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Red Rock Ride

Richard Sleboe Tekst Richard Sleboe Gepubliceerd 02 September 2018

I love cycling, and I love coffee. Imagine my delight when I spotted the billboard for the Bike & Bean on Highway 179 in Sedona, Arizona: “The cyclist’s coffee shop”. Doesn’t that sound like heaven on earth? And yet I drove past it countless times. Something else was always more important. I had people to meet in Flagstaff, errands to run in Tucson, or a plane to catch in Phoenix. But not today.

My meeting in Flagstaff finished early, and my flight back to New Orleans doesn’t leave until late at night. I pull off the highway and into the empty parking lot. Outside the Bike & Bean, there is a metal sculpture of a rusty red goblin riding a bicycle. His head is a giant coffee bean. The crack in the bean looks like a crooked smile.
The inside of the Bike & Bean is dominated by a shiny La Marzocco Linea, the stainless-steel version with ruby-red trim. I order an espresso from the pony-tailed barista. I watch her grind the beans, load the filter, and fire up the machine. After half a minute, she places a tiny red cup on the counter in front of me. I take a sip. The coffee is perfect. Hot and smooth and bittersweet.

“How about another one?”
“You read my mind.”
The second espresso is even better than the first.
“Now how about a bike ride?”
“I’d love to, but I don’t have my bike with me. I’m just passing through.”
“You can rent a bike from us.”

She points to a row of gleaming Ghosts. There is even one with an extra-large frame that looks like it might just be tall enough for me. It’s the color of fresh blood, with handsome skin-wall tires.

“Can I try this one?”
“Of course.”

I take the Ghost for a spin in the parking lot. Normally, I’m a road person, mostly because I have never found a comfortable position on a mountain bike. But this one feels like it was made for me. I lean it against the window and step back inside.

“It’s great.”
“So you’ll go for a ride?”
“Absolutely. Is there a nice trail nearby?”
“How much time do you have?”

I check my watch. It’s just before three. My flight leaves at nine. It’s a two-hour drive to the airport, and I still need to return the rental.

“I should leave here around six.”
“In that case, I recommend the coffee pot.”
“The coffee pot?”
“A red rock that is shaped like a coffee pot.”
“This is getting better and better.”

She hands me a helmet, a water bottle, and a map of the trail.

“Have fun.”
“Thanks.”

> More stories about cycling and coffee? Soigneur suggests: Cocoravelo <

The trailhead is less than a mile from the parking lot. The trail turns out to be tricky. The surface is more rocks than gravel. The wheels keep skidding in unexpected ways. By the time I get to the coffee pot, I am soaked with sweat, and my water bottle is almost empty. The coffee pot is less impressive than I thought it would be. It’s vaguely conical in shape. On one side, there is a big protrusion that could be a snout. On the other side, there is a smaller protrusion that could be a handle. On top, there is a bulge that could be a lid. I guess it’s like a shape in the clouds. You see it only if you look for it. If you don’t see it, it isn’t there.

I lean the bike against a boulder to look at the map. The rest of the trail is a tangle of switchbacks. I get back on the bike. Once the coffee pot is out of sight, I get the feeling that someone is following me. I look over my shoulder, but there is no-one there. I turn a corner, and then I see him. It’s the goblin with the coffee bean head. I only see him from the corner of my eye. When I try to look at him directly, he disappears. I’ve probably had too much coffee. After about twenty minutes, I get to a fork in the trail. To the left, the path snakes up a steep incline. To the right, it winds gently down to what looks like a patch of green. I hear water gurgling in the distance. I am tempted to go downhill. I check the map. On the map, there is no fork.

I get back on the bike, and the goblin appears again. He is charging ahead, up the hill towards the left. I follow him. I try to catch up with him, but he is too fast for me. Once or twice, I see him disappear around a bend, but I never get a good look at him. Eventually, I find myself back at the trailhead without really knowing how I got there. I check my watch. Less than two hours have passed since I left the parking lot. I pedal back to the Bike & Bean. The goblin is already there. I get off the bike and wheel it inside. The barista greets me with a smile.

“How was it?”
“Hot.”

I hand her the empty water bottle. She fills it up and hands it back to me. I drain it almost in one gulp. I tell her about the fork, but I don’t mention the goblin.

“You did the right thing.”
“Where does the other path lead?”
“To a cliff. Very dangerous. Normally, that part of the trail is cordoned off.”
“Well, it wasn’t.”
“It must be your lucky day.”

I buy a coffee for the road get into the car without looking at the goblin again. I have not seen him since, but I have a feeling he is never far away.

Richard Sleboe lives in New Orleans. He was a regular at the old Bike & Bean in Sedona, Arizona, before it moved from Big Park to Bell Rock Plaza.


If you liked this story consider purchasing Soigneur Cycling Journal 19 where it was first printed.

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