The huge, giant, enormous upside to being a professor is the holiday schedule. The downside is that we don’t get paid for these days, but really, at this point in my life, I’m willing to take that. And for the next 2+ years, my spouse will be on the same fun-times schedule as me, while he grinds out that engineering degree. So we might be money-poor, but we’re rich in the best ways.
We figured we should kick off our new-found freedom by spending our first official Spring Break in 11 years in Moab, escaping the rain of the long Oregon winter, and riding trails in a place we’d never been. We’d heard the stories. We’d seen the pictures. We checked the weather reports. We knew it was were we needed to get our butts to the instant I got done giving finals.
In fact, we were so eager to get out of town, I spent the entire 2 days of driving grading papers in the car (sorry Bill). I absolutely could not wait the 24 hours it might have taken me to do this at my desk. We had had record rainfall for 4 months straight, and we had been out riding in the mud and the muck through all of it, and we were both loosing our damn minds. 18 hours on the road later, we were in mountain bike paradise.
Dead Horse SP
Neither of us had really done any riding on slick rock to speak of, so with the help of some advice from my local friend, Julie Cornelius (who unfortunately for me was in Nepal during our visit working on an amazing film project), we outlined an itinerary that would allow us some time to get comfortable and then progress to more technical trails over the course of our 5 days in town.
We kicked things off with a gorgeous ride around Dead Horse State Park, 14.4 miles of mostly level, not at all technical trails, that just happen to sit at around 6000ft in the sky. Perfect for breaking in the legs after 2 days of sitting, and breaking in the sea level lungs with a good jolt of altitude. The views are unreal from here, as the trail snakes along the edge of Canyonlands NP and looks down on the Colorado River.
Navajo Rocks + Arches
The next day, we were up for more of a challenge, so we hit up Navajo Rocks/Chaco Canyon. Unsure of which direction to ride this loop, we asked a guide we spotted at the trailhead, who suggested taking a figure 8. This turned out brilliantly, as we descended a long sandy section while watching dozens of riders carrying their bikes up the same trail. The terrain here changed about every 4 miles, keeping us on our toes while wowing us with canyons, steep red rock cliffsides, and 45 degree sandstorm off-camber sections where we quickly learned to simply trust our tires and roll. 11/10, would ride again. We topped the day off with a driving tour of Arches NP and a couple short hikes.
Klondike Bluffs + Arches
Day 3 saw us feeling confident on the bike. My best friend from undergrad, Celia, was also in town that day, so we arranged a plan to meet at Klondike Bluffs for a 14 mile spin after a morning hike to Delicate Arch. While Klondike was amazing (especially the UFO section), we were surprised by a storm that kicked up suddenly in the late afternoon, whipping up crazy winds and violent lightening that was far too close for our comfort. We had to get the hell out and back to safety after 12 miles just to make sure this ride didn’t end poorly.
In the morning, Celia and Eric left for a 5 day guided bike trip through The Maze, and we caught a shuttle for Mag 7, the mother of all trails, 36 miles of pain, elation, more pain, frightening cliff sides, scream-inducing jeep road waterfall climbs, and utter exhaustion. I can’t say that I exactly “enjoyed” Mag 7 entirely, but it was an amazing experience. When we go back next year, we’ll do it differently, cut out the jeep roads, and maybe have some type 1 fun, instead of all type 2. Every emotion was felt on this ride. EPIC is the only way to describe it.
After our thorough ass-kicking at the hands of Mag 7, we weren’t sure how we’d feel about getting up and riding a 5th day straight, but we didn’t want to miss out on Porcupine Rim, so we still dragged ourselves out of bed and got on the shuttle bus one last time. This ride was the pinnacle of all mountain biking, ever. I have literally never enjoyed a ride as much as I did that 2 hours. Both of us were feeling strong, technically better than ever, able to ride both up and down bigger rocks and boulders than we’d ever hit in the past. I was riding past men left and right, pushing my own limits. We were only able to get as high as UPS thanks to a recent snow storm up higher, which just gives us something to look forward to next time. The cliff edge views were mind blowing, the block drops were pristine, the weather was phenomenal, and we never wanted it to end. Best trail ever, period, end of story. We kind of forgot to take photos cause it was too good.
Stuff that worked
Because we didn’t think we’d had enough in Moab, we actually stopped over in Echo, Oregon for a cross country race on the way home, which pushed our total mileage for the week to over 100 miles of pure single track. Some things I loved:
My new Qloom inner shorts, which I paired with anything I was riding in. 7 days on the bike, all off road, could easily have resulted in some wicked saddle sores. But thanks to the fact that I now own about 6 pairs of these inner shorts, and paired them up with some quality chamois cream (I like Betwixt from Zealios, a local Oregon company), I came home unharmed. Also Bill and I basically matched every day, which is adorable, right?
My Specialized Camber <3. This bike has just 120mm travel, but handled all sorts of crazy rock gardens and drops. I did manage to shred a full set of brake pads and the tires were definitely replaced when we got home, but the bike itself was bomb proof. I was pushing my limits, hard, and never had a fall. The stability and handling on this thing rule.
Our new Dr.Tray bike rack. We replaced our HoldUp tray rack right before leaving (see my previous post), and we were thrilled with how this worked out. It’s just so much easier to use, and so much more secure with the extra bike lock options. After losing a bike off my rack 2 years ago, I’ve been super paranoid about theft. It’s awfully nice to have a rack that allows me to relax a bit.
Length of the drive: 18 hours, 2 days each way
Miles ridden: 100 single track
Miles hiked: 10 (leave time for Arches NP, it’s great)
Best food: Love Muffin Cafe (had breakfast here multiple times)
Worst thing: SO HARD to get dinner! The town was overrun with tourists (us among them). Actually got turned down for pizza one night. We had planned to credit card this trip, but ended up cooking at the camp site more than expected.
Places we stayed: Slickrock Campground - easy to get a site, not expensive, has showers and a pool, but spots are tiny and dusty. Up The Creek - bit more $$, had showers and more grass, centrally located, walk-in only, nice and quiet, plenty of shade.
Shuttle Company: Porcupine Shuttles
Next time: We’ll go with a group, stay at one of the BLM sites up the river, and avoid the town. Ride Ahab, check out Canyonlands, see the parks at night (Arches has night time closures all summer in 2017).
The past couple weeks have been something of a whirlwind, between the end of the term grading crush, visits from my in-laws, and a side project of organizing a bikepacking forum through my team with Oakshire Brewing. I suppose I should know by now not to take on so much at once, but I'm not sure I'm going to learn at this point in my life. Maybe I should just repeat that line about "thriving on the pressure," although I don't buy it.
I figured that as long as I was putting a bunch of time into this bike forum, I may as well create some cute little illo's and create something I'd like to save out of it. I also pulled together a basic packing list for off-road/remote travel, gravel grinding, or credit-card style travel, with ideas for bike repair kits and first aid supplies.
The research I had to do to get this event together brought me to a bunch of great website on bike overnighting, and definitely put some good ideas into my head for trips I'm going to plan this summer. I'll describe some of those in more detail in a later post, but for now, download my packing lists to get yourself started: