Bouncing into Moab
By Jason Lathrop
September 15, 1996
7:30 a.m.: I wake up early, for once. We've got a 38-mile ride ahead of us today--but with a nice ratio of ascent to descent: 2,800 feet of climbing, 5,400 feet of exhilarating downhill into Moab. We whip up a big meal of pancakes and coffee to start it out right, pack up quickly, and blow the joint. Best of all, though, the sky is bright blue and the sun blistering on the horizon. It looks like a good day.
8:30 a.m.: Our ride out of the La Sals starts with a short gradual climb. After that brief warm-up we take a highly gratifying, several-mile descent on paved roads to the desert's edge. The mountain air is brisk, but I take off my shirt anyway. Racing down the mountain at stupid speeds makes me giddy to the point of laughter. Taking my hands off the handlebar, I lean back and the cold air rushes over me. The sun and blue skies came just in the nick of time.
10 a.m.: That 2,800 feet of climbing has begun in earnest. Steep switchbacks take us backward up over some foothills leading in to the La Sals. It's a pretty long slog up and over three mesas. We need to cut back over to Sand Flats Road to drop into Moab. Everyone looks great though, and we stay reasonably close together.
11:30 a.m.: We stop and rest in the sage and dirt at the head of Sand Flats Road, a classic route outside of Moab. It's two-lane, four-wheel-drive road, but with long rugged stretches of exposed slickrock, sandstone debris, and patches of mud, it's the most technical riding we've done yet--and it's almost 14 miles long, pure descent. We take our time getting down, bombing here, then resting again for a while. We savor the heat and each glorious, bumpy, butt-and-palm-smashing downhill. Everyone points out, in turn, that my back is getting fried. I decide not to care today. I have a week of hail, rain, fog, and lightning to roast out of my pale back. Damn the melanomas, full speed ahead.
3:10 p.m.: We've now covered all but a few miles of the road into Moab. We come upon a large, paved parking lot, the trailhead to Moab's famous Slickrock Trail. Though we're already a little late for our shuttle to Telluride, we decide to ride out onto the trail a short distance. If you get the chance, go there. The trail is truly unlike any other--a long, convoluted roller-coaster of a ride across the extruded sandstone of the Colorado Plateau. Bring along a helmet and cool hand, though, because some of the dips and steeps are hair-raising. Try everything--you'd be amazed at some of the steep pitches you can ride as your back tire grips tight to the rock surface.
3:35 p.m.: From the Slickrock Trail parking lot it takes only a few minutes to coast into Moab. The road is steep, straight down, and dotted with warning signs for truckers to grab for a lower gear--I love those things. We amble like a mounted posse up to Eddie McStiff's, a burger and pizza joint on the main drag where we meet up with Mark, our shuttle driver. Mark's taking advantage of the sun himself, leaning shirtless on the bike rack as we pull up. We offer to buy him lunch if he'll let us eat before heading out. He agrees. Two beers and a load of pizza later, we're off to Telluride.
4:30 p.m.: I begin getting a little sleepy. The two brews (which I'm disappointed to report were not Coors, but some high-browed pretender of a Western lager) eventually put me out for an hour of the three-hour drive. The sun burns red on the sandstone around me and the heat of the van only helps to slow my metabolism. A fitting ending to an odd, but rewarding week. I got soaked, pounded, frozen, confused, and nearly beaten up by my host. All in all, though, I'd say Colorado and Utah will be seeing me again.