“Those who are about to die salute you” – gladiator’s salute as recorded by Suetonius in AD 52
Standing on the rim of Shafer Canyon with my loaded bike getting ready to drop into the maze below, I was struck by the similarities between the Colosseum in Rome and the eroded tablelands of Canyonlands National Park. The scale is beyond description, especially when trying to place oneself into it. Maybe it was because I had been driving all night with little sleep just to get to this place but a sense of awe overwhelmed me as I traced the path of the White Rim Road knifing across the floor of the natural amphitheater spread out before me. I was about to descend into that and suddenly I felt really, really small.
One of my favorite movies is “Gladiator”, especially the scene in the Colosseum where the character Maximus is forced to reveal his true identity to the emperor that had killed his family and left him for dead. When first asked his name, Maximus replies simply “My name is Gladiator”. I absolutely love that scene. With a few words the lowly gladiator bent on retribution rises to overwhelm and dominate the evil emperor. Best scene ever.
For me, this photo gives rise to some of the same emotions. It sums up the anticipation I always feel at the start of a big ride, the hope that I have enough fitness to pull it off and the worry that I had forgotten something important while packing my gear the night before. It speaks to the teeth-gnashing, gut-wrenching bumper to bumper traffic I fought to even get to this place and the crappy day I had at work before driving all night just to stand there. All of the hope and joy that goes into planning a proper “adventure” is expressed in the vastness of that scene below me. I live for these simple moments and work my ass off to make them happen. If I had been asked who I was at that moment who I was I would’ve answered “My name is Bicyclist”. It would’ve been worth it just for a good laugh from whomever had asked me.
Anyway, I’ve spent a little time the past few evenings sorting though photos from my two days on the White Rim this past weekend and relishing the experience. Eventually (before the glow dies) I’ll share a bunch with some words, but first I wanted to relive the moment I took this photo while standing on the brink of the abyss. What a great ride.