The San Juan River and the Joys of Being Flexible


It was never planned. On Sunday, February 24, I was packed for six days of biking and camping around Tucson, Arizona. Bags were meticulously stuffed to handle dry daytime heat and cooler overnight temperatures. My bike was tuned up and dialed for a few hundred miles of hot pavement and gravel. Even my snacks were packs. My fucking snacks. I was ready to go.

But there was a problem. A blizzard struck southern Minnesota and closed interstate 35. Maybe “closed” isn’t a strong enough word in that case. Some snowdrifts neared 25 feet in height. Enough motorists were stranded that the National Guard was called. Then the National Guard got one of their tanks stuck in the snow. If a tank gets stuck in the snow, there’s not much chance of a Subaru Impreza making it very far.

Sunday night came and we decided to make the call early Monday morning. See, the drive to Tucson would take two days. We were planning on driving to Amarillo, Texas on Monday and staying at this hotel with a restaurant that has a live video of patrons attempting to eat an 80 oz. steak. I was excited to go. Then we were going to make the drive across New Mexico on Tuesday and arrive at our desert destination that night. By 5am Monday, however, the interstate was still closed. By lunch, there was no change. So Tuesday, we’ll plan on leaving Tuesday morning instead. Just 24 hours behind schedule, no biggie. The next morning brought no change. Roads were still closed and stranded motorists were still living in a gymnasium in Owatona, Minnesota. It wasn’t looking good. By the middle of the day, my travel partner had to make the call. Delaying our trip by this much would cause him to miss his travel window. We couldn’t do it. We had to cancel.

My bags were still sitting on the dining room table, where they took up residence two days prior. My bike was still in race shape, all sparkly and shit on the wall rack. I honestly couldn’t bring myself to unpack everything. Unpacking would admit defeat. There was no chance in the Tucson trip still happening, but I couldn’t unpack.


So later that day, I sent a text to another friend. My shit was packed and I was starting a job in two weeks (or so I thought). If there were ever an opportunity to take a spontaneous trip, it was now. Less than 18 hours later, Andrew and I were sitting in a bar between a bike shop and a fly shop scheming a trip to the San Juan River in New Mexico. We would leave the following afternoon, drive through the night, fish all day Saturday through Monday, then drive back on that following Tuesday. I figured, the past three days were a clusterfuck of planning, why not just extend it through to the following week?


Within 48 hours, we were getting into fish on the river. We’d end up catching around 60 for our three days spent fishing. We visited Great Sand Dunes National Park and Mesa Verde National Park. We enjoyed the best food and beer in Durango, Colorado. We met some seriously kind folks on our travels. Despite the uncertainty of that week, I wouldn’t have it any other way.