Zen On Dirt

Girls Trip to Moab

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Sometimes it’s hard to measure change. Life events flow and warp together and we don’t even notice things that have drastically changed. Some people are good at spending New Years reflecting on the past year (I don’t like to stay up that late), some people use birthdays (I like to let mine slip by unnoticed), but for me, the Annual Girls trip to Fruita is the annual event that I mark all change by.

I could go into all the changes that have occurred over the years, it’s been an impressive run of making things up as I go along, but really, the trip wasn’t about reflecting on the past year, it was about riding bikes in the desert, drinking margaritas, and enjoying the sunshine.

This year, we decided to go to Moab instead of Fruita. Just for giggles. Just to change things up. The other change was the absence of Megan, who decided to firmly stay in Mommy-land with her new beautiful little baby who I’m just dying to meet. (Apparently, if you’re breastfeeding and stop breastfeeding for  a week, your milk stops and then you have to feed your baby other stuff that makes their poop smell bad. And your boobs hurt because you’re not feeding your baby. These are just some of the things I learned during our trip. Other things that we discussed aren’t really appropriate for what I try to keep a PG-13-ish blog.) Other than that, we did what we always do: Ride bikes, try not to drink to many margaritas, make delicious camp food, and enjoy the sun.

I arrived early Thursday morning. The girls were already camped out Willow Springs road and were waiting for me to arrive to go ride. I’d woken up at 3 am in Flagstaff after giving Brad Mattingly a ride from Tucson back home after he’d finished the first-ever AZTR north-to-south edition. We’d gotten stuck in Phoenix traffic, and I wasn’t too keen about driving across the Rez late at night, so I opted for the early morning drive instead, bivying in his gear room and sneaking out hours before the sun even wanted to come up. The moonrise was pretty though.

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Cute guy. I prefer the snakes that don’t rattle…though I think I have to say that I prefer no snake to any snake, any day.

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Hopping across the highway, we made our way up to the Mag 7 trails. Having never been, it was the motivation to bang out the 5.5 hour drive in the morning, having the added disadvantage of a time change as well. The sun was warm, the La Sals were snow capped, the rock was red. Ah, Moab.

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I’ve yet to have a super-great experience in Moab. My first time, I was just relearning how to ride after a I’m-too-cool-for-school hiatus from riding through high school. New boyfriend, new bike, men’s bike seat. Things did not end well. I was back a few years later, riding with a group that was fun, but well above my skill level. I was fairly to mostly terrified the entire time. Before Tour Divide, I passed through, riding a day of trails and having a sub-optimal experience bikepacking the White Rim. Last May, we came by just as my knee exploded from an AZTR injury. I rode a day and spent the rest of the trip holed up in camp, unable to walk or pedal. It was awesome. Not.

I really wanted this trip to change my memories of this magic place.

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With this group of girls, it would be hard to have a bad experience. The best part is, we all have things that we’re good at. There’s upsy-daisies that Kay rides with ease that the rest of us won’t even consider. Shenna can mountain-goat up any awkward step up. Heidi goes faster downhill than I think I’ll ever be comfortable. We can all challenge each other, which is awesome.

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We scooted over to check out Gemini Bridges near the end of our ride. Water, wind, and time sculpted this. Just goes to show, persistence pays off.

We toodled back to camp, stopping at the gas station to wash hands and faces, laughing at the sign that said: No sink baths allowed. Moab has bred a special breed of dirtbaggery.

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Tequilla, limes, ice. Ingredients for a good afternoon at camp.

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I slept out, as I normally do. I woke up to see the sunrise, as I normally do. I went back to sleep as the color faded, as I normally do.

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We’d gotten ourselves seats on a Whole Enchilada shuttle in the morning. With snow still low in the La Sals, we got dropped off at the top of Kokopelli. My two most recent experiences at this point were in the middle of the night. Turns out, it’s way better here when a) you can see the views b) you’re not racing and c) you’re headed downhill.

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We jumped ahead of most of the other groups on the shuttle and with a motivated pace, were able to stay clear of much of the big-group mayhem.

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It took a flat tire to stop us long enough to have a snack. I haven’t done a long descent like that in a long time. Endless downhill. While I wanted to stop and take pictures initially, I soon got into the groove of non-stop riding. Made me rethink my decision to boycott all core work this past winter…

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Not real.

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The last time I rode this, I must have been scared out of my brains because I don’t remember any of it. That’s my coping mechanism, when I get scared, I block it out of my memory. Maybe I have more skills now than I did nine years ago, but 98% of the descent was a rideable good time this time around with a few sections that we looked at saying: It would go…but if it doesn’t there’s some pretty bad consequences.

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I vowed to return and ride the whole thing some fall when the snow’s gone.

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We started talking about milkshakes and burgers long before the bottom. Unlike my traveling companions on the Cononino Trip, this group knew how to eat. And eat well! We headed straight to Milts, a classic Moab establishment, for malts, grilled cheese sandwiches, burgers, french fries, and tater-tots. We talked of riding Ahab in the afternoon, a plan that deteriorated to planning on riding trails by camp, and then eventually morphed to taking naps in the sun.

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We knew a storm was moving in on Saturday, so we made haste to pack up camp in the morning and get out to ride the new Hymasa trail and Captain Ahab, the trail that took my knee out last spring. Apparently the combination of downhill hike-a-bike and cold temperatures can cause a torn quad-tendon and inflamed hamstring tendon to take a turn for the worse. Go figure.

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We started up with the understanding that the weather could turn at any moment and if someone wanted to turn around, we all would. Light drizzles threatened to shut us down, but stayed light and the wind kept the rocks dry.

Part way up Hymasa, we run, nearly head-on, into a group of four guys.

“I read you blog!”

“Who? Me?” I asked. People read my blog?

Apparently I have a fan in Salt Lake, who’s name I completely forget. I’m so bad with names…

We stopped and chatted, they’d ridden up Hymasa but were nursing a flat back down with plans to try again with an inflatable tire.

I got shit the rest of the way up the climb from the girls. But, in the end, it was really cool. Sometimes I wonder if any one really reads the words that I spew forth at somewhat regular intervals, and it’s always really awesome to hear that people enjoy it. In the end, I write for myself, but if I can inspire some people meanwhile, that’s icing on the cake!

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We reached the top of Hymasa, stoked that the trail was way more fun than riding the jeep road up. Some tech, some beautiful trail, and amaze-balls views. And then it started to rain, so down we went on Ahab. There was no discussion to be had. Jackets went on, heads went down, and we giggled our way down slippery rocks, pretending that we were riding more cautiously than we would if it were dry.

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The rain let up just as we made it back to the car. As the only girls in the parking lot, I think we made more noise than everyone else combined. We loaded bikes, stripped off wet clothes, and piled into the car, determined to make a beeline to lunch to figure out our next step.

Moab Diner, another fine establishment, got the nod. Lunch time coffee, cinnamon rolls, and a combination of breakfast and lunch plates gave us time to check weather forecasts and ponder our options.

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We wanted to be optimistic, but we also knew that Vail Pass, our escape route was going to be under a winter storm warning the next day. None of us wanted to drive home through the snow. We’d done that last year when they closed Vail Pass and Megan and I decided to stay the night in Eagle instead of taking the long detour around I-70. We made it out to Klondike Bluffs for an afternoon ride, reasoning that we could drive late into the night if the weather deteriorated, before the rain started coming down. We hadn’t even opened car doors when the hail started, so we quickly put bikes in appropriate cars, tried to make sure we all had our stuff in our own cars, and hastily retreated on the dirt road that was quickly turning into a muddy mess.

Not wanting to spend the whole afternoon sitting in Kay’s Sprinter hoping to be able to fit a short ride in on Sunday morning, we made the executive decision to point back towards Colorado. It was time to go home. Which actually turned out well for me because my dad was leaving on a trip the following morning and we were going to miss each other by a mere 12 hours had the weather not got to shit. This way, with a mid-evening arrival home to Boulder, I was able to at least squeeze a dinner and breakfast in with him, which was well worth skipping a ride in Moab.

I got home, adrenalined out, ready to take some mellow days on the couch – a perfect plan when hanging out at parents’ home. A perfect time to reflect on the past three days of riding, on the past three month of adventure riding, and the past three years during which I really feel like I’ve figured some stuff out. I have a job, I have health insurance, and I have the love of my life. My brother commented that he was jealous, in the claws of the final two weeks of his mechanical engineering senior project, sleep deprived and frustrated.

I told him: When you have things going right, you’ve gotta enjoy them.

Right now, I have things going right.

Thanks for the great weekend girls. Thanks for the great trips that everyone has gone on with me the past winter. Now it’s time to make my way back to Tucson, pack up our house, and head out for a grand cross country single track adventure. Summer has arrived.

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6 thoughts on “Girls Trip to Moab

  1. I do read your blog but am an ultrarunner. I’ve run a lot of the spots you explore on bikes tho not all at once as you do… (Co trail, Old Pueblo area, grand canyon, lots of colo stuff, moab, etc + elsewhere as I’m a bit of a wanderer as well) and i’ve said on almost all of them–how in the world do people bike this! Love that you take photos and share stories… so keep on keepin on!– and yay for girls weekend! — kz

  2. I read your blog! (Your fan from Norway 🙂 )

  3. Totally read your blog & have enjoyed the photos you routinely share. The stories you tell are inspirational & your personal views are amazing. Living out here in Grand Junction Colorado, I am familiar w/some of the trails in Moab but your blog from the area paints a colorful picture. Meaning, I have read about the Whole Enchilada, usually the same old story about that trail being technical, but you brought on a perspective from your own headspace. Thats why I blog surf!!! Thanx for bringing joy, enthusiasm, & person reflections to your blog. Stay Strong & Rock On Girls!!!!

  4. Yours is one of the blogs I check daily for new content. I’m always excited to see you posted something. Thank you.

  5. We actually have interwebs here in Australia and I use it to see what amazing ride you have just been on.
    This post reminds me of my Moab trip 18 months ago where I chickened out of the shuttle due to thunderstorms but rode the Porcupine Rim. Those photos bring back some great memories for me. Middle-aged-family-guy impressions here-
    http://dave-livingthedream.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/moab-impressions-ii.html

    Glad you had someone to share the ride with.
    Keep up the blogging!

  6. checking in from the east coast as an avid reader! As said above keep posting, has been great to get my sun fix this winter!!!

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