Eight Perfect Cycling Days in Apacheria


By Robb Quinn (Dirt Journal)

Robb Quinn

Dateline 1680:  Santa Fe, New Mexico. Spanish Conquistadores lead by Juan de Onate were attempting to colonize northern New Mexico, and it was he who first identified these native peoples to the north and south of the Rio Grande settlements as Apaches. After an easy rout of the Inca and Mayan peoples, the Apaches stopped the Spanish conquest in its tracks. Eventually forcing them to take a 1,000 mile “dogleg left” following their own brand of manifest destiny. They called themselves Dine, or Indeh, which means “The people”. Like the Norse Vikings they were a true warrior society that raided all others as a sole means of subsistence. These southern people came to be known to all by the name given to them by their Zuni victims—Apache, “the enemy”. In time, the Spanish came to know “the people” all too well and they gave the name “Apacheria” to the area we now know has New Mexico and Arizona.

I spent eight perfect two-wheeled days in this area and I’m going to tell you all about it, complete with historical overviews so you can brag to your non riding friends that you really are multi-faceted. 

Day 1 Trinidad, CO                                                                                                                        

“If you can’t mix business with pleasure, you are in the wrong business” -Rob Quinn

I made that pithy saying up when I was riding. Seems like good or bad. That’s when all my ideas come to me. 

First stop is the Trinidad Colorado visitors center to check in with my contact on the towns progress in transitioning from a weed-based economy with their best customers, people from New Mexico, who just voted to legalize marijuana. My new 280 horse power Subaru Outback Onyx edition with a trail mtb bike and high end road bike attached to the roof leaning into the wind at the ready, must have been quite a site when I pulled behind a Colorado State Trooper going 87! He decided to say hello. 

The young trooper with an all-business flattop poked his head through the passenger window and our exchange went something like this: 

Trooper: Mr. Quinn. What’s the hurry this morning? Me: Officer, please call me Rob. My friends call me Rob. Rob. I insist.                                                                  Trooper: Very well Rob. What’s the hurry?  Me: Officer, I’m obviously a man on a mission.   Trooper: Cracks a smile. (that’s when I knew I had him) Obviously. What’s the mission?  Me: I’m a mountain bike marketing genius, who will hopefully be part of the new sports-based Trinidad economy, I’m meeting with the Tourism people at 10:00 AM  Trooper: I see but It’s only 8:45? What’s the hurry?  Me: I’m starving. I was thinking breakfast. 

A written warning was issued, and I was on my way in minutes. I’d say my lifelong average of getting out of tickets hovers around a .400. It’s better to drive slower I have decided. 

The meeting with the tourism folks was positive. The trail building on the new Fischer’s Peak is chugging along but between CV-19, a smart but exacting environmental blueprint, labor shortages and you-name-it, from weather to highway work, it looks like it will be 2023 before you can bike on that trail system. You can hike on what is developed now and the turn off is prominent while headed I-25 South. With Elk, Golden and Bald Eagles and a host of other things to think about, I agree with the priorities and how they are doing things.

I was on the road to my destination for the evening in Flagstaff where I’d stay before hitting the first stop on the two wheeled tour—The Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. www.sedonamtbfestival.com

This fest has been on my radar for a long time and is back on the scene after the CV-19 year off with a new fall date. It sells out quickly.

Way quicker this year after their permit number shrunk to 1,000 from 1,500. 1,500 was just too much pressure on the trails. Since I’m a “journalist” I was lucky enough to procure a press pass with plans to only attend Saturday. The event runs three days.

During the 6 hour drive to Flagstaff (now at a respectable 80 mph) the towns and landmarks march by in now what has become a 4 to 6 time a year drive to Phoenix. 

Back in the day, even the Apache’s avoided Phoenix as a place too hot and dry, save for an occasional raid on the Peaceful Pimas. Not the case now with about 300 people a week moving to the valley of the Sun. 

The sky moans a symphony of red and purple tears while the day resolves to end itself as I pull into the former logging and mining town, Flagstaff, AZ

Day 2: Flagstaff / Sedona. 

Certain things simply need to be done right and if you are in Flagstaff and you have a big day planned, MartAnnes Burrito Place is mandatory Metallica for the first meal of the day. Get there when it opens because the joint will be packed within minutes. 

After what I can only describe as a divine intervention of perfection in a tortilla (and Coffee pot) I’m ready to drop down 89A through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona to get my ride on. Although Flagstaff is as brisk and bare as Summit County, Oak Creek Canyon is still ablaze in what has been an unseasonably long summer in Arizona. The trees and topography are like, but different from Colorado. I bask in the glow of road tripping and a few days of no rules or expectations.

I don’t care about pollution                                                                                                             

 I’m an air-conditioned gypsy                                                                                                  

That’s my solution                                                                                                                         

Watch the police and the tax man miss me                                                                                  

I’m mobile.

-Going Mobile. The Who.

In the back of my mind I wondered about the value proposition of The Sedona MTB Festival. With an entrance fee that only included shuttles, socks, T-shirt and the omni present pint glass. You still had to purchase your own food and beer, so was it worth it? Was this a shuttle event for the one-way crowd? I had a “little” event looming called El Tour de Tucson www.eltourdetucson.org  the next Saturday and I was still attempting to get into form after a summer full of distractions (read Red Rocks shows) Injuries and abysmal results Cross County racing during the Winter Park series. My fears would be what most fears turn out to be. Figments of our twisted little imagination.

The problem with mountain biking Sedona is it’s sorta like when you first ski Vail. You know it’s huge and awesome, but you don’t know how to work it correctly and you end up on cat walks or waiting in lines. Sedona does not have a central trail head, instead there are numerous areas that have their own trail system and unless you were with a local guide, you will never get your arms around the area in a day or two. That is where the shuttle system came into play. 

With a total of nine monster racked shuttle vans, they delivered us to the three “biggies”: Dry Creek, Scorpion and Broken Arrow in short order from the festival grounds. From there you were on your own with everything from straight down to straight up. After riding each trail system, you made your way back to the festival and hopped onto another shuttle. An added luxury was you could drop clothing, grab a bite before embarking on the next adventure.

By 3 PM I had ridden the three main trail systems in five hours of sublime saddle time. Without the shuttle system I never would have gained what I now consider a working knowledge of the city and trail system. Shuttles ran with military efficiency, and everybody associated with the event was Wisconsin nice only with a tan and no beer gut. I changed out of my soiled kit for a fresh set of Qucksilver surf trunks and a T-shirt and made my way to the expo packed with vendors and patrons. You don’t need a ticket to attend the expo. Music, food trucks and beer gardens jammed as the sun started to head for the hills. 

With a local IPA in hand, I find myself chatting it up with a large a jovial group from Guadalajara, Mexico. This seems to be like a boy’s ski trip and they are having the time of their lives. We debate the musical direction of the Mexico City based Rock’n Espanol group Mana, and I knew I had arrived at a higher plane than most 2 IPA’d gringos with “sleepy eyes”. They invite me to come down and ride or race one of their local events. We exchange numbers and I warn them they have made a grievous error—I’ll take them up on it. 

We hug when I depart. Not the effeminate man hug, but the back slapping hug of a Charro (Mexican cowboy). “Adios Motherfuckers” I say with my fist in the air—they roar in approval. 

I finish my second IPA with a feeling I could stay here all night, which historically means, it’s time to go. I pass the food trucks with a special treat in mind on route down to Phoenix at a famous local’s place in Cottonwood, The Black Bear Diner. It has the kind of meat and potato’s a guy that just burned 5,000 calories needs. 

Separated by 20 miles, Cottonwood is to Leadville as Sedona is to VaiI. I’d actually like to stay tonight and ride more tomorrow in Sedona but I’m on a man on a mission to get to our little homestead in Tempe and see what’s up with our daughter who is a senior at ASU. 

I depart like I just took a giant bite out of an apple called Sedona and I’m “muey contento” a common phrase south of Apacheria that we Americans don’t have a match for in our casual conversations. I take off my sweat stained Optic Nerves and pop on my rose-colored Maui Jim driving glasses and get ready to roll. Widespread Panic wails about Chilly Water on the Satellite radio…and just like my outlaw predecessors—even my smile is illegal. 

The Woods are lovely, dark and deep,                                                                                             

 But I have promises to keep,                                                                                                            

And miles to go before I sleep,                                                                                                     

And miles to go before I sleep.                                                                                              

Stopping by the woods on a snowy evening. Robert Frost

To be continued—in Tucson. 

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