Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 6 – Starting for Home…

Day 6 started pretty much like every other day of the trip so far…..with the exception of the fact that Chris was now on crutches…it started with the search for breakfast and coffee.

We walked (hobbled in Chris’ case) over to the Union Café for breakfast, drank most of a pot of coffee then headed back to the hotel to pack and wait for Jim to show up and shuttle us back to Moab.

The ride back to Moab was quiet and routine, being in the back seat of the suburban with the windows down, allowed me to politely check out of the conversation, close my eyes and take a little nap. When I awoke we were back in Utah and it was raining. As the rain continued, lightning split the sky followed soon after by the resounding drumroll of thunder… we climbed over the mountains and started heading back down the other side, Jim had the idea to go look for flash floods and, seizing on any excuse to prolong our trip, we readily agreed.

With the surrounding hills being mostly sandstone, the rain hits the ground and, unable to soak in, begins its downward journey… gathering speed and picking up debris as it runs….

Eventually though, it was time to get to the hotel, pick up the van and get on the road. Which is just what we did. We made it as far as Salt Lake City before it got too late, Chris was too uncomfortable and I was too tired to continue. Thankfully we had decided to bring Jerry's van instead of my truck. We were able to set up the seating in such a way that Chris was in the back with his leg propped up on the seat in front of him

A good night’s sleep, the complimentary buffet breakfast and we were back on the road. Heading out of Salt Lake City, we entered what is referred to as… The most boring stretch of highway known to man….ok, I made that part up, but it definitely fits.

Eventually, we rolled out of the desert and into Reno where I finally had a cell signal (just a quick FYI – Nextel SUCKS for coverage) and called my sister. I had left her a message earlier that morning letting her know we were coming through town and that we had hoped to crash at their place in Tahoe City. As soon as my cell started receiving signals, I saw I had 3 messages from her, all of which said the same thing, “Absolutely you can stay here” “Come on by and I’ll cook you dinner”…

Her offer wasn’t really a surprise. For most of my childhood and teenage life, I, either by myself or with my friends and cousins, had been dropping in on her, sleeping on her floor, eating her food and generally just hanging out whenever I could. And her, being the coolest older sister in the world, always had the same response…..”absolutely you can stay here” Yep, she’s awesome that way.

As we sat on their deck enjoying a beer, Craig, husband to awesome sister, brother in law and overall really cool guy, grilled us up some burgers, we polished off several of his beers, talked for a couple hours and eventually crashed for the night.

Saturday morning, Craig had to head down to the lake where his niece was entered in a standup wakeboarding competition, so Maureen took us to her friend’s bakery for a breakfast of coffee and amazing baked goods.
Now, when I say amazing it’s not just an adjective. Tahoe House bakery REALLY is amazing. There’s a line out the door and the smell of baked goods alone is enough to drive you insane….if you’re ever in Tahoe City, this is one of those place you HAVE to try….

After saying our good-byes, we got on the road for the last push home. Just under 4 hours later, we pulled into Chris’ driveway where Min had a pizza, beer and brats ready for us for lunch. Unfortunately, Michael, Chris’ son had misunderstood the plan and was waiting for us in my driveway about 40 minutes north.

This was it. The trip was officially over….as I backed Jerry’s van out of Chris’ driveway I could almost feel the pressures of reality seeping back in.

By the time we hit 880 and my exit off the freeway, I could tell the dream had ended. In two days, I’d be back in the office, paying bills, feeding the dogs, whatever…..

If the true measure of an adventure can be felt in the levels of disappointment experienced at its conclusion, this one was definitely an epic!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 5…In Search of Singletrack…

Day 5 started off with a nice little downhill back to the main trail. From there we turned right and began a pretty gradual but steady climb for the next several miles. After reaching what appeared to be the top of the hill, we turned off the main (recommended) trail and began our search for singletrack.

As we rode down the rough doubletrack littered with head sized rocks, ruts and lots of things to cause injury, I thought to myself, “finally, a little adventure instead of smooth roads”….then as Chris pointed to the goat track that spurred off to the left, I began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into….

The entry off the path we were on was pretty steep, narrow and covered with rocks….let the adventure begin….

The downhill quickly ended and the trail turned up. Now we had narrow, rock strewn and uphill to deal with and we were quickly forced to dismount and walk. It’s amazing that after several days at elevation, walking uphill pushing a 50+ pound bike still managed to make me breathe hard….

Soon enough the trail leveled and we were able to ride again. The singletrack was awesome and the trail was challenging, yet enjoyable. Pretty quickly though, a wrench was thrown into the mix….actually, I guess it was more like a branch or a limb even, as Chris rode by a downed tree, the branches reached out, grabbed him by the wheel and tossed him to the ground. At least that’s what it seemed like from back where I was sitting.

After getting up and getting back on his bike, he realized the issue was worse. His rear derailleur was pointing straight out to the side like my broken pinky finger after an ill advised game of high school flag football….

Luckily he was able to bend it back in place without the derailleur hanger breaking and got it sorta kinda shifting ok and we were off again.

The trail continued to get better and better, eventually turning into a narrow swooping track on what appeared to be decomposed granite. Traction was good, the path was slightly downhill and we rolled along happy with life....until the nice, flowy, smooth trail went away, replaced instead by a fairly steep downhill covered with rocks and loose debris. The adventure factor increased significantly as the trial steepened and we entered an area of pretty sharp downhill switchbacks.

Things were still going well until in a particularly steep section, Chris, during a moment of sanity, decided it was probably better to dismount and walk this gnarly downhill section. As he tried to slow for a dismount, his front wheel hit a rock and over the bars he went…
Seeing as I was bringing up the rear, I didn’t actually see what happened, all I saw was Chris trying his best to stand up and failing. Immediately knowing something bad had happened I did what every person (ok every guy) would have, I cracked a lame joke and pulled out my camera for pictures.

We got Chris situated off to the side of the trail and began to assess the situation. It turns out he went over the bars in an upright position and landed straight-legged on the trail pretty much pile-driving his right leg into the ground. He heard a pretty loud “crack” when he landed and now couldn’t bear any weight on that leg. The pain seemed to be located directly below the knee and it started to swell pretty quickly so the fear was that something was broken.

Seeing as my advice to rub dirt on it and suck it up didn’t seem to work, we decided to sit down for a bit, eat lunch and see how things developed. Turns out eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich has absolutely no effect on a swollen knee.

At this point, the discussion turned serious. Do we split up and send someone back up to the road to where we saw a construction crew earlier? Do we send someone down the trail to where we saw a ranger station on the map?  Do we push the 911 button on the SPOT GPS and let someone come rescue us???  Thankfully, we were pretty well prepared with first aid supplies and after giving Chris a couple of motrin, we wrapped his leg in some of the ace bandages we had brought along and came up with a plan.

To be honest, we were reluctant to split up.  If something else happened or someone got lost, it would only compound our issues.  So we decided to try to head down the trail towards the ranger station with Chris on his seat “riding” downhill using his one good leg as an outrigger and keeping the other on the pedal.  The problem was, every bump sent pain through his leg and with the trail steeper and rockier at every turn it quickly became obvious that this was not going to work.

As we pulled off and began to re-assess our situation, we heard motorcycles coming up the trail and were excited to see two people come around the corner and stop. After explaining our situation, we found that they were a husband and wife. Dan said his wife was a nurse and she could look at it. She responded that she was a labor and delivery nurse so unless he was having contractions he was out of luck.

After discussing things for a bit, he told us that our plan of continuing down the trail would have been a bad idea as the ranger station may or may not be staffed and before we got there we would have had a pretty significant climb out of the canyon we were headed into.

It was decided that the husband would ride Chris back up to the road where we could get cell service and we’d call San Juan Huts to see if they could come get us and bring us back to civilization. So, they started off with Chris hanging on and trying to keep his leg from banging around too much. Jerry and I started up the trail after them with me pushing both my and Chris’ bike up the trail. I knew the trail was steep as we came down, but had no idea how steep until I had to push two bikes back up….

Eventually, Dan came back and got Chris’ bike, stuck across the front of him on the motorcycle and headed back up the trail. Jerry and I rode on up the trail. We were cruising along until we came around a corner and found Dan with Chris’ bike on the side of the trail. Turns out things had been going along just fine until he tried to ride between two trees that were narrower than the bike….he and Chris’ bike came to a stop but his motorcycle kept going. Trees -1, bicycle – 0

After stomping on the rear wheel enough to get it almost round and mostly able to roll, I left my bike on the side of the path and rode/pushed Chris’ bike back to the trailhead, Dan gave me a ride back to my bike and then Jerry and I made the last push back to where we found Chris sitting in the shade. He was feeling pretty good as evidently Dan and his wife had a little flask of rum so he made a Gatorade Mai-Tai.

They had called San Juan Huts who were on their way to pick us up. Tim showed up in his truck with Rowdy his Australian Shepherd,(and a flask of tequila) loaded us up and brought us back to Ridgeway CO. Once in town they allowed us to store our bikes and gear at their shop and then took us over to the hotel in town to get settled.
The hotel in town ended up being a really nice spa/hotel and seeing our plight, they took pity on us and gave us a really good rate on a couple of rooms. After our first shower in three days we set off for food and beer. The hotel had a really nice outdoor roof bar with live music where we relaxed, propped up Chris’ leg and enjoyed the beautiful evening.
Tomorrow, we’d have Jim from RoadRunner shuttles pick us up, bring us back to Moab and get on the road towards home….

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 4…Onward to Hut #2…

Technically, although I continue to refer to this as Day 4, it was really only Day 2 of the official hut trip. All of our route guides, maps and itineraries, kept telling me this but my mind doesn’t work that way so you’re going to hear it the way I process it. This is Day 4 of our adventure, despite what the route packet says and despite the fact that we were only starting on our second day of the hut trip. Actually, all you need to know is it was Tuesday. Which to be honest, I wasn’t even sure of, since when I’m on vacation I don’t really care.

So there...Now that I’ve gotten you totally confused, let me begin….

The storms and clouds that accompanied us most of the previous day had blown through and we woke to partly cloudy skies with an abundance of sunshine.  Breakfast was pancakes and bacon and copious amounts of coffee.
Note - In case you hadn’t noticed from my previous posts, coffee is a critical part of my being able to function and unsure of what we would find in the huts, we had purchased a pound of Wake and Bake’s finest blend for this trip.

Chris, in addition to being our navigator, turned out to be a really good cook.  He could look at the pantry full of miscellaneous items and turn it into a delicious meal.  (Jerry and I on the other hand, proved to have an amazing talent for eating and lounging during the meal period – hey, don’t laugh. Being able to relax while other people do the work takes real talent.)

After eating, drinking and paying our last respects to the composting outhouse, we got on the trail.   Where the end of yesterday’s adventures resulted in a brutal hike-a-bike up to the hut, today started with a nice steep, flowing downhill run back to the route.  Plus with yesterday’s rains, the trails were perfect with no dust and amazing traction.

We continued to lose elevation for most of the morning before leveling out for some long grinding runs on farm roads in the middle of absolutely nowhere.  The views were incredible and went on for miles.  In a couple of spots we came across mud, nothing too bad, but enough that it clung to the tires and slowed us down.  Luckily, most of the middle portion of the day was flat and the weather wasn’t too warm.

We passed several developments as we rode along offering ranch homesites from 40 – 400 acres.  It seems amazing to me that people live out here, so far from anything….I guess you really have to plan the runs to the grocery store to make sure you don’t forget anything.

Where the roads up in the mountains would wander and meander, following the flow of the land as it wound its way down, now the road made sharp, perfect 90 degree turns as we cut our way across the valley floor. Evidently it’s easier for the engineers to draw straight lines with right angles than to put curves into the roads.  Gone too were the Aspens and the Pines, replaced instead by miles and miles of green, rolling hills dotted with scrub oak and sage.

After stopping for lunch we continued on, eventually beginning to climb back up towards the trees.  Nothing brutal or dramatic, just a gentle upward trend back up into the hills and the shade of the trees.

It was pretty warm by now and the relief provided by the shade was immediate and we gratefully accepted its cooling properties.  At some point we missed the supposed water source along the trail, but that was fine. We all had camelbaks and a water bottle on our bikes so dehydration was never a concern but it would have been nice to wash the salt of the helmet straps and the dust off our faces.

After turning off yet another farm road onto a double track, the incline increased slightly. This was to be the last push up to Hut #2 and we were definitely looking forward to getting off the bikes. The day had been longer than the first and although it was only 27 miles and almost all downhill, I was ready to be off the bike.

This hut, like the last one, was clean, nice and very well stocked. After opening a beer, we broke out the maps and began planning the next day’s route. After 2 days of farm roads and double track we decided to try to find an alternate, read more exciting, route to the 3rd hut.

According to the maps there was a single track hiking, biking trail that ran pretty much parallel to the day’s route so we mapped it out and decided it was a plan….

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 3 – The trek to Hut 1….

Day 3 dawned mostly sunny and after loading up the bikes for the first long day on the trail we turned in the key to the condo and headed out for what had become our morning ritual…the search for breakfast and coffee.

We rode down through town eventually finding a nice little diner where we enjoyed the last tastes of civilization for the next 7 days. After filling ourselves with food and coffee, and a little water just to prevent dehydration, we set out in search of the San Miguel Valley bank. This bank, which was robbed by Butch Cassidy in Telluride before he fled towards Utah following much of the route we were to take, was to be our official starting point. Unable to figure out which one was the exact building, we just chose what appeared to be the main bank in town and used that as our starting point.

The evening before, as we headed up the mountain in the tram, it dawned on me that the entire town of Telluride is surrounded by mountains. This makes for a very scenic town but also means that the first part of any ride starting in town was destined to go up….

The weather had cooled a bit since we first rolled out and the dark clouds off to the west had us a little concerned, but with no other option and hoping for the best, we headed out of town. The San Juan Hut company provides you with a really well planned packet that includes not only a map, but turn by turn directions with distances between waypoints outlined nicely.

As we left the bike path, crossed the highway and headed up the first climb of the day, the grey skies began to leak on us. The further up the road we went, the more the leaking turned to actual rain and soon enough we were pulling over to don our jackets and ponchos.

The climb, although on a paved road, was moderately steep and since we had started at 8700ft and were going up my lungs began to complain almost immediately. Click, click, click went the gears as I continued to downshift hoping to find a comfortable pace before I ran out of gears. At one point early in the planning stages I had considered bringing the Jabber with her rigid fork and only one gear but was talked out of it by people with more sense than I have and right now, I was glad I listened to them.

Soon enough the paved road continued straight and our path turned onto the dirt. As we rode on into the damp mountains past ranches and homes the scenery although grey in the drizzle and rain, was amazing in its vastness and beauty. Every turn in the road or opening in the trees displayed yet another amazing vista.

As we pedaled on though the mountains and aspen groves we occasionally caught glimpses of blue sky and sunlight in the distance. Teasing us ever onward, we pedaled through the rain with the soundtrack of thunder playing in our ears and God’s light show flashing in the distance.

Eventually, the rain stops and the skies clear as we climb. Ever onward, ever upward each vista more beautiful than the last…

At one point in the trail, we came across three women and a couple of dogs walking towards us. Turns out the rain was heavier up above and the road so muddy they had decided to abandon their vehicle and walk out planning to come back later and retrieve it after things dried a bit. They were amazed we were riding up and warned us we’d be walking at some point not much further up the trail.

With their warning echoing in our ears, we continued on. Surprisingly, the road was in pretty good condition and while we did have to skirt a couple of large puddles, didn’t see anything that would cause someone to abandon their car.

Soon enough we hit the part in the route guide they referred to as the switchbacks…and the trail got steeper still….by now we had to be at or above 10,000 ft and as much as I wanted to keep pedaling, there was just no way. It wasn’t due to the steepness of the road so much as I couldn’t go more than 20 yards before I was out of breath listening to my heart pounding in my ears. So we walked and we pushed our fully loaded bikes up roads that we should have been riding….if only we could breathe…

It was on one of these sections that we came across a land cruiser parked on the side of the steep road, rocks wedged in front of its wheels, long deep slide marks carved into the now dried mud showing just why the women felt better walking than driving…

As we came to the bottom of the last switchback, the incline eased to the point that we could ride and breathe at the same time and after a short break in the shade to drink from our bottles, we remounted our bikes and began to pedal. Shortly after, we came to a junction in trails and saw three guys having a picnic. After chatting with them briefly and consulting our route guide we found the right trail that should take us to the hut.

And it was steep. So steep in fact that it was tough to navigate, even walking. We soon developed a rhythm push the bike, grab the brake, step up, push the bike, grab the brake, step up….this continued for maybe a couple hundred yards although it felt like much longer, until we rounded a corner and finally saw the end of the first day’s ride, the first hut.

We really had no idea what to expect with the huts, but to say we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. The huts were pretty basic, but very nice. It was neat, clean, and very well stocked. We celebrated the first day with grilled spam and cheese sandwiches and beer. In addition to tons of canned goods, it was stocked with cheese, bacon, bread, fruit and more.

After lunch, the thunderstorms started to roll back into the valley and as we retreated inside to either nap or read, the skies opened up. Thunder, lighting, rain and even a decent period of hail serenaded us as we lay on our bunks, warm, dry and tired from our first day.

Later, after the storm passed I was able to experience first hand San Juan Hut’s revolutionary new compost toilets. Now, I don’t normally talk about bodily functions or even water closets for that matter, but these things really were a sight to behold….speaking of sites to behold, this is the view from our front porch after the storm blew through.

After my tour of the “facilities” so to speak, we got the wood burning stove going to warm things up, fired up the gas range and made dinner. We had burritos made with canned chicken, diced tomatoes, fresh red onions and cheddar cheese. (Yep, we’re roughing it for sure) and beer.

Later as Jerry and I relaxed Chris, who had become the official navigation officer on this pleasure cruise, worked over the maps so we knew where to go the next day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 2 – Arches and Shuttles…..

Day 2 started pretty much the same way as day 1, Sunshine, blue skies and the search for coffee and breakfast. Our goal was a diner we had found in the motel’s restaurant guide that claimed to be famous for their breakfast burritos. Unfortunately, being on vacation, we had forgotten it was Sunday in Utah and the place was closed.
Luckily just down the block we came across the Wake and Bake café. Based on the name alone it was a pretty safe bet they weren’t observing any blue laws….turns out they made a pretty good breakfast burrito too.

After filling our bellies and satisfying our caffeine addictions we decided on a drive to Arches National Park. The shuttle to Telluride wasn’t supposed to pick us up until 1:00 so we had several hours to explore the beauty around us.

Growing up in California, I’ve been lucky enough to experience some of our country’s most beautiful national parks, Yosemite, Lassen, Sequoia….but nothing I had seen prepared me for the amazing vistas we were seeing around every corner.
Granted, my preferences tend more towards the granite and pines of the Sierra’s but the stunning sandstone creations we were witnessing were a whole different kind of amazing.

Eventually though, we had to cut the tour short and head back to the hotel to meet the shuttle driver that was to take us to the next stage of our adventure.

Jim showed up in an chevy suburban set up to haul way more bikes than we had in our group, and proceeded to regale us with tales of motorcycle races, work hauling television people out into the desert and general knowledge of just about every small town we drove through for the next 3 hours.

As we pulled into downtown Telluride, it was like someone took the description of every small mountain town rolled them all together and built a town with it.
It’s long main street which is dotted with perfectly restored small Victorian homes, quaint shops and restaurants leads your eye right down the length of the town until your view is entirely dominated by one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen.

We found our rented condo, checked in, got settled and decided on a walk through town in search of a beer and some food. Wandering through town it became readily apparent that although it had all the trappings of a quaint mountain retreat, the locals were more inclined to wear Gucci and Armani than Levis and Wranglers.

After finding our beer and a really good burger in a small tavern that had the Broncos playing on the big screen above the bar, we decided to take the tram, which is free by the way, up to Mountain Village. The views as our gondola climbed up the face of the mountain were amazing and as the elevation increased, so did the real estate prices. Mountain Village is resort at the top of a mountain made entirely of cash…..

After wandering around the village, which was pretty much deserted we headed back down to enjoy our last night’s sleep in real beds….tomorrow, the adventure really begins…

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Best Day....

I had plans for today. If you know me, you understand that I always have plans. I actually make plans to plan stuff. It’s just what I do. It helps me stay organized, not forget stuff and make sure everything I need to do gets done.…and when I make plans and things change, I don’t really handle it well….plans aren’t supposed to change…that’s why they’re called plans. If I didn’t mind change, I’d just wake up and see how the day went…but then stuff wouldn’t get done and the whole day would just be left to the whims of whatever….

Today my plan was to get up early, enjoy my coffee, eat a good breakfast and meet my buddy Tracy and some others for a mountain bike ride. Afterwards, I needed to get the lawns mowed, some chores done, work on the garage and exchange the bike I bought Caleb for his birthday for a larger size.

The day started out well and went according to plan for at least the first 10 minutes….I woke up early, made coffee and then the world started to deviate from the plans I had so carefully made. My daughter wanted to talk. I could tell, because….well, she was talking to me….

As a parent, I feel blessed to have a relationship with both my girls where they actually want to talk to me and I actually try my best to encourage it. How you ask? Well, I encourage it by actually listening and responding when they talk….I know…pretty scientific huh?

Anyway, as I sat there and enjoyed my coffee, I kept one eye on the clock. It was still possible that I could fulfill my role as a not terribly horrible parent and get back on plan by meeting my buddies. Soon enough though, I realized, it wasn’t going to happen. My daughter is going through some real challenges in her life right now and even though she’s way smarter and much stronger than I am as a person, I guess she just needed someone to sit and share with her for a while.

So, knowing that her needs were way more important than any plans I had, I sent Tracy a text bailing on the ride and settled in to see how my day would develop. Deb got up as we were talking and sat with us as we had coffee and tried to work through some issues. Soon enough, Caleb woke up and the energy and the tone of the household picked up to a pace that only a 4 year old can generate.

After breakfast and a shower, Caleb and I decided we were going to get haircuts. Obviously for one of us its something that will be done with increasing frequency while for the other, less and less of these will be needed as time goes on.
Haircuts done, we decided it was time for a coffee. Actually, only grandpa was having coffee, Caleb opted for a hot cocoa and we decided to share a bagel. As we sat and ate our bagel and drank our beverages, we discussed how we were going to proceed with the day…ok, yes, I had him making plans.

We had decided to go home, pick up his bike and head to the bike shop to exchange it for a larger size. Of course, as the world was obviously mocking me for making plans, the bike shop didn’t have his size so we headed to another bike shop and yet another before finally getting one in his size and within my budget.

Having finished the task we set out for, we headed home with a brand new green and white Diamond Back bicycle in the car. By now, it was almost noon and since most 4 year olds and even some grandpa’s need naps so they don’t get cranky, Caleb and I lay down on the couch to “watch the Tour of Spain” Yep, that’s code for taking a nap.

After a nap, it was time to try out the new bike. So, helmet on, we made a couple of test runs around the back yard and Caleb took off for a lap of the neighborhood with grandpa jogging behind him. He’s really good on the bike and had I known I would have to run the whole 1 mile lap in order to keep up, I would probably have worn my running shoes instead of flip flops.

Afterwards, we played baseball on the front lawn then made a grocery store run to pick up stuff to bbq for dinner. We had decided to make steaks, salad and strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream.
As we plugged in the hand mixer and began our dessert, Caleb looked up at me and said…..”Grandpa, this was the best day!” and you know what? He was right.

Despite the fact that none of what I had planned had actually gotten done and despite the fact that the lawns weren’t mowed, the garage wasn’t cleaned and I hadn’t gone for the mountain bike ride with my buddies, today HAD been a great day. And, at some point during the day, I think when we were enjoying our morning coffee and cocoas, I forgot about my plans and forgot about my chores and just started enjoying the time spent with one of the coolest kids I’ve ever known.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 1 – Moab Utah

Moab is one of those small towns that looks like it would be so much fun to live in. In a downtown that is one long street, there are 5 bike shops, a bunch of adventure tour outfitters, tons of cool little shops and of course, the Moab Brewery.

The funny thing about visiting towns like this when you’re on vacation is that while you’re on vacation, it really is an awesome little town. It’s only when you think of how hard it would be to actually earn a living there that you really begin to realize the sacrifice people must make to follow their dreams.

Other than tourism and its associated industries; retail, restaurants and hospitality, there really is no industry there. Every one we talked to from Jim the owner of RoadRunner shuttles, to our server for dinner seemed to be working at least two and sometimes three and four jobs.

Oh well, the fact of the matter was we WERE on vacation and for us, riding our bikes down main street Saturday morning in search of a place for breakfast followed by having someone at a local bike shop point us in the direction of Slickrock were our only goals that morning.

We decided on the Jailhouse Café for breakfast which I assume was once a jailhouse, but to be honest I was more focused on finding coffee and food than I was on the historical significance of where we ate. Turns out it was a great breakfast and although a little more costly than your local Denny’s, definitely delivered an amazing cup of coffee.

Once our appetites were sated and the caffeine-o-meter showed full, we moved on to our next task….find someone to point us towards Slickrock. We rolled down the street and decided to pull into Chili Pepper Bike Shop. The fact that it was right next to the brewery had absolutely nothing to do with our choice I assure you.

The young lady at Chili Pepper’s was awesome. She greeted us as we walked in the door, spent quite a bit of time with us helping us pick out a ride and offering tons of suggestions and options and showed us on the full size wall map where the best routes would be. It wasn’t until we told her that we were heading out right now, at noon with the weather over 100 degrees that she started to look at us like we might be retarded.

With her words of “make sure you have at least 100 ounces of water with you” in our ears, we headed out in search of what is arguably the most famous mountain bike area in the world. The first part of the ride is through town and then up a road past the city dump and into the park. Even though the road is paved, the heat and the uphill already had me wondering what I had gotten myself into.

This sign only reinforced my misgivings. Did I really want to ride in a place called Hell's Revenge?

Soon enough though, we rounded the corner and the entirety of the Slickrock park spread before us. It was like looking at a masterpiece painted by God himself. For as far as you could see it was red rocks, plateaus, and blue sky.

As we pedaled through the amazing scenery the sheer size and magnitude of the area was humbling. The thought of a bunch of pioneers crossing this in a wooden wagon pulled by oxen with metal clad wheels and not on a multi-geared, suspended, rubber tire clad bicycle was impressive indeed.
The fact that it’s called Slickrock at all is a misnomer. Never have I ridden anywhere that traction was so perfect and grip so inspiring. When the trail turned steep, I just had to stand and pedal never fearing the slippage of the rear tire.

Eventually though, we wound back around to the beginning and seeing as I had indeed gone through almost my full 100 ounces of water we decided to head back to town, get Jerry a new rear tire and pay a visit to the Moab Brewery. (if you’re ever there, the derailleur ale is a must)

Once the pitcher was empty, we picked up Jer’s bike with the fancy new rear tire and decided to explore the town by bike. We followed the river trail as far as we could then cut back through town and headed out in search of the Colorado River.

Turns out it was pretty easy to find a 50 yard wide river in a desert valley and once we did, I convinced Jer and Chris that since we were there we pretty much had to go for a swim. We found a boat launch took off our shoes and shirts and I immediately dove in headfirst….only to realize I wasn’t wearing my contacts but my brand new prescription sunglasses….well, at least I was wearing them when I dove in….

After the swim, we headed back to the motel, spent some quality time with the jaccuzzi and a couple more micro-brews and discussed our dinner options. We settled on a place in the middle of town called Eddie McStiff’s which claimed to have the largest selection of beers in Moab….oh yeah, they had food too…. afterall, it had been hot out today and we needed to replenish our fluids….and tomorrow promised to be another warm one.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Crazy Idea Becomes A Reality…

Last year at some point I mentioned to a couple of friends that I had been thinking of doing this hut to hut mountain bike ride from Telluride CO to Moab UT. Of course I’m sure I started this discussion while on a ride so immediately everyone thought it was a great idea and wanted in. As the time went on and we started finalizing plans, it came down to just myself, Jerry and Chris that were able to actually pull it off.

I had been planning this trip for almost a year and here we were in my driveway at 6:00 Friday morning actually loading up Jerry’s van and getting on the road.
The drive, as most do, started out great. Everyone was fired up and excited and we chatted all the way to Auburn where we stopped for breakfast. From Auburn to Reno the trip is still fairly pretty as you wind along Hwy 80 through the sierras with their trees, views of Donner Lake and then the Truckee River.

Eventually though, you leave California and enter Nevada and immediately the scenery changes. If you’ve never driven from California east, which I hadn’t, you really get an idea of just how vast this country is. (now I know why they invented airplanes)

For hours we drove and for hours the scenery never really changed. For the next roughly 400+ miles we experienced all Nevada has to offer. To say that it’s a flat, barren, desert state doesn’t even begin to describe the desolation of the area. I know there are some people that love the desert. And, having been to Arizona with their red bluffs and cactus, I can almost understand that. But to drive for almost 6 hours and never see a plant taller than about a foot, is just depressing...and then you get to Utah which for the first couple of hours is exactly the same!!

Soon enough we rolled into Salt Lake City. I had been to Salt Lake once long before and didn’t have fond memories. I was in sales at the time and had flown in early one morning for meetings. After spending the day lost, having several unsuccessful meetings and finally checking in to a cheap motel, I went to dinner at a restaurant only to find that they wouldn’t serve me beer unless I joined their “private club” which cost 10 dollars. Fine whatever...just give me the damn beer....

This time though, I wasn’t working. I was on vacation and I was just passing through. We decided to skip Salt Lake and find dinner a little further south in an effort to get through all the traffic. So, pulling off in Sandy UT we stopped at Iggy’s sports bar and enjoyed a nice dinner and a beer. Evidently UT is loosening up since we weren’t asked to join their “private club”.

Night had fallen by now and we had been in the van for almost 14 hours. After dinner, we loaded up and made the last push towards Moab. We drove through the dark and as we started to gain elevation I’m sure we passed through some nice scenery but by now we were all tired and quiet and just wanted to get where we were going.
About 4 hours later we rolled into downtown Moab, UT and saw the sign I had been waiting so long to see...”yep, they left a light on”