Into the Rut, and Out Again

I am largely a creature of habit and easily fall into a routine. Following familiar routes at familiar times means that conditions are typically similar from one day to the next - lighting, temperature, traffic conditions, etc. Eventually , after a certain amount of time has passed - sometimes more, sometimes less - and those standard rides have begun to blur one into the next, you realize that the routine has turned into the Rut. 

The Rut is a place no one willingly wants to find themselves. It is a staid place, full of repetition and similarity. Nothing remarkable ever happens in the Rut, or almost nothing. In the English language we developed a saying to cover the place with a few simple words - I fell into a rut. Falling is not a good thing (usually), and so the Rut clearly isn't either. Conversely, once things improve we note how someone was able to climb out of the Rut they were in. Again, the act of climbing, suggests that the Rut is a kind of pit or trap and getting out of it is a good thing.

How many of you are familiar with Alice Cooper's song 'Black Juju' - it rolls along steadily, lulls you in with a regularity of purpose, then goes silent but for the ticking of a clock. Then hard-hearted Alice lets loose with WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP, and the song bursts out louder than ever. Into the Rut, and out again with renewed energy.

When I realize that I have fallen into a rut, I usually resort to one of two options to climb out - do a group ride, or head up into the mountains. It won't be long now before I rejoin the Thursday night ride for the duration of the winter, but today I climbed into the mountains to break out of my rut, essentially riding the West Fork Extra out and back. Highway 39 had become estranged from me for some little while now, but with so much local attention focused on this new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, it has been on my mind to get on up there. 

I could not have hoped for a better morning for either a short thirty-nine mile excursion, or for climbing out of the Rut. There were a number of riders on the highway, but once I got to the West Fork Road the outside world fell way. A lone bike packer on his way out, and a recumbent rider on his way in, were the only other souls around. The silence in the depth of the canyon was as stunning as the scenery through which I rolled. The river mostly gurgled, sometimes bubbled over tiny little cascades, unseen things scampered through the underbrush, in the deep shade of the canyon the air temperature dropped by ten degrees, or more. Though I rode in search of renewal, something like the change to Spring, it was Autumn that I found all around me. That was fine with me, Autumn's change is just as worthy, just as likely to help break out of the Rut.

empty road ahead. Pun warning: traffic was anything but monumental, and I certainly did not mind

about as empty as you would want a reservoir to ever get

how can I get my own gulch?

even in its shaded nooks, the canyon was alight with the seasonal change of poison oaks brilliant red leaves. nowhere was the display more dramatic than on this cliff, the red set off by the white of the rock face

black water

blue, green, and gold water

no one was occupying my favorite picnic spot so I settled in, wishing all the while I had brought the fixings for a cup o' joe; would have been a great coffeeneuring entry

pun warning: a monumental view