My 40th Road Trip Extravaganza

I turned 40. 40. Yes, I turned 40 and even as I type it is seems a bit surreal. It sounds like such a destination….40. Truth be told, I’m not much of a birthday person, although I do love any excuse to get together with friends to celebrate. So for this milestone birthday, while the world is still toppsy turvey with a pandemic, while there are questions of ‘what do I want to do with my life’ hanging in my head, while the magnitude of how grateful I am for my life and the immense love I have in it, I decided to plan my own adventure for this epic birthday.

I landed on a mix of mountain bike adventure, road trip, desert hiking, Halloween party fun for my 40th, mixed in with Grand Canyon hiking and finishing up with some Sante Fe festivities.  Last year, my girlfriend turned 40 in Moab, surrounded by beautiful terrain, friends, mountain bike gloriousness, and I had such a beautiful time, I knew I wanted to incorporate some of that into my big 4-0.

Durango Riding!

First stop Durango! This town was chosen not only because it was halfway between Sedona (which is where Bike Gang would reunite!) but I had never been here AND there was great mountain biking. The ride from our house was a smidge over 6 hours, so I packed a ton of car snacks and we headed out Tuesday, October 27. Traveling over Wolf Creek pass, we encountered more snow than either of us had anticipated (we looked at each other and said we should have brought our skis!) then submerged into a foggy abyss where there was low visibility – a bit sketch! Another hour or so and we rolled easily into Durango – a lot bigger of a town than either of us thought. Our Airbnb was between 9th and 10th street, in the heart of town. Unpacking just the essentials (including the bikes of course) we popped into our sweet little pad. Mike cleaned off the bikes while I poured some chili chocolate stout – and we cheers’ed to the first night of our adventure.

The morning came, cold and sunny, so we decided to have a leisurely morning in town. Mike found an amazing French bistro, Jean Pierre’s, where we ate flaky croissants and quiche in a beautiful old building. The waiters even played classical piano while we waited for our meal! Full of French deliciousness, we headed back to our spot to change into hiking gear – it was still a bit too chilly (40’s!) to bike, so we selected a relatively easy hike in Horse Gulch. We were able to walk to the trail head through town. Terrain was dry, dessert, and I was glad to have my gloves , as the limited amount of shade still made it quite chilly. A brisk loop, blue bird day, only passed one hiker heading into the canyon, while heading back, as the day warmed up, we passed several bikers. A sign we were ready to switch to bikes!

We ended up hiking almost 7 miles, so back at the house, we stretched a bit before putting our bike gear on. Choosing trails on the other side of where we were staying, we were able to bike directly to the trailhead. A spaghetti system of trails, we stopped quite a bit to try and figure out where we were – a mix of loose shale, packed dirt, fast downhills where we descended through luge-like single track that had been carved out by water. The Star Wars Trail was by far the gnarliest, with fast berns and several large drops. Popping out into a neighborhood (of where we should have started the trail, Mike pointed out) we headed back with huge smiles on our faces. 7 miles, over a thousand feet of vert – it was a good, big day, my favorite kind, with lots of outdoor adventure.

It was time for some beer! First stop ska brewing, a facility about 5 minutes outside of town, a pretty big operation, two story tap room with juicy, hazy delicious IPAs. One beer here, then back to Durango for some grub and more brews at Steamworks Brewery. Quinoa burgers, beer battered fries, side salad & another IPA. One more night cap at Carter’s Brewing, Oatmeal Stout, and back to bed to put a fabulous fork in this awesome day.

Morning came and we bounced out of bed, gathered all of our belongings and headed south to Sedona! The drive was full of long red stretches of rock, dry dirt and vast nothingness. Indian reservations dotted the vastness and I tried to put myself in the shoes of the Native Americans, who had been stripped of their land and given these pockets of land, where nothing grew. A very hard pill to swallow.

The road finally led us down a windy, wooded ravine, and I couldn’t believe this was Arizona. Lush vegetation and babbling creeks lined the way. Finally we emerged and red pillars came into sight – Sedona!  Pulling up to the large house, the beautiful foyer, the amazing wood stove, the babbling broke behind the house. So beautiful.  After a stroll down to the creek, a swing in the hammock, some yoga, the gang arrived with gourmet pizzas.

Sedona Vortex

Moonlight walks to secret slickrock trailhead to see the full splendor of the moon across the Oak Creek valley, Cathedral Rock cutout in the sky. Beautiful night!

Sedona Bike Gang

Bike gang woke ready to rock! Janine and Steve made a delicious egg & apple bake then we headed to secret slickrock trailhead. Secret Slickrock Trailhead, to Old Post, to Sketch – a section of trail that is true to its name! Extremely narrow, with sharp drop offs and rocky sections where I had to hold my breathe and tell myself I was a bad ass and to not look down. The ride was 8.46 miles, with 1,000+ feet of vert – a fabulous kick off to the day. Being able to ride directly from the house to the trail and vice versa is truly the bar to be ser for active vacations. Zooming back to the house afterwards was such a treat. Beers were cracked, tacos were ordered and Janine left to pick up the hikers who had had quite the adventure (creek crossings into gated communities where fences had to be jumped). The house we were staying in had beautiful outdoor seating with creek gurgling in the background. While some of the troops headed for sustenance, the rest of the gang hung and chatted in the beautiful shade of the sycamore trees.

Tacos finally arrived and were exactly what the Dr. ordered…and we all stuffed our faces with guacamole, tacos and chips. Delicious! Fueled back up, we decided to have the non-bikers (Amy & Amanda) to shuttle us to some downhill goodness for pre-sunset. Although some of the sections were extremely sharky, the views and downhill were well worth the effort. The ride was Scorpio to Pyramid – an apropos decent as I am a Scorpio! I almost bailed on riding the next ride, which was our third of the day, as the trail was a bit harder than I had thought. But, I bucked up and saddled up to what would be the favorite of the two – flowy, amazing views, and pinks and blues I had never quite seen before. We scooted into the trail system we had ridden earlier in the day, Ramshead, then zipped right down to the house. Absolutely amazing.

That night, we decided to graze and not do a full dinner, then walked up the hill to gaze at the almost full moon at the beginning of the secret slick . Red rocks silhouetted behind a dessert sky – something truly beautiful to take in.

Halloween Shredona Crew!

Happy Halloween!! Day two of Shredrona bike gang and Amy had us covered for breakfast. Quiche, fresh fruit, warm baguettes, mozzarella and tomatoes. Oooo we were ready to shred! The group decided to head to West Sedona, about 20 minutes from the house and because it was Halloween, we decided to get in the spirit and dress up. Janine let me borrow her black and pink tutu and skeleton knee socks, she wore a red and black tutu with rasta arm sleeves and Holly was a cute little bumble bee. It was the coolest Halloween shred ever! Mike did actually endo’d really hard, slicing his forearm pretty deeply – and of course no one brought any first aide! The girls ended up doing a slightly shorten ride – axis to Girdner – which ended up being 8.65 miles which was still a huge ride! At the finish line, we realized we didn’t bring any beers (rooky move!) so we headed to the Safeway to grab some brews for our post ride (such a rookie mistake that we didn’t bring any!!!!) then headed back to meet the boys after their long ride. Beers were cracked, stories were shared and the bike gang cheers’ed to the day. Deciding we were going to pick up some gourmet pizzas, we grabbed em’ and headed back to the house to decompress by the creek. The beautiful oasis in the back of the house was the perfect place to unwind after our long ride.

Raising Arizona!

I had brought a Thai tofu and noodle dish for dinner, so after more bevs, showers, and fresh costumes, we all sat down to feast. Mike had the great idea of hiking to the secret slickrock trail to gaze at the full moon. There’s not been a full moon on Halloween since 1964! We all hunkered down, grounding into the vortex energy. One of the best Halloween’s ever!

The next morning was a little foggy, and unfortunately most of the crew had to head back to real life. I of course, slept in because it was my actual birthday – 40!!! It’s a big one and damn I was ready. That day, Janine, Steve, Mike and I went to hike cockscomb then had margaritas and tacos. Best. Birthday. Ever. That evening, we headed to the house to nap and chill out. Champagne was popped and I toasted to my birthday with the coolest crew.

Birthday Margaritas

Morning came and we packed up the house and said a tearful goodbye to the beautiful house we had just spent my epic birthday in. The small crew headed out to hike Cathedral rock that started at the crescent moon park – definitely a cooler hike than cockscomb – and we billy goated around the slick rock and marveled at the beauty of the desert. After the gorgeous hike, we had to say goodbye to Janine and Steve and Mike and I headed to get some more tacos in Sedona, then headed to the Grand Canyon for the second half of the road trip extravaganza.

I wholeheartedly believe you get to choose your life. The smallest decisions we make – or chose not to make – stack up to create your now. This year, 2020, has been an extremely odd one, with many unknowns, plans that were halted, the world turned upside down. It’s given me a lot to think about, contemplate and plan for. This trip reminded me that I have an amazing life, one that is comprised of beautiful friends, exploration, and a world full of possibilities that I have the choice to grab onto. I am 40 and I can’t wait to see what I choose next.


Just several months ago, the world as we know it, changed drastically. COVID-19 struck, ransacking our elderly and those with weakened immune systems. The disease was tricky though, unpredictable, fickle….not like the other pandemics anyone had seen before and there isn’t a vaccine. People were dying quickly, the disease was spreading like wild fire. So they shut the world down. Parks, restaurants, bars, conferences, concerts, festivals, stores, all canceled or shut down. We were asked to ‘Shelter in Place’ meaning to not leave our homes unless necessary. Social Distancing became a household phrase and we were asked to not see those who don’t already live in our home. 

This has been the single-most life-altering thing that’s happened in my lifetime (next to 9/11) and the drastic changes we’ve implemented in our lifestyle have been huge. Skiing every weekend halted, back-country hut trip canceled, no hiking with friends on the weekends as spring weather crept into the front range, no breweries, BBQ’s, concerts, no family gatherings, memorial for grandma canceled, family members furloughed, nieces and nephews home-schooled and home while our siblings adjusted to the new normal.

Mike and I talk often about the gratitude we feel for our day-to-day life – I’ve worked from home for the past 6+ years, Mike works for himself on huge projects, which in their very nature means they’ll be stretches of down projects. Our company, Happy Homes llc, had just finished an investment property, gone under contract, had a closing set for April 6th…..and it fell through. We’ve had to shift our mindset/business plan for the next year and have adjusted our strategy to a buy and hold. Pivoting quickly, we listed our investment on furnished finders (a traveling nurse sight with a super clunky UI) as well as Zillow/Trulia rental space. The first few days nothing….which was a really scary reality that we may have a huge investment sitting empty for quite awhile. Well, turned out that there was a setting I hadn’t adjusted from when we had the listing as ‘For Sale by Owner’. DOH! Flip the switch and we got an uber qualified tenant couple to secure the house for a full year starting in July. Thank goodness!

Some of the good things to come out of this (because there comes a point where you have to move past the ‘what ifs’ and move towards the ‘well there’s that’): Zoom workouts, Virtual Happy Hours, Live-Streaming concerts including friend’s bands and our favorite entertainers, putting major time and effort into our backyard, including our garden, which Mike has been planning since February! On the spending front, I’m down month over month, putting more into my brokerage Vanguard account, and have beefed up my emergency fund savings. Because nothing in this life is promised.

Things have gotten a bit more back to normal in the last few weeks, although we’ve still not been traveling out of state. It’s October (I started this draft in May) and the world continues to turn, although it’s forever changed. This time has brought much calm, chaos, connection, anxiety, cancelations, mindset shifts and overall awakening to the gratitude I have for my health. I hope you have stayed health, stayed calm, found some good in this and haven’t been too lonely. Find some happy in your day and spend as much time there as possible.

Active Recovery

I’m working on Active Recovery in my personal life as well as my professional life.

As a mountain biker, this is a term used to define the continuous momentum after a hard push or steep incline (aka a long slog). Honing this skill takes practice, mental toughness and a tenacity for improvement. Even when my lungs are burning, my legs are shaking and my mind is screaming to take a break.

I’ve learned though, the amount of energy needed to get going after I allow myself to stop (or in some recent cases, throw down my bike in defeat) isn’t worth the small amount of rest. I’ve realized gathering up the momentum to get back on the bike, start from a stand-still, overcome the mental block of having just completely stopped, just isn’t worth it. If I can get past the initial urge to quit, to slow my pedaling, shift into a lowest gear instead of hopping off my bike, concentrate on my breathing to slow my heart rate, keep my mind focused on moving forward, all while continuing to pedal, I am in much better shape, both physically and mentally.

Active recovery applies to any strenuous, tough, or arduous life task and something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately with so many uncertainties, so many things on my plate. It can be overwhelming at times, often causing my to-do-list to go out the window, the wheels in my head to start spinning in no particular direction and the actual accomplishing of tasks to flee the scene. Scattered is the state I have found myself in over the past few weeks and active recovery is something I’m conciously working on.

It’s ok to slow down, and can be beneficial after a hard push towards something. To allow yourself to focus on the goal at hand, not every little thing you need to accomplish, has helped. But I’ve realized that I need to just keep pedaling, no matter how slow, no matter how small the task is or how long I still have to climb. Concentrate on my breathing, keep my mind focused on the positive outcome I want and I move forward.

And dang, the summit is almost always worth it.