile in the living room of the kindest (and unsuspecting) giver of hospitality that Boulder possesses, as night #0 comes to an end.
Day 1: Ascending Po-lice Mountain
Our heroes said quick goodbyes and left in good time after a light breakfast in order to get to the climb early in the day. That is a lie. It will always be a lie. We had a gigantor multi-stage breakfast with coffee positively pouring out of the sky into our cute little-upturned mouths. We went to the store, came back, forgot something, went to the store took a picture, had a giggle and went to the store. Maybe left by middayish? Not bad!
As we climb out of horrible-Boulder (sorry) and away from the time-based horrors of our below selves we melt into something weirder. Plenty of time for our heroes to contemplate the enormity of their task – create a meaningful life full of beauty for today and probably the rest of our lives. oofdah. First, one must establish a personal style. Having a style captain on a dangerous quest is essential. From the outset, Ester-the-unbendable-the-unbreakable threw down so much unmitigated style that she accepted the role as a rock accepts that it’s a rock. Curt also has a style and character that is so unwavering that one could navigate by it. And we did, dearest, we did. Straight up the mountain to where the Ghuls howled and the air felt unrewarding, here at 370,000 ft. Dragons of old demanded answers to perplexing riddles in exchange for safe passage and we lost a good many to the Ghuls. BUT then we dove down to Nederland and got piiiizzzaaa! The false concept of actual “time” would have put us on the road for less than a “day” but coming into that pizza shop made it clear to us that it had been at least several years and that our withered bones yearned for comfort. Comforted we were. Mozzarella comfort all around.
Now it’s night. The group has split and it comes to light that the friendly bartender will not indeed house all of us, as we had counted on without asking. Dammit! Guess we’ll go up the hill to join the others at an allegedly great and locals only kinda camp spot. Kurt puts on an 80s pop mix and we’re off!…well, kinda because now it’s climbing and we’re walking. The number of times I’ve walked along the side of the highway at night with or without a bicycle, with or without a place to stay, with or without companions is either far too many or nowhere near enough – I can’t decide right now. BUT it does something damn powerful, I can remember looking at the blinking lights of good friends and hearing laughing mixed with “Time After Time” drifting down between the roar of headlights flying by. Headlights of people probably thinking about how lucky they were to not be us and vice versa.
We get lost, we get silly and loud, we get to camp very ready to be asleep. yahoo, respite! nope, weary one, for those are the police. “LIGHTS OFF! COPS!”, spoken in whisper-shout <– That can work well… but not with 18 people. And unfortunately cops come equipped with their own damn lights, and they saw us plain as day – looking like a pack of frozen, stupid deer. All in all, they spoke cop at us for a bit and we got ye olde “move along”, some wry looks and someone among us convinced the neighboring RV to let us camp with them. For some reason, they agreed.
Day ???: Loss of Linear Time // Ice Caves // Rest of Life
As always, I wake up early and haunt-rove around the neighboring hills like a creepy vampire. I get to watch the sun crest a valley side and fill it all the way up. Big black toothy mountains exist. I can’t forget that, and In this clear’n quiet morning, it’s all almost too much for a simpleton from the rolling hills of the shire to handle.
Our heroes, waking in waves, were joined by the two highly kind Louisianians-of-the-RV, and their delightful dogs. The daintiest of pups, Daisy, was a creature to model one’s life after ~ full of prance ~ full of vital force ~ highly cute. Our new friends brought us coffee, accents, and stories of home. While pouring coffee into a “Buffalo Wild Wings” tall clear cup, RV Friend #2 would repeat something about how his brother worked at said “Buffalo Wild Wings” and that these were totally normal cups – his brother just worked there, like he said, nothing weird about the cups. Totally normal cups. Undaunted, our heroes guzzled like guzzle was our trade. Leftover pizza was doled out. And while sitting against a stump drinking someone else’s coffee, eating someone else’s pizza with Daisy the dog in my lap I thought about how pleasant things can be.
But we didn’t come for pleasant, did we, precious? ahaha BUT WE DID! Absolutely and completely for the love and ease of moving yourself across a landscape slowly. If you use words like conquer, attack, best, shuttle run, KOM or something else vile to try and reduce these mountains to enemies or numbers than there isn’t much space for us to talk here, dearest.
Ascension. Yes, virtual follower, ascension! Up and up. The reluctantly buoyant little blood balloons of our bodies sweat, squeeze and jiggle our way up the rocky golden path, like so many reverse glaciers. Up and up. Clouds. Up and up. There’s our sweet moon! Up and up. Our heroes are looking down onto Saturn’s rings. Up and up. Neptune looming over the crest of the switchback. Up and up. Space-goblins have become a concern. Up and up. All of the sudden worryings about other things is pretty pointless to our altered comrades, the mountains and the shining path up and through them work at the mind-melting and magical wave frequency to reduce situations to their core. Up and up. At very long last our wilting travelers reach the Tunnel of Desolation, at an altitude of one million feet. Samwise offers to take the ring and Frodo banishes him. The tunnel is closed. Completely collapsed. At this point, a thorough storyteller would mention the signs at the bottom of the pass that said something vague like “WARNING: PASS CLOSED AHEAD, COLLAPSED TUNNEL”. Ah well, spilt Oatly at this point. Now, dearest, permit me to paint a mental picture… There are black-as-night-full-of-scary-danger thunder clouds parting and rejoining around all the peaks around us, veritably swirling SURROUNDING the little knot of humanity. The busy little knot is now teetering each bike up and over the ladder-like ridge of loose shale that contains our ex-tunnel, with winds whipping us around like we’re in a damn shampoo commercial (SAM). A thorough storyteller would also pause here to mention that we, as a crew, have good hair.
Our heroes do make it safely over, dearest. Ah but with more up, now the walky kind of up. Everybody is tired and individually trying to pinpoint their stage in the dying process. There aren’t any trees up here but there are forever layers of short, green, healthy grass that provide visualizations of the wind. And despite my false description of horrors and pain and ghouls – It’s actually highly pleasant and everyone is enjoying this big, beautiful place on the top of a mountain.
Up and down are different planes of existence while touring. Each with their own personalities and experiences, pitfalls and triumphs. And, when you expect to be doing one forever, the transition to the other is jarring and delightful. For our heroes, the physical plane is rapidly accelerating back toward planet earth for the woes of up are behind. Moods change and smokes are inhaled in an old mining shaft. Laughing ~ remember laughing? ~ starts again as the first drops of rain come howling at us sideways. Like lizards changing colors the crew dons waterproofs and changes colors, and the combined noise of raincoats flapping in the wind is deafening. Dark is nigh and now is for galloping! yeswahooyes Galloping implies hooves but many move with the ease and grace of the aquatic. Leaping, diving and positively shooting from any rock or root sticking up from the surface of this ocean/dirt road. Serena-they-who-doesn’t-give-a-fuck jumps the bike in a way that suggests they are much more about flying than landing. And the valley is filled with the cacophony of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret”, a cacophony of the human animal expressing joy with their lungs and their bells. In hoots, howls, skids AND in Prince playing on a small speaker – Prince now warbling due to the shaking of washboard. And it is in true mad max attire that the holy congregation howl-slides around a corner to what other than the perfect campsite ~ ~*~ ~ We’re talking babbling brook. We’re talking soft SOFT moss. We’re talking tall conifers. We’re talking aspens gently hushing us in the wind with their thousand moving eyes. All of THIS in a twilight that bounces the sun’s last hullo across a fucked-up beautiful valley vista below.
We change with the sun and sink back into the tranquil again. We laugh, we’re naked, we bathe, we cook in groups, we set up our personal chrysalises, we alter ourselves however we deem fit, we stare, we hug, we love this shit and each other and we go the fuck to bed.
Day ?!?: Wonder
The term “day” has lost meaning and I can’t remember what happened in what order and there’s just too much to say anyway, so I won’t. You, reader, need not know what exactly happened to whom and when on this rambling quest. Just know that it was a rambling quest for balance and joy in a world that promotes isolation, death, and hobgoblins. And know that our heroes were successful, and remain ever vigilant.
Suffice to say that we: fucked off, danced, slept behind the bar, found vastness, made choices, drugs, made human connections, made a fort, jumped on a trampoline, jumped in the river, painted faces, painted nails, painted signs, made rules, broke rules, put glow in the dark tattoos on our darkest places, didn’t make camp, shot each other with slingshots, ran out of water, bickered, hugged, cuddled, laughed our bodies off day-in day-out, got goddamn tired, and went home feeling the glow of what our experience of this silly place could be if we decide to make it just so.
AND, Dearly Beloved…
Let us not forget style. Let us not forget that we are truly sensitive and vigorous critters in search of valid experience. This particular congregation of humans, for our bicycle ride, rarely forget. And I love ourselves for it.
Bicycles are stupid piles of materials that should be underground. They’re liable to shear, melt, shatter, bend, squeak and suck when you’ve positively pleaded with them not to. They suck, so do the groups of people that tell us we need the nice ones – we don’t. no no, we do not. BUT, like all tool-toys, they transform our sweaty exertions into something we couldn’t do with our squishy bodies alone. They’re a conduit, a lightning rod for the holy – for collaboration and love, for solitude and meaningful woe.
Collaboration and love flowed from this group of misfit toys since forever. As Kurt said, “this isn’t a bike tour, it’s just a kind-of-a friend tour with bikes”. Or, more to the point, as Colin said “LIFE IS LIKE A BOX OF BIKE RIDES, YOU DO THEM ONE AT A TIME AND YOU ENJOY ALL OF THEM”
Let’s enjoy them, friends.
There are a lot of ways to tell a story. At least 14 different ways to tell this one. It started on a day just like any other day except on this particular date there was a group of bikes and humans that had traveled through space and time to congregate on a healthy green lawn in the humid Boulder heat. Everyone was slowly tinkering on their bike setups while I put most of my remaining brain power into figuring out how much trail mix and peanut butter pretzels I could fit into a 5L stuff sack, how would I know how to prepare for the unknown? It was my first bikepacking trip so I tried to take cues from others — like shut up and get rad. Next thing you know we’re shivering in our panties waiting to take turns eating shit on a donut floaty down the great rapids of Boulder Creek. DFL summer camp had officially begun. Afterward we spent an incredible amount of time at the grocery store debating which nut butter seemed best; it was nice to not be in a rush for anything. Our collective ability to have fun doing just about anything was beginning to show.
Finally, everyone made it to the weenie roast where Grillmaster 6000 was slanging veggie kabobs on the deck. There was talk of different magical herbs and capsules, ideas for stick n pokes of each other holding a favorite rock and I was still convinced Justin was bringing a bike trailer full of liquor on tour. We kept up the laughter and chatter until our fatigued corporeal reality caught up with us. Tents went up and couches got claimed.
The morning came quickly when the sprinklers erupted, waking the unlucky few sleeping on the lawn without a rain fly or even a tent. I jumped out of my tent once I realized I was in the line of fire but paused when I heard Adams’s voice coming from the sidelines — he appeared out of nowhere urgently calling for me to toss him a water bottle, his naked body crouched near a bush like a mischievous garden nymph in the moonlight. Adam and Collin saved the day by slamming bottles over each sprinkler while the rest of us ran screaming and laughing in search of dry land. It seemed like they had done this before. After retreating onto the dining room floor we figured out how to sleep for a few more hours.
I think it was noon when we made the choice to abandon the amenities of modern civilization in exchange for life on the road — though we didn’t make it far. There was a swimming hole with a rope swing and Kurt found a mismatched pair of sandals that magically fit his Bro Size feet. At least someone knew what they were doing. I think we stopped for lunch 4 miles later. DFLthedivide or bust.
Looking back, it all seemed easy. Yes, there was the first night of not-so-stealth camping when the cops showed up because the area had a history of assaults and stabbings so we couldn’t stay. Or the endless ascent up to 66,666ft that had a closed tunnel we had to scramble over, leaving us exposed to a thunderstorm that was creeping in. Single track that claimed phones, shoes, rack mount hardware and epidermis. Steamy soul-sucking tarmac that turned you into a lizard. The accidental cow patty slingshot to the eyeball mistake. But “Hey! At least you can see underwater now” according to Collin.
In reality, great, if not super fantastic times, followed the bad. Like when the cops kicked us out of our poached camp spot and the neighboring campers invited us to crash with them, which lead to partying all night — plus they even brought us coffee in the morning! Or the incredible feeling of racing your friends at Mach 10 down a fire road after scaling the first peak of the route. Even Ester miraculously got her phone back after sending it down the mountain. A friend with an ice cold Gatorade frost glacier freezes at the end of a grueling road section. The local yo-yo champion that blew our minds with his 5th dimension tricks, making us question if bike tour is as cool as that. We were only day 2 or maybe 3 of 7. Days went by slowly and quickly at the same time, so much happened in one day that yesterday seemed like last week.
Time flies when you’re mobbing through forests with like-minded people in pursuit of extreme fun. As we rambled we managed to keep our panties unbunched and worked together to make the adventure as magical, restorative, contemplative and liberating as it could be. You may think you can plan for a good time but happiness is best when it’s unexpected. Sometimes it hits you when an excited one-eyed dog jumps up on your lap, licking your salty upper lip like his life depends on it and you realize happiness comes from being open to the many forms of spontaneity and love. That’s what I learned on my first bike tour.
I’d like to say a very special thanks to Eleanor for hosting this whole damn shit show in Boulder and Jillian for showing us out of town. Two very rad ladies showing us how wonderful humans in Boulder can be. On the other end, thanks to everyone at Oveja Negra bags, especially Lane for the ghost stories and showers. And finally, to Eric and Amanda for pulling out all the stops to house us in Salida.
Follow along with #DFLthedivide for more shenanigans