It also fit into my goal of doing a 100 mile mountain bike ride, something that would nearly double my longest ride to date. So plans were made and a date was set. I put in some long rides, rode the SS a lot to improve overall power, and experimented with the right combo of supplements for sustained hard efforts. A bike was built, a ride partner was found, and the days flew by.
And then I found myself driving along the highway with 'FFW' Dave pointed toward Moab. Oh my. Are we really doing this? I had some doubts after my debacle with leg cramps on the Antelope Peak Challenge ride in Arizona. That was only 60 miles albeit a hard 60 miles. Still, I had a plan that, were it to fail, would leave me in a world of hurt in the middle of a lonely place. Once you get into the White Rim a ways, you are pretty much committed. I was concerned but the highway rushed on.
|cuz ya gotta have a hat|
|WRIAD escape vehicle|
|It's a big desert out there|
I have been to Moab many times over the years so I knew the road and the town, but we had to get some supplies, drive to the park entrance and cache some water, then find camp at the end of a long dirt road. We had decided to stage at the bottom of the Mineral Bottom switchbacks near the boat launch area and ride clockwise from there, climbing the 1000' foot gain early on in the dark, then riding into sunrise on the Mineral Road. That was based on accounts I had read from other riders and avoided a big climb at the end of a long day. I think it was a good plan although it turned out I had plenty of energy to get them done at the end of the ride, but who knew? It would have been nice to camp up on the mesa for the views.
Easter Jeep Week was spinning up in Moab so Jeepers were all over the place. Cool. I doubted we would see any of them on the White Rim though. We hit up the City Market in town, grabbed a rotisserie chicken and chocolate milk for dinner and post ride recovery, then drove to the park entrance, cached some water and prepaid our $5.00 entrance fee per bike. The ranger wished us luck and laughed just a bit as if to say, "silly, crazy mtn bikers". We found our way to the river bottom area after winding down some pretty steep switchbacks. This gave us a look at the opening 20 or so miles of road that would be the first leg of the next day.
|The Mineral switchbacks to the Green River|
|FFW, master tent builder.|
|A last quiet moment|
|Our home sweet home. Back yard landscaping by God|
We set up camp down from the boat ramp area in a quiet spot and began checking over the gear and making the packs ready to go. I was using my Osprey Talon 22 for the day and FFW had an Osprey Manta 30. We both had two 100oz bladders and three bottles. Add in food, tools, and some emergency stuff and we were packing heavy...likely 20+lb packs. Ouch. I did NOT want to be thirsty. As well, the weather was changing and not for the better. The temps had been in the mid 70s but now the ride day was to be 80+ and windy. Oh marvelous.
Dave was on his Superfly 100 and I was on the new project Go-'Fish, a Salsa Spearfish with some Gucci but solid parts spec. Both bikes were well suited to the task, but were we? We dismembered the broiled chicken, then bat watched and star gazed next to the fire. It was amazingly quiet out there. I think we forget how quiet quiet can be. City folks...bah! The alarms were set for 04:00AM and we hit the tents with no small amount of apprehension of the next day.
We were rolling by 05:30 after some last minute "oops I forgot something" and a bathroom stop. Pedaling out into the dark with our bike lights illuminating about 100 feet at a time, the Mineral Bottom switchbacks met us soon enough. It is amazing how much the heavy packs weigh you down on a hill. What felt OK just pedaling along a flat road was an anchor drag on that grade. Still, we put those tight turns and the abrupt 1000' gain behind us and pedaled into the sunrise on the Mineral Road. I think that was my favorite part of the ride. Looking over at FFW as he rode beside me, the dawn gave light and shadow to the pastel hues of faded color, growing brighter and more vivid in the cool morning air. It seemed quite surreal, all this. And I was having a fine time. We we actually doing this.
We hit the highway to the park entrance, aware of the cows that looked ready to dash in front of the silly bike riders just to give us a scare. Cow games! Cows are such kidders. Do they make party hats for cows? But they were still waking up too so we were free of such merriment. We tanked back up on water at the rangers booth and met another WRIAD-er from Colorado doing it solo. Luck was wished all around and we rode over to the famed Shafer Switchbacks. Oh my. This is for real folks. Once we drop down there, we are in up to our eyeballs in the White Rim.
|Really? Down there?|
|Yes, down there. And beyond.|
|FFW can fix anything|
We bottomed out and I have to say that it was here that I felt like I was in the game for real. We were at a place where turning back would be a hard punt and we were 30 miles or so along. Time to go. The dirt and the miles sped by. And it was grand.
We stopped only to mix some bottles of drink mix or take a very quick pic or two. We intended to keep a 10mph average pace so there was little time for dawdling. Lunch was at about 11:00 or 50ish miles. Still to come was Murphy's Hogback at 60+ miles. That was a suggested lunch stop and it would have been great, but when the dinner bell rings, you should answer. We did not want to run a deficit energy wise. The wind was a factor though. It was a head wind or cross wind and was costing us energy and time. I bet we were off one or two gears for 30 miles or so due to the wind, but it was what it was. It did keep us cool. I was wearing a long sleeve jersey from Alpinestars over a tank base layer and wool shorts. It was a good set-up and I never had to change anything the rest of the day.
|Mmmmm...Chunky Chicken spread and a salted nut bar from the dollar store. I roll that way...cheap.|
|29ers rock WRIAD. We had chosen wisely.|
|FFW sez': "Hey grannygear...can we go already?"|
We did some ups and downs and generally climbed for quite a few miles. I kept wondering about Murphy's Hogback. Had we already ridden it? It seemed like a formidable obstacle in the reports I had read so that was unlikely. It seemed like we should have been there by now, running around the 60+ mile mark. Then we passed by a sign that said Murphy's Wash. Oh? And there it was. The Hogback. You have got to be kidding! This pic does NOT do this over 20% grade justice. Ride that? Nope. That would overdraw the leg bank and frankly, pushing the bike was just about as fast. Not long, but 'wow!' steep.
|Really? What crazy person graded that road?|
Soon enough we were in the home stretch as we dropped to river level, negotiated the sand traps of the last few miles, then hit camp. I had one more swallow of water left and then I was empty. great timing. We actually ran into that young guy from Colorado about 10 miles from the end and invited him to our camp to stock up on water. He had only 10oz left and several hours of riding left to get back up to Horse Thief campground. He was a grateful lad, that one, when we filled his Camelbak. Fare thee well, brother. He was stoked to know that he had chewed the biggest part of the challenge off and had the bit well in his teeth and the end in sight.
We were in camp and happy to be there.
|Near the end, FFW contemplates a long day, a good ride, and world peace|
We ate what our tired bodies would handle, washed as best we could, and hit the sack in earnest with no 04:00 alarms this time. The next day we broke camp and drove into Moab after grabbing our water cache. Breakfast at the Jailhouse cafe and a long drive through snow flurries had us both satisfied and on edge, but we were headed home satiated by the experience. We had drenched ourselves in and soaked up the red dirt of Canyonlands until our bodies and souls could not absorb any more and we were all the better for it. FFW, you are a fine fellow and I would ride with you anywhere.
But not for a couple of days :)
More WRIAD thoughts to come as I reflect a bit and think of what is next for me.
|The vacant stare of the zombie..or is he asleep?|
|"Yes waitress, I would like everything in column B, stat!"|
|"Well, it is a good start, anyway"|
|Headed home in 29* weather. Utah is awesome.|