Mountain Biking, Camping, and Refugees

Here in the Rocky Mountains, the snowline that has already covered our higher peaks is getting lower and lower, and is flirting with our streets. It won’t be long until snow is an almost daily reality here in the Vail Valley. (And in fact, two ski resorts have already opened!)

Classes here die in the summer, and will soon be picking up again with a vengeance. I begin my cycling clinics next week and will be subbing a lot more at several facilities, but I still grimace at the thought of not being able to ride outside!

To squeeze out some last-ditch rides in the fall, Coloradans head west, either into Moab, Utah, or Fruita, Colorado, for world-class mountain biking. Winter hits the lower elevation desert (about 5,000–6,000 feet) about a month or two later than it does in the high country. The past two weekends, my husband and I have loaded up our bikes and camping gear and hit the road to Fruita, about two hours west. I don’t share personal experiences very often in these pages, but I thought I’d share the beauty of the high desert of Colorado from this last trip with you.

And, in a moment, I’ll tell you what refugees has to do with this…


This was our trip last weekend, when it was a little warmer.
We rode a trail that overlooked the entire valley below.



This was a sunset ride last night.


Yes, I am walking my bike! There is some steep stuff here!


We rode along this ridge for a few miles. At times it was like riding
on a knife edge, falling away steeply on both sides.


Camping, Sage-style! Yes, the tent sits on top of the car and is fully set up in about 10 minutes.
That’s me getting dinner ready last night.


This was breakfast this morning, before going for our ride.
The sun warmed up pretty quickly but it was a very brisk morning!

Temperatures got up to about 64° F (17° C) in the day—not bad for such a strenuous sport that keeps you warm. But at night, it got down to 30° F (-1° C). We had the luxury of a warm fire, down sleeping bags, down pillows, and even extra blankets piled on top. I still had to sleep with a hat on, and wrap a fleece around my head! Brrrr!

I’m not as much into roughing it as I used to be—back in 1989 I rode my bike around Europe for two months and camped the whole time. But now, even after just one cold night in a tent I am stiff. Yeah, I know…wimp! Fortunately, a great ride after breakfast fixed that.


I know, you’re still wondering why I wrote “refugees” in the title of this post…

As I lay in my tent snuggled underneath piles of down, you know where my thoughts were all night? I couldn’t get my mind off of the hundreds of thousands of refugees and what they are experiencing right now, and how our little tent and camping supplies would be a 4-star accommodation compared to what they have access to. So many displaced people, including young children and the elderly, walking for days and weeks, often in cold rain and mud (and soon, it will be snowing), with no idea where they will end up. I’m sure many become sick along the way. They have hardly any food or warm clothes, often with only the hard, cold ground to sleep on, and the clothes on their backs or what they can carry in a small backpack. From what I’ve read, many have to ditch their backpacks in the treacherous sea crossing to Greece, meaning they have nothing left. If they are lucky and arrive at a refugee camp with space available, they may get a tent, maybe a few blankets.

My heart is breaking for what these people in Europe are experiencing. I wish I could do more.

Then I remembered, I have a good friend who works for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). They are the global agency that is closest to any refugee situation, and they are in dire need of funds to continue helping the millions of Syrians (and others) fleeing their war-torn countries. This is where your donation dollars are likely to do the best good. If you are like me, and want to help but aren’t sure how, click the button below for donating directly to the UNHCR.


Maybe between a few of us, we can get a few families a tent, blankets, and cook stoves.


  1. You are so inspiring Jen! The ride and life seem to be one for you. Thanks for the message of compassion and the concrete guidance on how we can help.

  2. Author

    I realize there are differing viewpoints about what to do with the refugees, but turning our backs on them is not something I want to live with in my lifetime. This is not meant to be a political discussion. It is only what was going through my head this weekend while camping and riding, and is just my personal view.

    I will continue to believe the world is good, that most of these people are good, and that most people in the world care enough to want to help them. I feel we cannot turn our backs on humanity. I will encourage people and studios to raise money for the refugees through Spinathons if they can.

    I have been following the refugee crisis very closely for a long time. I follow some embedded journalists as well on Twitter and Periscope, who tell sad, heart wrenching and even fascinating and humorous stories via interviews with the refugees themselves. The important thing is to not just follow the mainstream media because you’ll hear propaganda that the refugees want to impose sharia law wherever they end up. For every negative story, there are a gazillion others of grateful people, with fascinating pasts, and life dreams not much different than most of us.

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