You Ain’t Reached the Top Until…

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You’re always climbing in Flagstaff.


Up, up...and further up. She may look pretty from afar, but she'll beat you to your core up close. Copyright © 2011 D2 Photography

Anyone who has ridden there knows the first hour of the ride, at least, will be all uphill. You may get a brief respite during the twilight of your ride, but you’ll go back to town, take off your bike clothes, stow your ride away, and it’s all uphill again.

You reach the top of the climb...and you keep going up. There's always more to overcome. Copyright © 2011 D2 Photography

I’ve been thinking a lot about this because of some of the comments in various posts over the last few weeks. The idea of choosing where to live is a tough one, especially as you get older. Do you stay near the trails, and your friends, and the free-flowing booze, or do you move somewhere more affordable, where you might be able to find work and buy a house? Do you sell out for the job and the easy life? Do you drive to the trails instead of ride to them, because riding to them usually means you sacrifice so much in other parts of your life?

It’s a struggle I’ve had all my life.

So many times I chose where to live based on what I could do with my bicycle. Was this place close enough to trails that I could ride to them? Was there a bike community that was worth investing in? Can I get work in a shop if I need it? For perhaps the last decade, these are the questions that drove my decision making.  Now I live in a place that requires me to drive to trails. It’s not infinitely beautiful here, and I don’t go downtown on a Tuesday night and find ten people I know who are ready to have some fun, some booze, and some talk about bikes.

I’m strangely okay with that.

I’ve had a chance to get to know my bike more personally since I’ve moved away from Flag. The riding I do is for fun, and even the fun rides stay FUN; no hotshot racers who pick up the pace to show off how they’re training to catch Lance. Just fun. Beers mid ride. Trails. Bullshit. Fun.

This is not to say, of course, that I don’t miss Flagstaff. I miss my friends there, I miss the trails. I even miss that big brown mountain staring at me from my back door. It’s an amazing place, but I got tired of climbing. I climbed on the bike. I climbed off of it. And I never got to the top. Never.

Sometimes you need to leave the places you love to find the places you need. Some people are never lucky enough to learn that. Copyright © 2011 D2 Photography

Some will call me a sellout for moving away, especially to a place that requires me to drive to trails. Call me whatever the hell you want. Call me shit-ass, but I know I wipe. I know who I am. I know why I left. Now that I’m gone, I’m doing the things I only talked about for so long. Yeah, I was THAT fucking guy.

Quick story about THAT FUCKING GUY: When I graduated from college, I had just finished writing my first novel and was working on number 2. In the meantime, I was waiting tables in a restaurant. On my first or second day in that shit heap of a restaurant in the Dirty Water, one of my co-workers—a generally nice stoner who was sometimes coherent—told me that he, too, was working on a novel.

“How far into it are you?” I asked.

He pointed to his head and said, “It’s all up here, man.”

I feel like I was that kid when I lived in Flagstaff. All talk, no do. Great plans, no follow-through. But the fact of the matter is, it ain’t a novel until it’s on paper, and you ain’t the person you want to be until you start taking steps to become that person. Put the fucking pen on a piece of fucking paper and push.

I will always love Flagstaff, but that place prevented me in a lot of ways from being who I wanted and needed to be. I’m not saying I’ve ended up in the place where I will become that greater person, but I took a step, and it was a good step. I am climbing again, but this time I feel like I might reach the top. I might find what I’m looking for. I’ll take a drive to the trailhead for that.


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About D2

I am a writer and a photographer. I never killed a man in Reno, but I once rode a bike through a casino in Vegas. Bikes are cool, huevos rancheros are for breakfast, whiskey is for dinner. Denver, Colorado, USA

60 thoughts on “You Ain’t Reached the Top Until…

  1. I love the first picture,, would put that over my fireplace.. I to this day say if I could live anywhere it would be Flagtown. Two of the best and hardest years of my life. One thing that I have learned as a bottom of the heap blue collar worker is life aint cheep no mater where you live. I miss those mountains and trails.

  2. That picture hangs on my wall in my living room. Miss that place already…but ya gotta move on.

  3. fackin great post! and them picture things are cool as well. If my face was not required to be firmly implanted in my text books I’d probably read them words you had published.

    hope you dig the new places.

  4. Nice post, I too have been a flag local for over a decade now and will soon be faced with a possible move for a better life. It seems now that im a mid thirty something it might be time to leave this place for a more realistic future.
    Im glad to see things are going well for you and hope I find the same peace.
    Everyone who has lived up here( and I mean really lived) will always find a way to come back and play on our little mountains. Cheers to you all!

  5. I’m 60. My kid will be through with college in a couple of years. Your post got me to thinking.

  6. Great stuff. An eagle doesn’t fly until it expand its wings and leaves the comfort and safety of the nest. Good luck.

    Corey the Courier
    Philly Phorever
    (living in NYC, oops)

  7. Great post.

    I spent twenty years in the same place (different town). Never lived more than 15 minutes from great singletrack. Owned my own bicycle shop for a decade. It was the sweetness. The people, the trails, the cycling (even the road racing)…

    I’d have to drive to a trailhead, if I was physically capable of riding off road. I missed this whole year…I should be able to trail ride now and will make the drive, even if someone, somewhere labels me a goober when they see a funny looking fat guy with an old hardtail pulling in instead of riding up to it. I’ll never think twice about it.

  8. Great post. As soon as i get a break from studying for exams i am going to read the novel again.
    Props for taking a step forward to enhance your career.

  9. …sometimes it’s hard to look clearly at the big picture & then actually do something about it…

    …but after that, it’s just kinda ‘fine tuning’ the focus…

    …you sound well focused, amigo…

  10. Ha! I’m in the opposite position. I’ve climbed the proverbial hill and am the owner of a business now…and all I can think about is moving somewhere close to mountains and good trails. I would do it tomorrow, but, unfortunately, I’ve got the welfare of others to consider now.

  11. Nothing wrong with driving to trails…at least you’re riding them trails! I grew up near the cornfields of IL and as a kid I would have given anything to ride trails in the mountains.

  12. Having pretty much always been in the position of it being necessary to drive to the trails I want to ride, I really don’t get the point in being a douche about it. Two wheels good. How it happens? Who gives a fuck.

    I guess if someone really needs to get after me about not being able to ride to my ride, it’s more a reflection on their inability to concern themselves, with themselves, then anything I’m doing “wrong”.

    It’s like any other whack job, fringe element group, be it Vegans, Southern Baptists, DH riders who heckle you for being on an XC rig, whatever. They are apparently so insecure in their position and it’s actual relevance, that they feel the need to convert you to their way. I can only assume it’s so they don’t feel so much like a fringe element, a dingleberry on the ass of the larger society. I feel sorry for them.

    I feel good when I ride my bike. Life on two wheels kicks ass, and so does having the means to get me where I want to be, when it’s too far away to realistically ride there, and still tend to my other life duties.

    Great post. Keep on climbing, no matter where the hill is, or whether you needed a car to get to it.

  13. If you think about it, if you only rode what was within riding distance, you would have a pretty limited palate of rides to select from.

  14. Trust me, Rabid and the like don’t want everyone living where they can ride to the trails. None of us do. Having everyone living in places surrounded by National Forest would ruin the trails and the forest.

    We make our decisions about where to live, and some of us are lucky enough to have a few trails to ride to. I have one long trail and two short trails. I ride them a lot. I like them, but I also like riding other places, and that involves driving. I’ve lived places where I could ride a different trail every day of the week and never drive, but those jobs are few and generally low paying. How long do you sacrifice job security, education, or a family for that?

  15. I’ve always lived where riding begins from the door of my house/shack/trailer. I don’t have time or energy to hate on others because they don’t do the same. I mean, who does? Who has the luxury to defend a bunch of stupid shit all the time? Whatever.

  16. D2: Well done and good luck.

    As far as this “pedaling to the trailhead” crap goes, it just comes off as more of that elitist douchery that seems to permeate cycling, as I suppose it does every sport. I mean, what if you have more than one bike? And where do you put the cooler and the grill and the bimbos? Do you paddle your kayak to the stream? Am I supposed to surf to the beach?

    My singletrack bike is a SS with gearing that I don’t want to pedal the ten miles to the trail. And if I did, I would want a beer when I got there. A COLD beer.

  17. I live at elevation 430′ in Seattle, so every single ride ends with a climb. From the north, there’s a couple blocks of standing on the 39×25. Sometimes it bugs me; I don’t want to leave it all out there on the road and suffer needlessly the last two or three miles, yet I don’t want to be a wuss and save some for a puny four hundred-foot climb. I guess I’d better keep working on it…

  18. I don’t know how many times I’ve taken bong rips from the third picture overlook. I am a great example of the the grass is always greener. I lived in flag for 10 years worked at the beav, ate at martaans and always thought there must be something better. Well, now I live in missouri. Im a dumbass but I make a lot more money but I feel poor. It’s all relative I guess. Know your pain.

  19. D2,
    Great post, man. I don’t usually reply to these things because I never really have anything to say but this shit really hit home.

    I’ve been THAT GUY for a long time and just recently started the climb to get somewhere better. It’s a bitch at times and I wonder if it’s worth it but it’s stuff like this post that keep me going. Nice bikes, good beer, great friends and the happiness they provide…if you find the place you belong at a particular moment you can have them all, even if it isn’t where you imagined yourself.

    Thanks for the motivation.

  20. I’ve had this post bouncing through my head all day. Living in Upstate NY, having aspirations of fun..beyond what are achievable here, enjoying the bounty of what is here. Again .. an amazing post, I hope your novels are made of such stuff, as I’ll soon know.
    It’s one of life’s greater struggles, that sadly many are not even aware of, to trade between the possibilities that are afforded us in places of commerce, and the freedoms we can enjoy on the perifery of society… I get it, I feel it, a lot of what you have achieved I long for..

  21. nice postcard, spore. did you get this at the gas station on ft. valley rd? taken from the good olde jr. high pond. Reification at its finest. nice try. and ohhh… riding in flagstafftown is soo steep and always uphill… you Pathetic single-celled flatland spore.

  22. Nice post D2,

    It’s pretty awesome to reach 26 responses before the first Troll crawls out from under its rock.

  23. I don’t understand why everybody in Flagstaff is so negative when they comment here. This territorial behavior over a place with 66,000 people seems extra silly. It’s not like you are in some super secluded mountain town. It all just seems so ignorant.

  24. …wow…anal/cranial inversion is big in the cycling ‘community’ of flag’, ya ???…

    …as a long time contributor to this site & a guy who rode mtb bikes ‘before anyone in flagstaff ever heard of the fucking things’, i think you selfish, small minded bitches are fucking sad…

    …know how mountain bikes got so popular ???…people saw the fun cyclists were having on old bombers n’ klunkerz & the newer mtb’s & said “hey, i wanna do that too”

    …so the original dudes said “no problem, this is what’s up – tell your friends”…& thus was born a world wide sport & activity…something that well surpasses the limited, small minded visions i see coming outa the flag’

  25. Confused,

    We in Flagstaff are not all negative and pissy…

    Some of us are pretty stoked and know how lucky we are. Some of us are happy to give people directions and a smile on the trail.

    But I do get kinda tired of the sneers from all the 2 year locals and visitors from PHX and beyond alike when I ride past, slowly and courteously while waving and saying HI, on my moto on shared use moto legal trails that I’ve been riding MTBs on and sharing for years. Guess some folks don’t know how all them trails got placed to be up in them thar mountains in the first place.

  26. @eb, same here, different town. When I started mountain biking the trails I rode barely existed. Very few people rode or hiked on them. The cyclists improved the trails just by riding on them.

  27. EB is right, not all Flagstaffarians are negative and pissy. In fact, most aren’t. The ones I talked about in the post are the ones that are territorial, the ones that think because they can ride to the trails they somehow have more ownership over them than the rest of us.

    Fact of the matter is, we’re all visitors in Flagstaff. I lived there a long time and I can tell you the trails will still throw you off your bike, regardless of whether you’re from Flagstaff or from Bumfuck, Idaho. The people make that town great, not the trails (although the trails sure are nice).

    And for what it’s worth, I was welcomed in that town and considered a local. That didn’t make it any less irritating when some entrenched prick would come into Pay N Take and start preaching about how much greater he was than some Phoenician just because he happened to live closer to the trail. A prick is a prick, regardless of proximity.

  28. @eb, I think you need to worry more about the 10 year locals who can’t accept that places change and that it won’t be like it was when they showed up. I’m sure there are plenty of Flag locals who aren’t punk-assed ninny bitches, but from what I’ve seen on these pages, there is a group that can’t accept that other people have moved to town and that many of the contributors to this blog have grown up. Flag used to be on my list of places to end up, being that I’m aiming for a professorial type career. It may get back there, but it’s a shame that there are some vocal jack-asses who don’t realize that they live in a college town where 30% of the population is temporary. Instead of being a jackass to newcomers, the locals might try being a little welcoming.

  29. The Colorado bike community, at least where I am, has been great! Very fun group of folks. I’m sure there’s a fair share of douche here too, but so far I’ve been able to avoid them.

  30. I’ve been going back & forth between DB’s last big post & this one from D2. As a Flag local for almost 18 years, I have a couple of comments;

    We all make our priorities…mine haven’t been cycling-based since bike racing as a kid. In adult life it was education, vocation, marriage and then…where the hell are we going to live (relocation).

    We stumbled upon Flagstaff and stayed purely because of climate, beauty & good vibe. The rest came over time…new friends, house and the eventual following of our midwestern parents to retire.

    I have a deep background in bikes…bike racing, bike repair & bike shops. That love happened in my most formitive years and the thought always was that this was a lifetime sport that will wax & wane as time goes on.

    I stumbled upon the DC Website / Family about four years ago and it got me stoked. Stoked to ride more & stoked to participate a little more in the bike scene. Essentially a motivator & support group. We’re all part of the same two-wheeled devilsexsuicidedrugcult.

    It’s too bad that a few bad apples are shaping many’s opinion of Flagstaff. It’s fucking awesome here and I feel fortunate to be here. I ride to the trails 1/2 time, I drive to trails 1/2 time and sometimes I even fire-up my 4mpg pig of a party bus to remove snow, pine needles & lubricate parts to get to the trails or the start of a road ride. Who cares how one gets there?

    Also, I’m waving at you and smiling because I’m on a bike and your on a bike. Wave back.

    D2, The challenge of Flagstaff is definitely home prices & how to make the $$. Good luck on the relocation.

    DB, Keep adventuring because I love the posts and admire your spirit.

  31. @Hellbelly,

    good post, your love of Flagstaff triggers a part of what I found so special in ‘Klunkerz’, the love that everyone expressed for Marin county, that’s not something that I’ve ever experienced & I’m sort of envious, but just for a minute & I’ve dealt with it & moved on.

    devilsexsuicidedrugcult vs pure, noble turtles?

    You’re on a hiding to nothing, move along

  32. and in the end, just please, please stay away. we are not nice here in flagpole. it sucks here, really. why not try prescott or tucson? maybe boulder? it’s much softer in abovementioned places. just like a true powder day; there are no friends. and for singletrack at 7,000+; no friends to be made here either. it’s simply too steep and the locals suck.

    cheers! (and fuck off). thanks. the mgt.

  33. Hi elgruppo mutanto,

    I’d say good to meet you but we’d both know that I was lying.

    Obviously a life form that names itself after a Mexican Wrestling team is pretty hard core.

    Still, honored that you took the time from your obviously busy & productive life to respond to this thread & referring to your earlier post:

    Channeling my best inner Dolak:

    I’m interested in your appreciation of Reification.

    Are you talking about:

    Reification (computer science), making a data model for a previously abstract concept
    Reification (fallacy), fallacy of treating an abstraction as if it were a real thing
    Reification in Gestalt psychology, where an object is perceived as having more spatial information than is actually present in the original stimulus
    Reification (knowledge representation), used to represent facts that must then be manipulated in some way
    Reification (linguistics) in natural language processing, where a natural language statement is transformed so actions and events in it become quantifiable variables
    Reification (Marxism) (German: Verdinglichung), the consideration of an abstraction or an object as if it had living existence and abilities; at the same time it implies the thingification of social relations; sometimes called objectification
    Reification (statistics), the consideration of a ‘perfect’ model which is used to make inferences connecting (imperfect) model results with experimental observations

    Or is it that you just can’t spell Reflection?

    Yes, Je peux parler Wikipedia like a bitch.

    I’d strongly suggest that you find a caring person to discuss your issues with but I realize that it’d be a long & fruitless search.

    I’d also suggest getting another brain cell but it would just be lonely so that would be cruel.

    I was a’Freud of that.

    Take care out there.

  34. hey old man dipshit: “Reification (fallacy), fallacy of treating an abstraction as if it were a real thing.” as if there were any question of the intended context.

    and mexican wrestling team??? WTF? more like mantis at alpine porch. check your science, fatty.

  35. Kids, don’t let elgruppo mutanto fool you. Flagstaff is a cool place. It’s just not right for everyone, which was the intention of my original post. I have a sneaking suspicion as to why elgruppo feels the way he does, and it’s a fairly common sentiment in Flag…but if you associate yourself with the right crew, the folks in town are pretty cool.

    I love Flagstaff, as I said in the original post. It just wasn’t the right place for me, and I’m happy to have moved on. I can’t wait to go back and visit to see my great friends and do some fun riding, but for the most part, I’m glad to not have to deal the frat-boy attitude that surrounds the bike community. I should know: I was part of that fraternity for a good long time. Still am, to some extent. At some point, though, it helps to grow up and see things objectively. We’re just talking about bikes, after all.

  36. To be a Mutant: Shit ass Alpine Pizza. Ditch weed. Shit beer. Shit ass friends. Shit ass dirt bags. Who wouldn’t want to revel in that stupid shit.

    elgruppo mutanto doesn’t even have the street cred to hold my shorts while I step into them.

    Crack another Tecate bra!

    Fuck Flagstaff. Full stop.

  37. …it’s all about perception…

    elgruppo mutanto‘ definitely sounds more like a mexican lucho libre team than anything else…

    …it’s kinda like how a number of you flag’ locals seem to think of yourselves as some exclusive group of riders with territorial rights but to the rest of the cycling world you appear as sad assed, selfish & moronic clowns who happen to ride bikes…

    …step outside your tiny little world & see how others perceive you…

    …it ain’t pretty & it ain’t gonna stop anybody from riding on “your” trails…

  38. Fuck yeah bgw! I booked my ticket yesterday to go out there and spread some low-altitude-flatlander love all over those trails! Plus, I’ll look for a nice house to live in close to the trails…even though I’ll most likely just fuckin’ drive to the trailhead! Can’t wait! :)

  39. …i’m thinkin’ the annual meeting of the ‘friends of’ should start being held in flagstaff, arizona henceforth…

    …we’ll all wear our jerseys to rep dc & we’ll smile at all the locals & if they don’t smile back, we’ll know who we’re dealin’ with…

    ‘we’re here in our gear & we’re drinkin’ your beer…we’re ridin’ your trails & we’re drinkin’ your ales & we’ll be fuckin’ your bitches when we get in their britches, so whadda ya think of that ???’

    …(with apologies to all the lovely cycling women of flagstaff – as the english say ‘we’re takin’ the piss’ outta the idiotic “entitled” locals’)…

  40. who can’t see it? this DC thing is and always has been core to all that is dedicated to the pedal. recent posts and reactions are akin to corporate messages via a City’s Chamber of Commerce. this site is no tourist info clearing house.. is it BJ?

    i know you know of this surly attitude of which i speak. readers here don’t have the context. you, my friend, understand and share some critical elements. keep it ugly, dirty, and honest. olde school is recycled and the most quality elements continue to rise above.

    cheers. cr; rj; kc; yb, sg; jw; bh; bc; dr, ek; drangeousd; fn; nf; tm; jpr; lm; rg; bl; jo; cdr; sp; rb.rg; hstlokl; yermom.

  41. …oh, my, listen to el gusanito mutanto…

    …lot of us regulars don’t need to have lived or shared the arizona ‘experience’, to “…have the context…” to see that you’re a small minded, pissant, shit disturbing douchenozzle…

    …your bullshit was called early & you got kicked to the curb, boy…but hey, it was a curb near the trailhead close to your house ‘cuz we wanted to make it easy for you…

    …i guess you didn’t like that & now you’re so defensive that you’re making it personal & calling out individuals…

    …only problem is, you still come across as a small minded, pissant, shit disturbing douchenozzle…

    …imagine that, huh ???…

  42. “cheers. cr; rj; kc; yb, sg; jw; bh; bc; dr, ek; drangeousd; fn; nf; tm; jpr; lm; rg; bl; jo; cdr; sp; rb.rg; hstlokl; yermom.”

    –And a little for my homies who couldn’t be here. Did you just win a fucking Emmy?

  43. D2, great post, sorry it’s turned into stupid chest pounding. People tend to forget that no one’s a local. Ever. Everyone moved to where they are from somewhere else. What you do and what you enjoy was made possible by someone else. Even if you were there in the beginning, someone else layed the groundwork. There is a group of people in most places that can’t stand that things change and people grow up, and that you can’t be hardcore if you do either of those. Flag isn’t unique in it. In Austin, you’re judged by whether you were here before Armadillo World Headquarters, the original Antone’s, or Liberty Lunch, or The Ritz (as a pool-hall) each shut down. And you’re a newcomer if you got here after any of those things. The recent closure of the original Emo’s will be one of those markers by people who are there now. They’re all moving goal posts that people who were here before that use to indicate how much better things used to be. In Austin, you can’t ride Forest Ridge anymore, but there are far more and better places to ride (some within a short drive, sorry Rabid)… There are still people pissed that this blog doesn’t have the porn anymore. Well, the owners and front-pagers have grown up. Y’all still ride bikes, you just have other shit going on. If the “hardcore” folks like rabid and elgruppo mutanto can’t deal, then that’s their problem.

    I end with this:

  44. @elgruppo mutanto


    That’s all seriously earned muscle, Retard, feel free to call me out any day.


  45. “Humanity I love you because when you’re hard up you pawn your intelligence to buy a drink.” – e.e. cummimgs…

    …somehow, with some of the dumbass dick-swingin’ that’s been passing through a few these ‘discussions’, this just seemed appropriate to me…if it works for anybody else – hey, fucking great…

    …if not, hey, so what ???…