Paul Andrews

Ride Classics: What Happens in Moab

In Mountain Biking, Multi-Day Trips on December 21, 2009 at 8:21 am

[Note: When the holidays slow news down, we reach into Santa’s bag of tricks for a hearkening back to our favorite rides. This week we’re featuring a 2004 expedition to Moab, Utah, America’s mountain biking mecca and an international magnet for mountain bikers everywhere.]

What Happens in Moab: Getting Oriented

When Jim Lyon first broached the subject last fall of going to Moab in the spring of 2004, I was less than eager. The last couple of times I’d been to Moab had fallen short of expectations. You get locked into a way of doing things and I felt I’d been just going through the motions. After half a dozen visits to Moab over the past decade I thought I’d been there and done that. This psychological block may be what Bob Bournique is getting at with his challenge for us all to do new trails this season.

But one thing about riding with the Lyon King – you learn to expect the unexpected. This time around, eight days from April 10 through 18, 2004, just about nothing happened according to plan. Which was good. Well, in most cases it was good.

Jim posted the ride early on the BBTC [Note: Now Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance] calendar but we didn’t get too many takers. I had talked with Gonzz and Art and others in January about the ride’s timing, explaining that Jim was locked into the April dates because of his teaching schedule and spring break. They were adamant that April was too early. It might be wet, it might be cold. Those are relative terms in Moab compared to Seattle, but in any case Jim and I both checked with the locals and found that weather is entirely unpredictable from April through May. Last spring the BBTC gathering ran the gamut from cold and windy to sunny and warm, and that went into the first week of May.

Jim had never been to Moab and this was the only time he could go. I told him I was in. We’d have to take our chances – with the weather, and with club signups.

When Gonzz posted his ride timed a couple weeks after ours, suggesting that our trip was far likelier to encounter inclement cold and wet, I figured we were really sunk. What Seattle MTBer wants to go all the way to Moab just to get rained on? Hey, we can do that at home…for free!

As it turned out, Jason Klecker, Chance Richie and Jean-Pierre Chamberland hopped aboard as well. We could’ve used a couple more, but we didn’t suffer from lack of numbers. Meanwhile, Gonzz’s ride piled up the signees.

We flew in to Salt Lake City early on Saturday the 10th and, while waiting for Jason to arrive on a separate later flight, killed a couple of hours in town. Mormonville was the longest two hours we spent on the entire trip. Enough said.

We picked Jason up in our rental van and headed off. It’s a four-hour trip on the map; we made it in under three and a half. By the time we’d picked up our bikes at Poison Spider Bicycles, which will hold UPS’d bikes and even assemble them at your behest for a small fee, we still had plenty of time for a ride up to Slickrock from town.

I’m not a huge fan of the Slickrock Trail. You have to do it if you’re in Moab, of course. But it’s a lot of ups and downs, stops and starts, with hardly any speed till the latter sections. It’s like riding in a glorified skateboard park. And it was a bit brisk up there, with stiff winds cutting the chilly temps even further. I liked being able to loosen up after the plane and drive but was looking forward to some real riding.

What really made that first day in my view was the final spasm of Jeep Safari. The annual festival draws jeepers from all over the place to Moab, and it’s a real hoot. They tool around half-crazed and full-on drunk. One kid who couldn’t have met his teenage years yet was carrying a case of beer on one of those little ATV 4-wheelers. Cops were everywhere and the route from downtown up to Slickrock was in total gridlock. Traffic jams in Moab. Ya gotta see ‘em to believe ‘em.

The townspeople don’t particularly like jeepers, and the irresponsible ones are tough on the terrain and tougher on the social graces. But I’ve never had a problem with jeepers. They seem to respect mountain bikers, and most of them are good ol’ boys soon to join the endangered species list as gas prices climb into the stratosphere. Still, I was glad they would be clearing out the next day. Moab was just too congested for comfort.

We got back to the condo we’d rented – room No. 1 at the Westwood Guest House — and began setting up. The caretaker had told me the room would sleep 8. But they’d have to be pretty intimate — there were only 5 beds. In any case the three of us (Chance arriving two days later and JP staying with his family) were plenty comfortable. We went shopping and discovered that Jason was the carnivore of our group. After a long philippic from me on the multiple hazards of red meat, Jim dubbed Jason “Mad Cow Klecker.” Jason remained unfazed, devouring a variety of choice cuts at dinner, lunch and even breakfast during our Moab sojourn.

Day 1 ended cool and gray but rainless at least. I was beginning to wonder if Gonzz, the self-anointed club meteorologist, the Jeff Renner of MTB, had known what he was talking about. Oh well. We were prepared for anything Moab would throw at us. At least, that’s what we thought.

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