There are places in this world where I immediately feel at home, even the first time I ever see them. Moab, Utah, is one such place. Denver is another.
Granted, by the time I first made the trip to mountain-biking Mecca, I had read countless magazine articles, and a few books, about the area. I read Ed Abbey's book, Desert Solitaire, while I was in Moab for the first time, in 1989. I had waited until I was there to read the book, since much of it centers around Abbey's stint as a ranger at the Arches National Monument (now a National Park), in the early 1960s.
It's obvious that Abbey felt as at home, there, as he did anywhere in his life. And, I found myself feeling the same way. The terrain is rough and unforgiving, and the weather can be as bad there as anywhere I have ever been.
Yet, there was just something that spoke to me, and I knew it was going to be an important place in my life. Unfortunately, I didn't figure that I would ever get to visit, very often, because it was so far from home. And, I never considered living there, as I just couldn't figure out what Val and I could do to make a living there.
Actually, I figured I could live a simple life there, but I just didn't think Val would have it.
The second place that I ever went which affected me the same way was the Denver area. Fortunately, Denver offered the amenities Val was looking for, and we moved there. I tell people that I moved to Denver for the mountain biking, and that was a big part of it. Mainly, it was just because it felt, well, right to me.
Living in Denver allowed me to visit Moab pretty regularly, and I found that I preferred leaving Moab as a destination. It remaines a very special place to me, more so than it might if I had made it my home and experienced it on a day to day basis.
But, even having lived in the Denver area for 20 years, it still seems special to me as well. The mountain biking which drew me to the area is just remote enough from town that it remains a special treat, and just being within sight of the mountains makes me feel good.
I've neglected the bicycling a bit, the last few years, because I was riding a bicycle too much. That is, since I was commuting daily, I didn't ride that much for fun. I lost a bit of my connection to the trails of Colorado and Utah. This year, I plan to get back to that sort of riding.
Twenty years ago, I came home to a place I had never been. This year, I am coming home to a place I never left.