Cycling Stories

The Day the Music Died

March 30, 2020

The Day the Music Died

It was another exceptional day for a bike patrol with Sam the Coydog.

The sun was breaking over The Saddle near Napoleon’s Tomb, and the cold night was exiting to the north as the sun pushed away the morning mist. Somewhere out there was a couple of children, a small pup, and a pair of frightened adult humans.

Mike got the call around 5 am. He and Sam were already up, planning the day’s activities. Sam exited the sleeping quarters with a single bound and headed for the door, which led to the vehicular conveyance — a four-door Jeep — he’d selected for the Harris pack a few months ago.

The bike was already on the rack. Mike planned to patrol using this option, as he always did when the weather commanded extra effort and tossed in additional challenges. No human activity even came close to creating the same feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment as biking.

Sean, one of the local Forest Service personnel who surveyed the Sedona, noticed a vehicle in a popular parking lot below The Saddle, which had remained there overnight. A bunch of footprints in the inch or two of snow remained from yesterday’s weather event, which led off toward The Saddle. This was a cause for concern.

Sean made the call.

“Mike, you heading out this way?” he said with perceptible tension in his voice.

“TC?” Mike replied, already knowing the answer to his question.

 “See you in ten,” Sean said as a small waft of steam emanated from his lungs.

Mike and Sam made their way down the slippery streets to the trailhead. Sam realized he’d selected the most exceptional mode of transportation for the pack. Mike nodded approval to Sam, and Sam decided his reward should be a hot dog for lunch. He conveyed that wish telepathically to Mike as they pulled into the trailhead parking lot. Sean was patiently waiting for their arrival.

“This doesn’t look good,” Mike said as he approached the vacant automobile. “Good thing I brought the bike.”

The bike was a hand-built, full carbon Specialized Stumpjumper FSR, well-equipped to handle the severe weather.

“Just hoping I can keep up with Sam on this tundra,” Mike stated as he pondered the best route to, and over, the saddle.

“I’m gonna head over the front side, and I’m betting you’ll beat me around the back,” Sean replied, as they set off to find the missing family.

Sam took the lead. He knew the area well, having been borne of the local coyote residents, and a female golden retriever who lived nearby. Sam possessed the best attributes of both parents, making him extremely fast, but tolerant of the human residents in this demographic region.

Sam learned at an early age to run with the bikers who patrolled here. He’d contributed to more than a dozen rescue or recovery efforts by the time he was three, and he was on the north side of thirteen years old this cold morning.

Coydog Sam decided the best approach would be the lower trail leading to the saddle from a parking area further up the forest road. This way, his human could follow on the two-wheeled conveyance. A singletrack trail paralleled the winding road, giving Sam and his human follower a shorter and much more expedient path to the backside of the saddle. Mike pushed through the new snow, grabbing traction from the frozen earth beneath, keeping up with Sam as the Coydog trotted through the four-inch newly fallen powder.

Sam stopped in his tracks. He heard something, not of this area, and the sound did not come from the saddle. A quick look at Mike, and off he went toward the southwest area of the mountainous depression – one the locals called Witches Tit.

“Heading south,” Mike spoke to a transponder, which attached via some electronic means to Sean. “Let me know what you find at The Saddle.”

Sean, approaching from the northeast, was already halfway up to The Saddle. The slippery, winding trail was obscured by newly fallen snow, but he made out two pairs of adult footprints, a small dog’s tracks, and those left by a couple of smaller versions of adults. 

“We’ve got five out here, including the dog,” Sean conveyed to Mike through the communications device strapped to his right wrist.

Mike was busy trying not to fall off the bike as he pushed on with great dispatch, all while attempting to keep Sam in sight. Finally, he had to rely on Sam’s tracks to continue forward as the Coydog turned out of a wash and up a steep hill toward the backside of Witches Tit.

Mike stood up off the bike’s saddle and pedaled his way into anaerobic exercise …

Sam knew the song. He had heard it emanating from the vehicular conveyance the Harris pack called the Jeep on several occasions. It was a song that younger human individuals found appealing, and for that reason, Sam also came to enjoy it. Sam liked the younger humans. They could keep up with him on occasion, and they seemed to like chasing him about on their two-wheeled conveyances. Sam was probably the only Coydog who was happy bicycles were invented and so popular with humans.

Something was wrong, though. The music dropped in and out, and then it suddenly ceased. Gone was the rhythmic tempo and vocal articulation. Only a quietly pulsating hissing sound remained, and then that was gone as well.

By now, the small human footprints were nearly obscured by the white power falling from the sky. The scent was long gone, so Sam picked up the pace. He headed toward the spot where the music died.

At about the same time, Sean approached The Saddle. From this spot, he could catch the best view of Cathedral Rock to the east, while the western view yielded spectacular views of Witches Tit and the summit of House Mountain. There was also something else to be seen here: myriad small and large footprints around the little seating feature, including those of a small dog.

Most of the adult prints were near the side, where Cathedral Rock presented itself picturesquely. Most of the little prints were near the opposite side, as well as the puppy prints. Sean surmised the following:

  1. The parents were busy taking pictures and selfies of themselves and Cathedral Rock.
  2. The puppy took off.
  3. The kids followed.
  4. The adults realized they were alone, and off they went after the kids.

Sean relayed the same to Mike, who was catching up to Sam as the Coydog began his long ascent to Witches Tit.

“Not seeing any prints down here, but Sam is onto something,” Mike relayed to Sean, as he texted his GPS coordinates.

“I’ll chase down the prints here. Some still showing up on the west side,” Sean conveyed back to Mike.

Sean started down the west slope, which was beginning to get a bit slippery as the snow started to thaw. He noticed a significant divergence in the kiddy prints and the adult remnants. This could be a big problem, he thought.

As Sean reached the bottom of the first drop from The Saddle, he noticed the kiddy prints were heading south and west, but the adult prints continued along the well-established trail that ran north and west and then connected with TC Cut, an alternate path to House Mountain. Since it sounded like Sam was taking the Witches Tit path, Sean followed the adult tracks. He let Mike know.


When Sam found them, they were huddled around a small puppy. As he approached, they cowered for a moment, fearing the worst. Suddenly the boy reached out, Sam approached, and everyone became as one.

Mike, on his trusty steed, arrived within fifteen minutes and was ecstatic at what he found. Fortunately, the kids had substantial bubble jackets on, and except for a bit of dehydration and exhaustion, they were OK. Sam was in the middle, enjoying the newfound company. The first words Mike heard were the little boy complimenting Mike’s bike.

Within ten minutes, Sean found the parents. Dead cell phones, once used as lighting devices, were in their semi-frozen hands. Within a half-hour, everyone was reunited, and all was well.

“The kids were listening to this,” Mike said to Sean while showing him a small electronic device. “It kept their minds off the mess they were in. Then, the batteries died, along with the music. That’s when they really got scared. Good thing Sam found them around then.”

“Good thing I brought the bike with me this time,” Mike thought out loud. “Otherwise, we might have had a bit of trouble getting to them in time.”

Sam and Sean agreed.

Mike and Linda Harris live in Sedona, Arizona. Mike is a Senior Red Rock Mountain Bike Patroller, and they work together as a team to preserve Sedona’s wildlife via programs like Adopt-a-Trail and Friends of the Forest.
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