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About 80% of general aviation aircraft fly using Lycoming engines. Clearing the trees at the end of the runway. Leaving 4500ft for 6500ft. Maintaining airflow and generating lift across the wings. All are impossible without a reliable engine. Lycoming powers my training aircraft and so fuels my quest for a private pilot certificate. This blog is a record of my thoughts and experiences on life, flight, and learning.

20 March 2008

Mountain Biking in Moab!

No posts for a while - I've been busy. New house, busy at work....oh, and I took a short little trip out to one of my mostest favoritest places in the US. Moab, Utah, home of the absolute best mountain biking I have ever done anywhere. Period. I honestly can't imagine that another place on this continent would be better. Moab has it all. Rolling singletrack, bomber downhills, technical slickrock, steps, ledges, jeep roads, off-camber, incredible traction, awesome vistas, killer climbs, and the list goes on and on. About they only thing that they don't have is slippery tree roots - I think that Ohio and Michigan have the monopoly on that. This trip was a repeat of a trip that I took with my brother Andrew and his roommate Dan back in 2002. We all work together now, so we took the time off together and headed West. Basically, we did a re-peat of the college-era trip, except this time, we didn't have to choose between food or gas. It's nice to have a little money in the pocket to enjoy time off with good friends in the outdoors.

The trip started with a non-stop drive out to Dillion, Colorado, where we hooked up with my cousin-in-laws (Beth's cousins) and managed to squeeze in a day of boarding at Keystone. I'd never been to Keystone before, so that was...educational. I think that I like Vail a little better. There were some times when it got a little crowded...but maybe that's just what March skiing is like on a Saturday in Colorado. It was good to be back on a board, but I was hankering for sunshine and the desert. Too much snow in Ohio this winter - time for some dry desert air! After boarding, we headed to the Dillion Dam Brewery for a little pick-me-up and then drove to Grand Junction, where we hit the local Wal-Mart at 1:30AM for camping supplies. Two more hours of driving across the black Utah desert and we arrived at a campsite by the Colorado River. Did we open up the doors and unpack the tent for a hard-earned rest by the river?


Did Andrew turn the car off and say, "Let's sleep in the truck. It's only 3 hours to sunrise."?

You betcha.

Okay, so let me paint the picture for you. We'd spent 28 of the past 48 hours in the truck. We had just gone snowboarding all day, then drove 6 hours. We had been generating methane since dinner at a staggering rate. My legs were sore in that special snowboarding shin splint way that indicates your possession of a desk job, instead of the one you really wanted to have for the winter, riding lifts and taking photos for Transworld Snowboarding magazine.

Well, since Andrew & Dan were in the front seats, they just leaned back and started snoring away. I was in the back of the truck with all the junk, and couldn't stretch out. So, I spent the next three hours shifting every which way that I could in a vain attempt to try and get comfortable. I can only imagine that must be what sleeping is like in one of those prison cells that are too short to stand up in, or too narrow to actually lay down in. I got about 10 minutes of sleep in about 10 different spurts before I saw the sky brightening. Extremely crabby Dan stated emphatically. "Guys. I'm done with this. We're going into town. I need to walk around and get some coffee. NOW." A breakfast bagel and a couple of cups of organic coffee later, I was back to my usual self, Easy-Going Dan.

We headed over to the Barlett Wash trail for a good re-introduction to biking on Utah's slickrock. Slickrock (or Navajo Sandstone) is a super-cool sandstone formation that is very much like petrified sand dunes. It's got incredible traction, and is really fun to ride on, because you can climb, traverse, or descend slopes in a way that just isn't possible on regular rock or dirt. The Bartlett Wash is pretty wide open, you can pick your own lines and just goof around. Very fun and some great views.

Looking West at the end of the Bartlett Wash

The vast expanse of Navajo sandstone that is the Bartlett Wash

After riding the wash, we headed back to claim a primo campsite by the Colorado River. Can't let all those other bikers have the good spots, can you? We set up a pretty good substitute for home, relaxed for a little while, and then headed out to enjoy the sunset at Arches National Park.
Our home away from home
Stairway to Heaven (or maybe just to Turret Arch)

Balanced Rock - looks like it might topple any moment!

South Window Arch, Arches NP

A couple of grimy stoner mountain bikers hanging around Arches NP

Fading light at Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

And the morning and the evening were the first day in Moab. The next day, we headed just north of Moab to a trail we had never ridden before. The Sovereign Singletrack, a relatively new trail (only about 5-6 years old), was the next ride on the menu. We really had a hankering to ride the Porcupine Rim trail, but after some guy at the Poison Spider Bike Shop said that it was wading through thigh-deep snow and leaving behind a bloody snow-cone, we decided to skip it this time. This time only. Next time, the Porcupine Rim is first on the order. Anyhoo, on to the Sovereign Singletrack trail - very fun, very fast, and no steep climbs. It was a very gradual, rolling trail that was really a lot of fun to ride. It didn't have the same views that other trails had, but had awesome flow, and was just good clean fun. We got a bunch of awesome photos, and here's just a couple of the choice ones.
Epic flow, awesome downhill! (Uh....that's me burning it up)

Andrew negotiates one of many tight switchbacks on the Sovereign Trail

Check out that view - Moab High Countryl

Man, do I love my new digital SLR!

Nice lean, Andrew!

Just one of many steep and rocky descents - pretty technical in places.

Dan takes the speedy curve with style. Moab style.

I get up-close-and-personal with a scrub pine. Moments before I crashed, I ridiculed my biking companions as "wussies" as I started down the ledge for not taking the drop. Only my pride was injured in this instance:).

We were very tired after riding the Sovereign trail, but weren't about to quit yet. The next day, we warmed our tired muscles, packed the high-energy food, and headed off for more punishment. The next trail o' fun on the menu was the legendary Slickrock Bike trail. Built in 1969 by motorcylists, this 12 mile loop is probably one of the best biking trails in the world. It's got a unique layout, and is definitely the hardest, most technical trail that I have ever ridden. Very, very challenging, physically demanding and just more pure fun than any trail I've been on. One of the interesting things is the way the trails are marked with periodic white stripes - how else do you know where the trail leads when you're biking on bare rock?
Look at those grins! Those guys don't have a clue about what punishment awaits!

Look how much traction I can get on the Slickrock - It may not look like it, but that's a fairly steep hill.

Taking a break at the feet of the Beautiful La Sal Mountains.

I love this photo - riding from slickrock to the snowy mountains!

This is at the half-way point on the trail. We've biked about 7 miles and climbed about 900ft so far. Feel the burn!

Follow the little white stripes....

Dan takes a ride on the wild side - just off the edge of a cliff.

Bombing down the slickrock - gotta love that front suspension!

Just one of many trail views - I love how the trail winds back and forth across the slickrock...

Riding back to the car - thankfully, it's mostly downhill from here!

Well, the Slickrock trail totally kicked our butts. I can't remember the last time that I felt that fatigued. Basically, I just wanted to crawl into my sleeping bag and not wake up. However, instead we headed into Moab for food. Rule to remember - never order food after you've ridden the Slickrock Trail. We all ordered WAY too much food and couldn't finish it all - lesson learned....but it all tasted soooooo good after that ride. The next morning, we chose a less-demanding ride because we had to start heading back to reality. The patience of the wives was wearing thin, and the money was drying up, the real world was calling. It was a sad day. We chose the Amasa Back trail, which is pretty much a short steep climb up, and then a great downhill back....oh, and it's got the most incredible views of the Colorado River Valley...simply amazing!
The beginning of the Amasa Back trail - still down in the canyon.

Andrew living on the edge - 1000ft off Jackson Hole!

Happy Mountain Bikers from Ohio

From the top of Amasa Back, you get an incredible view of Behind-The-Rocks sandstone fins juxtaposed with the La Sals

Mmm....Tuna and Ritz Crackers overlooking the Colorado

Super-cool Potash mine and processing plant....in Potash, UT (Coincidence?)

The stark desert beauty of the Colorado River Basin