26.47mi / 2:08:48 time / 12.3 mph avg. / 38.0 mph max. / 1442 ft. climbing / 11 mi hiking
Staying at Best Western, Moab
The original plan for this day was to leave the Arches campground in the morning, ride over a couple big hills and 18 miles before we even left the park, drop down to 4000 feet at the Colorado, and climb back up to 7200 ft., over a total distance of 85 miles. Obviously that was insane, so a couple days ago (after our ride up to Dead Horse) I decided that we would use our free day here. I had left a couple of days in the trip with nothing planned, which could be worked in whenever needed, and we definitely needed one here!
Since we hadn’t seen too much of Arches National Park on the way in, we would spend some time exploring on the way out, and then stop at a motel in nearby Moab. So first we took a hike to see Landscape Arch near our campground. It’s an impossibly thin tendril of rock that stretches over 300 feet, making it the second most popular arch in the park. It was great that we got to see it set in the early morning light against the pure blue sky, before most other park visitors have even made it into the park. We felt pretty good after the short hike to Landscape, so we continued on the trail to Double O. Once again, the arches are cool and everything, but the trail itself is great too, sending you across the tops of fins of rock, and requiring you to spot the cairns (small stacks of rocks) in order to find your way. Once we made it out to Double O, taking the “primitive trail” back from there would only add another mile to the hike, so of course we went that way. It actually wasn’t much more primitive than the main trail, but it was great to be almost alone out there in this world-class park in its peak season. The sandy parts were the worst, because they really slow you down, but on the other hand, if its sandy, that means you may be near a giant eroding wall of sandstone, which might provide some welcome shade. So it was usually a fair trade. By the time we got back to our bikes at the trailhead, we had apparently done 8 miles of hiking!
Then we got on our bikes and flew down the last hill that we had climbed the day before, but this time turned off to go see Delicate Arch. That’s the one that’s on Utah’s license plate, and when you see a picture of it, you’ll recognize it. So of course we couldn’t visit Arches without seeing Delicate Arch. This would be only a 3 mile round-trip hike, and given its popularity, I figured the trail would be pretty easy. Boy, was I wrong about that! It’s a climb of almost 500 feet, and even if the temperature is only 80 degrees, when you’re cutting across the open slickrock, the sun can really whip you. So it was inspiring to see the wide variety of people, from the very young to the very old, making the trek. When we turned the final corner and Delicate Arch came into view, an involuntary “wow” instantly left my throat before I could catch it. It’s become an icon because, well, it’s iconic. We weren’t there at the greatest time for pictures, but that’s ok, because all the pictures I’ve seen of it don’t even come close to communicating the the wonder of it.
After that, we bashed our way through the two big climbs out of the park like seasoned professionals. I didn’t feel any knee pain the entire day, which means that I’m back fully working on two legs instead of one, and what do you know, that’s pretty helpful when riding a bicycle.
When we got back into Moab, we checked out a few motels before settling on a Best Western. I was a bit concerned about handling our bikes in a motel; normally, I’d bring the bike into my room, but with two of us, that could get a bit crowded. So it was interesting to see that our motel combined the carrot of basement bike-storage along with a stick of $200 if bikes are found in your room. I was a bit hesitant about security, until I saw their system, with individual little bike garages and numbered check tags and employee-only access. SO it was really quite nice, and they had a bicycle washing/repair stand and air across the hall too. Only in Moab!
So yeah, Moab is a pretty interesting place. I would say that literally half of the vehicles seen driving through the area are either one of two classes: off-road capable, or carrying bicycles. Everyone comes to Moab for the mountain biking trails, though there are plenty of road bikes to be seen too. Our motel breakfast was packed with people in Pearl Izumi gear, and I think I saw five bike shops. In our three days around the area, we we didn’t see any other loaded tourists though, perhaps because you have to be a bit goofy to do loading touring in the area!
The town also has an unbelievable number of motels for its size. Ours was near the center, and after a glorious shower, we went to an all-you-can-eat pizza place where I had 8 slices of quite good pizza, and a couple local brews with names significant to our trip: Dead Horse and Derailleur. We had been catching updates on the Blackhawks playoff game from the ESPN ticker throughout dinner, but then as we were leaving, we were surprised to see that the whole game was on the big screen in the bar. So we went in and watched the Hawks make a strong comeback only to fall short in the end.
But the good part was that I got to experience some of Utah’s wacky liquor laws. I’d read some really crazy descriptions of the laws, but our two previous beer experiences had beeen perfectly normal, so I figured that the wacky laws were a thing of the past. But no, to walk into the bar section of this restaurant, you had to be a “member”. Of course we walked in without knowing this, but then learned we could get a 3-week membership for $4. ($12 for a year). Only one membership was needed, because one could be the guest of the other, and the membership fee was refundable based on future food purchase at the restaurant. They have a pretty streamlined membership form to fill out, but due to some miscommunication, Dennis and I didn’t even have to do that, they just put the $4 on our bill. It was fun to see the bartenders explain the absurd system to everyone, and amazing that that they can do it so patiently time after time.
Then it was time for a sleep in a nice soft seven foot high bed! 26 miles is a very short day on the bike, but throw in 11 miles of pretty strenuous hiking, and this “off day” didn’t leave us much time to get bored! But it definitely let us catch up and relieved the feeling that we would need to be continually pushing to stick with our plan.