I know, I promised no more reports this year. But I thought that I would not be doing any more exciting rides. And it seems I was wrong. Because, ta da, last weekend I traveled to that mecca of mountain biking, Moab, there to personally ride for the first time.
The mission: Moab for a 4-day weekend. Be a fun hog.
The crew: Me. Kim (also the main it's-cold-I-wanna-go-to-Moab instigator). Linda and Kermit, two fellow Argonne employees. Super Dave and Peter-from-the-pool.
The accomodations: Moab Super 8, $40 per room per night, cable and a hot tub - gotta love off-season rates.
The weather: outstandingly sunny, understandably cool in the mornings (it's November!).
The riding: most excellent, most uncrowded, mostly bumpy.
The conclusion: get a full-suspension bike and go back in March before the mobs hit.
And now, a more traditional and probably much longer narrative.
We assemble at Kim's apartment early Friday morning. Peter and Dave are not quite as early as promised, but that's fine. Linda and Kermit are on their own, since they both live in Pocatello (50 miles toward Moab). We get on the road at 6:45. Kim and I in her Bronco II (bikes on back), Peter and Dave in Peter's Cherokee (bikes inside).
It turns out Peter wasn't kidding when he was talking about needing new tires. Heading up 7400' Soldier Summit (US 191/ US 6, south of Provo) we enter a so-called winter storm dumping snow on the mountains and road too. Shades of this March. Anyway, Peter was in the lead. Kim's driving, and we see tracks headed down off the edge of the road and several cars stopped with people out looking over the edge. We pull over, get out, and lock the hubs. As we prepare to get going again, I note a Cherokee-like vehicle ahead, pointed down at about 45 degrees down the embankment perpendicular to the road. This is not an intentional parking position. Sure hope it's not Peter. As we get closer, who do we observe but Dave and Peter climbing around the errant Cherokee. So since there's no way in hell the Bronco II is going to pull the Jeep out of there even if we had a chain, we mill around a bit and sit in the Bronco II while a snowplow radios for a tow truck.
The Jeep was stopped by soft mud and weeds under the snow, or it would have kept going down the hill. It also nailed a snowplow guidepost in the center of the driver's door while going sideways, leaving a dent in the door and a thoroughly mangled post.
Eventually the tow truck arrives and yanks the Jeep back on the road, costing Peter $50. No cops, no tickets. The driver says other car off the road is 300 feet down the hill, waiting for authorities to arrive. We take off again, Dave and Kim driving with both vehicles in 4wd.
Several hours later we arrive in Moab, having had no further incidents but being a little late to take more than a cursory ride around town. Which we do, and then go out to dinner with Linda and Kermit, who already rode the Slickrock practice loop since they got to Moab a couple hours earlier. Dinner is at Eddie McStiff's, one of Utah's only microbrewery/bar/restaurants. Dave is quite disappointed that they are out of jalapeno beer, but dinner is very good anyway.
In the morning, we lounge around until about 10, then decide to go ride the Gemini Bridges trail for an easy warmup. First, we have to do a three-car shuffle/shuttle between the trailhead and the trailend so nobody gets stranded at the end of the ride. By the time we are all ready to ride, about 60 teenagers on a church outing have shown up and preempted the trail. Oh well. Most of this ride is downhill, and we take the first part very slowly. Get to the bridges, two arches at the end of a box canyon - the trail is on top of the canyon, nice view. The kids are there posing for pictures on top of the bridges. We leave. Linda's brand new Manitou Mach-5 pops an elastomer stack out right past her ear (sproing!), so we have to stuff it back in. But eventually we finish the 12 miles of trail, ending 11 miles north of Moab. I have a bright idea of riding back to town with Peter and Dave, which will work out great if Peter just lets Kermit drive his Cherokee. He agrees, and we hammer back (downhill! 40 mph) to town, beating the cars by a wide margin - they had to drive 12 miles to the trail head, then 12 back and another 12 back.
Except for Dave, who took a little fall and is icing down his thigh bruise, we head out to the Poison Spider trail just before dark, but only make it halfway up (several miles) before wisely deciding to turn back.
We go to dinner again, the Slickrock Cafe this time. They are out of some menu items, and the waiter says they will be shutting down for the winter on Monday. This will become a theme. But the food is again excellent, some people buy t-shirts, and we go back and hot-tub again.
Sunday we are ready to do a real trail, the Porcupine Rim trail. 14 miles of rocks and sand in various combinations, then an easy 6 road miles back to town. This requires a different shuffle, since the trailhead is located 6 miles up a Jeep-type road. So Peter and Dave head up there while Kim and Linda go back to the hotel to leave a car there, while Kermit and I cool our heels in the Slickrock parking lot. It turns out Peter's Jeep has developed an interesting alarm system malfunction that cuts the ignition when a bump is encountered. There are a few bumps on the way to the trailhead, so it takes him a while to get back. I tke this oppurtunity to ride the Slickrock practice loop. It is a practice loop in the sense that it introduces the terrain and surface of the main trail, not that it is particularly easy. It's two miles, and slickrock is definitely a new riding experience for me. When I get back, Peter is fiddling with his Jeep. We pile five people and three bikes into the Jeep, and lurch out up the track to the trailhead.
This time it is almost noon by the time we start riding, and this trail is harder than the first. Frequent re-assembly stops are called for, to validate the social origins of this expedition. Finally we get to the canyon overlook called "High Anxiety" and the trail is supposed to be all downhill from there. Not! More rocks, and my butt is again taking a beating. I feel really sorry for Peter and Kermit, who have no shocks. Going down the canyon wall, we come upon a guy who drove his rear derailleur too close to a rock. Kermit lends him a chain tool, and he coasts down the rest of the way. Except for one hill where Dave sees him attempt to pedal before falling over - I guess he took off the chain entirely. Right as twilight apporaches we get to the road, and some of us hammer back to the main highway. Peter made me do it.
Once more we patronize Eddie McStiff's, and this time get a 30% discount because they are shutting down too. Hot tub again for the aching muscles.
In the morning, Dave and I ride the Slickrock trail in just under two hours, 12 miles and a really good workout. It takes Kim 4 hours, so I kind of figured we could halve her time. That trail does some amazing things that one just cannot survive on normal dirt trails. I barely survive some of them on sandstone, but end up with nothing more than a lightly pulled inner quad and several lower leg scratches for the weekend.
We hop in the cars and head back home, luckily just in time for me to go to Semantics of Programming Languages class, where I am for some reason not very alert.
It was supposed to be cold back here, but it's been in the 50's all week. Yet Targhee is scheduled to open this weekend, even though Dave says they don't have much snow. Something to avoid with my new skis, which I will finally get to pick up on Sunday.
time to ride the bus, hah