This graphic came on a T-shirt I received as a piece of swag many moons ago while working in my local shop. I still have it, and occasionally wear it for giggles. At the time I received it, I was about to plunge head-long into five years of ultimately fruitless, but all-consuming racing and training. The road-sign images on that shirt were little snapshots of my day. Wake, eat a handful of boring quasi-healthy food, ride till if stops being fun, sleep, repeat. Food was fuel, consumed only to facilitate more riding. Cooking consisted of pushing 2:00 on the microwave and eating off of a paper plate.
When I started with Escape Adventures, I could have burned a pot of water. I had literally never cooked anything more complicated than microwave popcorn. I rarely even ate with other people, let alone cooked for them. It was quite an eye-opening experience to watch the likes Nikki or Jacques plan, purchase and pack five days worth of breakfasts, lunches, snacks, appetizers, dinners and deserts. The day before each tour, enough food and drink to fill two grocery carts and three massive coolers came rolling out of the store toward a waiting Ford E-350 and trailer. All I could do was marvel at piles of raw ingredients as far from a finished product as a lump of aluminum or is from a finished mountain bike frame.
In an attempt to teach me to wear a kitchen apron in addition to a mountain bike helmet, I was sent out with Nikki and Nancy, two zen masters of the guiding arts. This first tour was small, with a guide to guest ration of 1:1. In retrospect I assume that this was to keep my lack of skills from wrecking anyone’s good time. As it happens however, Nikki and Nancy would never have allowed anything untoward to happen in their kitchen, regardless of my hamfisted efforts.
The weather for this particular North Rim happened to be unseasonably cold. Forcing myself out of my ancient sleeping bag and out into the 30 degree, pre-dawn darkness would have been a chore for even the most chipper morning person, let alone a mid-afternoon chap like myself. I could barely walk upright at this hour and temperature, let alone create an artfully prepared smorgasbord of sweet and savory pre-breakfast treats. Normally, the only appreciable affect of temperature on cuisine is the inexplicable addition of pumpkin flavor into everything come fall. In the early season cold however, food prep duties were a Bill Nye-style study in the physical properties of semi-frozen fruits. To appear useful I attempted to make coffee, succeeding only in getting grounds in all the mugs. As I turned to lunch prep, nearly freezing my fingers to the cutting board, I began to wonder how I would ever get the hang of managing all the cooking and kitchen duties, let alone juggle them with driving and riding and guiding and packing and unpacking and rigging and wrenching…
My first tours were week-long anxiety attacks, consisting of one micro crisis after another. What if the guests got up before I did? Did the lunch spread look nice enough? What if I got the van stuck? Where is the BUTTER?!
It took me three years of guiding to not feel like a complete spastic around the kitchen. In that time, due to the infinite patience of the senior guides, I was able to plan and execute a meal without setting it or myself on fire. I slipped into the eat-ride-eat-ride-eat-drink-sleep-repeat routine like an old pair of flip-flips. And I came to enjoy the bonding that comes with a meal shared amongst friends. Laughing and reliving the very recent past over food and beers became my favorite way to spend an evening, and it’s one of the things I miss most about guiding. Fingers crossed, I’ll get to wear a helmet and an apron again soon.