MOAB, Mountain Bikes...etc.
'Utah...Road Trip...Part I'
The Durango Files
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My 14 day Wild West Moabian-Utahan Adventure began early, Saturday, March 30. Nephew Joey was supposed to go along, but at the last minute he panicked in a fit of anticipatory homesick jitters. I was not too bothered at this cuz I had fears it would be a pain having him along for 2 weeks, fears which were borne out by the actual trip. I'm glad he didn't go. My Safari Van was stuffed with bikes and accoutrements. I had decided to go the longer route via I-90 and then south on I-15, rather than the more direct interstate diagonal via I-84, I mainly decided on this route, though longer, to avoid caravanning once more with the bizarrely erratic Jack and Lulu, due to our last trip's multiple unplanned detours caused by Jack's sugar-level drop confusions. The first stop of the trip was the mandatory Marysville McDonald's All You Can Eat with sister Jackie and nephews CJ and JR and others. Once that was out of the way a few hundred miles of fairly familiar interstate were passed over. And then Montana. Hadn't been there for a few years. Not since they'd totally tackied the state, legalizing virtually all types gambling everywhere, so any small little bohunk dump now advertises itself as a casino, with the requisite video poker and slots. Montana showed us some snow and icy roads, but the unlimited speed limit was kinda fun in the safe zones. I like being where there ain't many people and the freeway is empty. The first nite was spent in Idaho Falls, a nouveau high-tech urban escape wannabe cool sorta town. The next morning saw some more snow on a pass south of Pocatello. The miles seemed to melt away rather quickly. By late morning the entering Utah sign had been passed. Nothing much had seemed to have changed in the Salt Lake zone, except for a new roller coaster at the Lagoon, which wasn't there last year. To get to Moab you have to cross the Wasatch Mountains via a shallow pass which connects to I-70. I'd driven this 20 years ago and remembered it as a pain in the butt narrow road. No more. Totally rebuilt. All the character gone. My memory was oddly being very faulty and usually I remember such stuff quite well, I kept waiting for a dramatic redrock zone which I was sure I remembered. But it never came. I am still baffled as to what became of it. At the redrock zone there had been a park, with a waterwheel and a trail into a narrow canyon where years ago I'd lost a camera. I know this was the road. But I saw no redrock. I continue puzzled by this and have tried to figure it out, but I remain vexed. Anyway, this two-lane connects with I-70 which junctions with the road to Moab. A short 40 more miles or so and you are finally, completely in the redrock Zone. Our reservations were at the Super 8 at the north end of town. Checked in. The rooms were nice, but they'd jacked up the rate on the last 2 days to 88.88 cuz of the Jeep Safari thing that began on Thursday. I complained that this was not what I'd been sold and so they reduced the rate back to the 50 buck zone. These things matter when one is not on an expense account!

SCROLL DOWN TO SEE SLICK ROCK TRAIL / ARCHES / CANYONLANDS NP PHOTOS

Once in Moab Ed and I unloaded the bikes and proceeded to tour the town. I saw a cool t-shirt stand with these redrock shirts which I had to have. They are dyed using the pigment from redrock. Very cool. So we talked to locals, found out how to get to the Slick Rock Trail. Decided to leave that for the next day. Rode back to the Super 8 just in time for the predictably late arrival of Jack and Lulu and their entourage. They had been hung up in Logan due to a Mormon on board who's parents insisted he attend Sunday Tabernacle. Religious Zealots. Or Religious Nazis as Roseanne puts it. So, there is a Denny's next door to the Super 8 so we all went for some red meat with bun. And Fries. It was carbo-load time. Which basically meant Lulu guzzled down the majority of a carafe of orange juice, meant to be shared.

The next morning Jack scheduled the first ride. Up something called the Poison Spider Mesa. It was to begin at 7 AM. I bailed. Jack went with the Microsoft guys and this guy named Bill and Annette and Craig who were all staying at a camp south of town. When I finally got up and around, Lulu and Ed and myself went to Denny's again and had omelet's. Actually Lulu The Slick Rock Trail. had a plain bagel spread with cream cheese out of a tube and some more OJ, as if she hadn't drunk enough the nite before. After that Ed and I decided to try the Slick Rock Trail on our own. It was pretty easy to find. You go up a switchbacky paved road, up one of the canyon walls. There were lottsa jeeps doing their bizarre Jeep Safari stuff on the steep Lion's Back thing you may have seen in pix and on TV. We came to a BLM paybooth. You pay 3 bucks for a 3 day Slick Rock Pass. A couple more miles and we were at the Slick Rock parking lot and trailhead. I was giddy with anticipation. I unloaded the bikes, checked my camera. My camera was dead. Ed got on his bike. Two flat tires!! We loaded back up. Drove back to Moab. Dropped Ed's bike off at a bikeshop, found a photoshop. Got a new battery for my camera. By the time that was done, Ed had two new tubes. His bike had been done in by something the locals call goatheads. He must have run over a patch the nite before while we were riding around Moab.

Durango riding the Slick Rock Trail.So now, properly outfitted, we headed back to the Slick Rock Trail. Unloaded. Headed out. Right from the start it made me nervous. You follow white dashes painted onto the rock. Yellow means caution. All intersections are marked. After a bit of strain we came to the Practice Loop. A 2 mile supposedly easier version of the full Slick Rock Trail Experience. There were 4 femmes contemplatingA steep downhill on the Slick Rock Trail near Moab Utah. the junction and we all sort of decided to do the Practice Loop together. At first I hated it. Way too steep. Both up and down. And treacherous. I thought, my god, what is the real Slick Rock Trail like. And then something sort of clicked and I realized the power of the incredible traction. Soon I was whooping down the steep stuff and pumping up the steep stuff and loving it! The Practice Loop took about 2 hours. It was now pool time. Back to the Super 8.

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I hung out with Lulu, pooling, til about 2 when I asked if she wanted to go to town and shop. So I went and bought that redrock shirt I wanted and some other stuff. We shopped in one t-shirt shop after another with the most varied selection of t-shirts I have ever seen in a tourist town. Lulu got annoyed at me for repeatedly striking up conversations with locals. She can be so anti-social sometimes. A couple hours of Lulu-shopping and I had the first pangs of the only tiny minor headache I was to have on the entire trip. So I insisted we cease shopping at once. It was hunger time. Back to the Super 8 we gathered up Jack and others, now back from Poison Spider and headed back into town to Rio's, a local Tex-Mex place. Very good. Jack and Lulu created an incident with the waitress regarding her shoes, which was not pretty to witness. Back to the Super 8, a slight rest, then Jack and the campers from south of town, plus the Mormon and Jack's kid, Big Ed & Durango on top of a Slick Rock Trail Hill. Andrew, and Ed and I all headed back up to the Slick Rock Trail. I was ready for the Main Show! The Slick Rock Trail shares the Practice Loop for a bit, and then, virgin territory. It was much wilder. At one point you come to a yellow marked zone, with 'Danger' and 'Caution' written in stone. I was a little concerned. And then you see what you have to do. Sort of cross a very narrow little section with a steep dropoff, which then begins a descent, traversing a steep slick rock dune, with 3 turns necessary in mid descent. A photographer waits at the key scream point to catch your look of horror! But it wasn't too bad. In fact I thought it was kind of fun. On the Slick Rock Trail it is one surprise after another. You gradually gain altitude til finally you are on Big Ed lookiing at the view from high atop the Slick Rock Trail. the crest of the canyon looking into Moab. It is beautiful. But a wind had come up. Quite strong. We were almost 5 miles into the Slick Rock Trail, it was an hour from sunset. Time to head back. Both Ed and IThe sun is going down on bikers on the Slick Rock Trail. took a couple good spills, Ed's the worst. They are called Slick Rock kisses. Somehow I scraped the entire backside of my lower leg, but I don't remember how. It's sort of intense. Ed and I had split from Jack's group, inadvertently, cuz, predictably, Jack did not go where he said he was going, so he did not show up at the meeting point, we had agreed upon. By the time Ed and I made it back to the van, exhausted, exhilarated, we had conquered the worst of the Slick Rock Trail, Jack had been waiting an hour for us, due to some ethic that you don't leave til your entire group returns. Plus, Jack had gotten himself into some good Samaritan routine with a wounded biker and his butch girl friend. After we finally returned to Moab I don't remember much of the rest of that evening.

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Preparing for the Gemini Bridges Trail ride.The next day was the Gemini Bridges Ride, which I thought was to be a sedate little ride, suitable to lardasses, such as myself. I knew those delicate flowers of female gentleness, Lulu and the infamous Zelda had managed this ride. Previous to seeing them I thought the Gemini Bridges were normal human-engineered bridges across a creek or river. I was mistaken on all counts. I entered into agreeing to ride the Gemini Bridges Trail with minimal information. I knew Jack and Lulu were hosting the ride. I knew it is a popular ride. I knew the young beauty named Zelda collapsed and lost control of her bodily functions the last time Jack and Lulu hosted this ride. I did not know that hosting a ride consisted solely of providing dried gruel sticks called Power Bars, a piece of licorice and directional confusion. I did not know that the Gemini Bridges were not river crossings, but instead are treacherous eroded arches crossing hundreds of feet above perilous Bull Canyon, information one would think a person hosting a ride would think germane to the safety of those they are hosting.

For the majority of us the ride began just off the hiway to Islands in the Sky, near the turnoff to Deadhorse Point. Jack and Lulu left 8 of us at the trailhead and told us they would meet us at the Gemini Bridges turnoff. I had never been so rudely abandoned by a 'host' in my life. The eight of us began our descent down the rocky, dusty, sandy jeep road. All the riders, but Eddie and myself, had shock absorbers. The ride was jarring and became chilly when the wind chill factor caused by our careening speed lowered the temps out of the comfort zone. After awhile my brainpan began to numb from the steady bump drumming. Ahead I saw Lulu, slowly ambling her way up the grade. She claimed she wanted to experience the exciting 'Whoops' section. I detected no exciting 'Whoops' A dusty road on the way to the Gemini Bridges Trail. section. Finally we came upon Jack. He was circling an area of broken rock and various trails, desperately searching for the Gemini Bridges. A portly Jeeper held an electronic directional device searching for the same thing. Finally Jack found the way. It was one A scary ledge at the Gemini Bridges. more short, bumpy descent. I crossed what I thought was the Bridge, having now been told it was a 'natural' bridge. I sat down at the edge of what I thought was the Bridge, next to Annette, and began to drink some water and chew on one of my pieces of host provided licorice. Lulu began screaming at me, asking me if I had any idea where I was sitting. I realized I did not. So Annette and I walked over to Lulu and looked back to where we were sitting---on top of a thin thin piece of rock, a sort of ledge, cantilevered way out over Bull Canyon. My knees sort of turned to jello when I saw where I'd been sitting. Then I learned that one of our co-riders, Daniel, 18, Mormon, had almost fallen off the actual Gemini Bridge when he didn't realize there was a gap between the two arches, the gap being the reason for the name Gemini, with two parallel twin bridges. Only the scream of the ever vigilant Craig stopped Daniel from going over, and repeating the grisly death of another teenager earlier in the year. A jeep crosses one of the Gemini Bridges. At Gemini Bridges there were dozens of bikers riding over the bridges and climbing the surrounding slick rock. It was a surreal scene. And then it got more surreal. The previously mentioned, overweight Jeeper and his equally obese wife showed up in their green Jeep, slowly bouncing over the rock ledges til they were in sight of the Gemini Bridges. TheAnother view of a jeep crossing one of the Gemini Bridges. portly Jeeper got out of his jeep and slowly waddled across the bridge, surveying as he waddled. His wife stood in the distance making panicky noises. The Jeeper walked back to his Jeep and the crowd of Bikers sort of collectively held our breath as we contemplated that this guy was actually going to drive across the narrow rock bridge. He slowly inched his way to the precipice and then gingerly rolled out to the middle of the span. He got out of the Jeep and his wife continued to make panicky noises as she photo-documented what apparently is a major accomplishment in the couch potato Jeeper World.

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After the Jeeper exhibition we watched an Aussie do an exhibition of Mountain Bike acrobatics near the canyon edge. He was very good. Jack took photos and the Aussie claimed to be familiar with Mudsluts. Later when we were at the hiway to Moab the Aussie bared his buttocks to the crowd, apparently as much an Aussie thing to do as German woman baring their breasts poolside. It seemed a fat butt for someone so athletic on a bike, but I digress.

A big group of bikers takes off from the Gemini Bridges for the rest of the trail. After the Jeep and Aussie Exhibitions we continued on our way down the Gemini Trail. There were dozens of us now. I hung back with poor Lulu. She is such a good sport, going on this brutal ride, but her hubbie Jack has not put shocks on Lulu's bike and the bumps were very punishing to her. This section of the ride is fairly adventurous and fun. At one point we passed the soon to be barebutted Aussie fixing a flat tire. The trail descended into Goony Bird Canyon, named for a rock spire formation which looks like, well, a Goony Bird. In the canyon the temps rose, sweat began to appear, we were nearing the point where Zelda had lost control on a previous Jack and Lulu hosted ride. Goony Bird Canyon is very reminiscent of the canyons of Lake Powell. It is dusty, however, no water in view. Several Jeeps and various motorized devices detracted from the peace and tranquility. The canyon eventually ended and the road began a fairly steep ascent. Near the crest Arches National Park came into view, with blue sky peeking through a large arch. And then the road to Moab appeared far below and I finally knew where I was. I reached the summit and then began a long, bumpy ride down. A strong wind came up. Dust blew. It was hurricane-like. The temps dropped. I struggled against the wind and made my way down the dirt trail, for what seemed miles, finally reaching the parking lot where the co-riders where shivering. We waited for awhile. This was a better coordinated post-ride shuttle system than other Jack-planned rides, so with little wait, I was back in a comfortable vehicle, being driven to my van. I think I had hit the proverbial wall and I was being naturally medicated by endorphins, because I was oddly happy considering the hellish nitemare I had just been subjected to.

When we got back from Gemini Bridges we decided to to dinner at Rio's again. It was evening this time, unlike the afternoon feeding of the day before, so it was packed, but we got the same funny waitress with whom Jack flirted, to Lulu's chagrin. The Mormon kid who was with us got embarrassed cuz he couldn't eat his beer batter bread cuz of some Mormon prohibition against all things alcoholic. I ate it for him. Jack does this grazing and then pig out thing. This nite was pig out mode. He ordered two dinners and then ate the remains of Lulu's Sonorran Chicken thing, which was very good, but which caused Jack some Nirvana-Bliss fit which had him demanding to see the chef so he could sing his praises. It turned very amusing, with Jack embarrassing the chef-owner and then leaving a inappropriately humongous tip. He had done this sort of out of control, endorphin-caused bliss fest once before, in Mammoth, after a wonderful dinner of turkey pot pies, but this was worse. At least he didn't do his Jerry Lewis pinecone pooping routine on the streets of Moab, like he had done in Mammoth after one of these dinner incidents.
The view from Deadhorse Point. The day after Gemini Bridges was Wednesday. A non-bike day. We had reservations for the 3 hour ranger led Fiery Furnace hike in Arches at 2 PM. We bought picnic fixins at the local deli and in the morning went to Deadhorse Point, which I hadn't seen on my previous visit cuz we ran out of time. It was pretty cool. A couple thousand feet up on a narrow mesa connected to the main mesa via a narrow neck, upon which cowboys placed a narrow fence,Shaffer Trail switchbacks. trapping horses out on Deadhorse Point. Sometimes they didn't all get rounded up and they would die of thirst, looking down on the Colorado, trapped. Hence the name. After Deadhorse Point we went into Canyonlands National Park, intending to go all the way The Fiery Furnace Hike in Arches National Park.to the Grand View from Islands in the Sky. But our stop at the perilous Shaffer Trail overlook found us short of time, so we had to go to Arches in time for our picnic and our hike. But not before gazing upon the twisting turning switchbacks of the Shafer Trail long enough to want to come back and ride down it on bikes. A plan discouraged by Lulu as being dangerous. An ironic claim considering the unknown danger that lie ahead from a trail named Porcupine.

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Sliding along a wall on the Fiery Furnace Hike.The Fiery Furnace was lottsa fun. It is sort of a maze of these things called fins, think steep narrow canyons, just a few feet wide in places. The ranger leads you thru this stuff, lecturing at times. There are a lot of cool arches, and a couple very amusing tight spots. I got some great shots of Lulu trying to get thru one particularly trying passage. By the end of the hike it was 5. An eclipse of the moon was supposed to happen but thunderclouds had rolled in and the temps had dropped. We had planned on hiking up to Delicate Arch after Fiery Furnace, but now Moab sounded better. That nite we went out to Eddie McStiff's, a brew pub, and had the endless pitcher of root beer option along with Eddie's McMega Cheese Burger. It was good. After our feeding we strolled the streets for aFiery Furnace Hikers in Arches National Park. bit. It was being stormy and windy. Lottsa people. I liked it. Back at the Super 8 Jack and Lulu made a big fuss about my plan to ride down the Shaffer Trail and do the White Rim Trail the next day. They thought it was too dangerous to do without support. They were downright vehement about this. So I caved. But the ride Jack had planned was Porcupine Rim, known as the most brutal ride in the Moab zone and infamous cuz it was the ride that made the national news last summer cuz of two Iowa kids who died on it. I didn't really feel up to such a thing, but I caved to endless peer pressure and agreed to it. We agreed to be ready to go by 8 AM. I went to bed a bit nervous about the following day, but I slept anyway. Getting ready to ride the Porcupine Rim Trail. The next morning we rushed around, ate a quick muffin, caravanned south of town to round up the campers. Previous to that Lulu, Jack and Ed had moved my van up the Colorado to the end point of the Porcupine Rim Trail. Once we got all the bikers assembled we headed up to the Slick Rock Trail Road, to Sand Flats, drove past the Slick Rock Trail another 11 miles, looking for the Porcupine Rim Trail head, marked by two water cisterns. Finally we found it. We prepared. Group photos were taken, soon available for viewing via the internet. It was at this point I was first told the story of the two Iowa kids who had died on this trail last summer. It was time to start. Lulu took off in the Izuzu, heading back for a day of sane pool time back in Moab. 7 of us began the 16 mile plus Porcupine Rim ride. We were at almost 8 thousand feet elevation at the base of the La Salle Mountains. The trail would take us down a multi-thousand feet descent back to the Colorado River.

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High Anxiety Point on the Porcupine Rim Trail. But first we had to climb another 700 feet of elevation, before our descent would begin. The first two miles of the trail rose gently, there were small juniper bushes, we were slightly out of the desert zone. At about the two mile mark there was a fun descent for a bit, then a rather taxing climb. A bit ahead of me I could see that bikers were stopping. I did not know why. After a little more climbing I understood. It was the summit. High Anxiety Point. The very edge of Porcupine Rim, a 2000 foot cliff looking down on the Castle Valley, a sort of Monument Valley look-a-like. At this point there is a rock jutting out over the cliff about 10 feet. A major famous Utah photo op. So multiple photos had to be taken of these fools who would stand out on this thing with their bikes. Jack has a morbid fear of heights so he was in a major state of high anxiety. But, being a photo-journalist, much less the Mudsluts guy, he had to do his photo thing. He took down names of his posers and promised to send them photos. A couple of them knew of Mudsluts. We were all wearing our Mudsluts t-shirts and had taken to calling ourselves Team Mudslut. So, after a bit of water drinking and food eating it was time for the next phase. We were about 4 miles into the trail. 12 to go. Mostly downhill. The last 5 miles supposedly narrow single track. We began the downhill, Annette and me taking up the rear.

The trail changed character several times, at times soft and sandy, then turning rocky and wild. You had to be totally focused, never wavering in your attention, sort of like an intense video game. After much terrain change and getting in sight of the Slick Rock Trail and the cliffs of Moab we came to a canyon edge, the trail followed it, narrow, steep, scary. And then suddenly the Colorado appeared, way down in the distance. I thought, omigod, we have to get all the way down to that! And then we hit the single track, this was the dangerous part. It sort of followed a narrow ledge with steep cliffs rising way above on your left and a steep long drop off on your right. I couldn't not get over the incredible scary implausibility of the fact we were riding bikes on this. Maniac Acrophobic Jack had a couple incidents of having to take a time out to calm down.

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The Colorado River from the Porcupine Rim Trail. After a bit we left that scary zone, the Colorado finally seemed a short distance away. But no, it tricked you. We had to enter one more canyon, then cross a narrow stream and then finally a long easy descent to the road.

At the trail's end, all I wanted was to know where my van was. I was totally exhausted. Jack tried to call Lulu on the Cel phone. No service. Finally I got Jack and Ed to focus enough to point me to where the van was, I rode there, desperate to sit on a comfortable seat. Then I drove back to Moab to get Lulu and the Izuzu, but Lulu pitched a fit when she learned Jack had once more misplanned one of his rides, and that she was required to drive to the rescue once more. It was very ugly. Well, a little ugly, but as I always do, I smoothed the rough water and calmed Lulu down. So we returned to the trailhead, picked up some of the bikers, returned them to their campground, while I vented my litany of complaints about the bizarre ending to the ride which had Jack blissed out in some sort of sweaty ditziness, laying on the ground, taking photos of fellow fools riding over a jump til Craig-Cliff had a major wreck which had him draining an artery. But within an hour of reaching the trail's end I was soaking in the Jacuzzi, recovering and in a strange state of endorphin bliss. A fitting end to the Moabian Bike Rides. That nite Jack and Lulu tried to drunken me with Margaritas, but I would have none of it. Well, little of it. But Lulu is so much more pleasant with a little liquor in her, it rounds out her mean streak. Jack just seems to pass out after the first ounce of any liquor product.

The next morning it was time to leave Moab. Jack and Lulu and the others all had to return home, some for school, the Microsoft guy cuz he'd already extended his vacation twice with bogus sick calls, Jack cuz he had a photo assignment on Monday. So they all took off north. Ed and I headed south for the next week of trekking.

To be detailed in 'Moab-Utah..The Road Trip, Part II' coming soon................make that now!!!!!!

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