The Mecca of Moab, and Booking it Back…

As Dave said, thanks to everyone for all the lovely words of love and encouragement in response to my last blog post.  It was really helpful for me to get those words out there.  I felt like a weight was lifted!  You would think as a therapist that by now I’d remember the power of speaking out and writing down, but alas… The simplest things are often the easiest to forget.

Our last hurrah in Moab was a fantastic success, as far as I’m concerned.  With more juice pumping through my veins as the closing curtain of our journey approached, I was out and about all over the place!  Usually when we got to a new spot, I wouldn’t even venture outside the campground for a day or two, easing myself into a new space and giving Eli some downtime after long travel days.  But this time, I was out the door with Eli every morning off to go hiking and exploring.

Arches National Park was just a few miles down the road and very approachable for hiking with a little one.  The terrain was amazing, and the weather was just perfect for hiking, usually between 55 and 70.  In truth, Eli was less than impressed with my outdoor ambitions… He moaned and pleaded most of the time to go “back” and “home.”  I felt a little bad about it, but was more proud of myself for being organized to get out the door before 2pm.

Canyonlands National Park also provided mind-blowing vistas and hikes.  I didn’t dare try to venture down most of the them, even on our family day hikes.  But with so many easy to moderate options there was no shortage of beautiful sites to see.

And for the whole time we were in Moab (and honestly most of the trip overall), I couldn’t shake the regret that I didn’t bring a mountain bike with me.  My road bike hasn’t left the bike rack since we left, and with much good reason.  There HAVE been a few places we’ve been where road biking would have been sweet (Moab is one of them, with many paved trails in all directions), but mostly road biking seemed either dangerous or unappealing to me right now.  And, lazy cat that I am, she needs a big tune up and I just never got around to it.  But mountain biking…..

You might remember from my post about Lajitas, Texas that I took a splendid adventure into the canyon on my neighbor’s bike.  The whole time we were there I gazed longingly at it as it sat outside her camper.  But I never dreamed she would let me borrow it until she brought it up and I was out early the next day!  Which was also almost our last day.

So, truly enough, near our last day in Moab after 2 weeks of internal turmoil and dialogue I finally spoke up and told Dave I wanted to get one of my own.  Supportive as always, Dave encouraged me to do what I wanted to do!  I researched all the bike shops in Moab, checked their used bike inventories, consulted with my knowledgeable bike buddy (thank you, Nick Drake!) about MTB red flags and specs, and then went running around town during one of Eli’s naps to do some test rides.  I wanted to do my due diligence on the matter, but also had confidence that almost any mountain bike from the MTB Mecca of Moab was going to be totally sweet.

Narrowing down the search was easier than I thought, since I am a size small in bike-speak and used bikes here sell like hot cakes.  Some places didn’t have any left, and others had one or two in my price range.  So I tested out 3 bikes and it was truly like Goldilocks.  The first one was too hard, the second one was too heavy, and the third one was juuuuuuust right.  To be honest I think I knew it was the one the second he showed it to me.  It’s an orange 2015 Trek Fuel 7, and my heart skipped a beat when I looked at her.  I tried to keep my expectations low and keep as close to my objective consumer stance as possible, but as soon as I started peddling she could do me no wrong.  Great suspension, a comfortable ride, a frame suited to my size, and I felt like we were cruising through the city like a velvet warrior.  I know that doesn’t make any sense.  Just go with it.

I brought her home, and had already named her Eloise Maybeline.

Any lingering doubts I had about the choice disappeared the next morning.  I got up at 5am and packed up for a ride on the Bar-M Loop, a “beginner/intermediate” 8-mile trail about 10 miles outside of Moab in the Moab Brands Focus Area.  I wanted to make sure I got a full ride in before mommy-duty started.  Needless to say I didn’t have to share much of the road with anyone.  Even when I finished the ride, there was no one else at the trailhead!

I was a little worried that the trail would be too easy, since the description went on and on about how simple and family-friendly it was.  “A great run for the kids!” it said.  So as a back up plan I kept a bunch of intermediate connector trails in mind that would loop back to the original.  But this is Moab, after all, so I could have guessed that “beginner” might mean something different here….

For me, the trail was a perfect challenge, and definitely not something I would take my kids too unless I wanted it to take all frickin day (whatever kids can do this ride with ease are my hero already).  There was an incline/decline of 600 feet over the 8 miles stretch, with various surfaces including sand, dirt, loose rocks, “slickrock,” and mud.  The downhill stretches were certainly the most emotionally challenging, especially after my out-of-character-for-me-let’s-just-see-what-happens dive a few years back where I totally bombed at the bottom (naturally) and still have scars to remind me about it.  Dave and I accidentally happened upon an intermediate/advanced trail instead of the beginner one and tried to complete it like idiots.  Dave hit a tree HARD, and I – well, just see above.  But in this case I managed to find the balance between gracing the brake and trusting the descent.  Not enough to always get me back out though.   Indeed, the only times I got off the bike where when I stalled out on the uphill climbs.  Though at times this too was more of a psychological barrier than a physical one.  I was, again, afraid of falling.  But on other inclines, I just kept screaming, “Go! Go! Go! Go!” until I reached the top, which I (naturally) did.

And there was no practical temptation to step up to the more advanced trails.  I could see even from the start that they were at least a few months of riding away for me.  But man they looked sweet, like peeking through doorways leading to new worlds.  Literally.  One trail led up a grassy hill, weaving and looping back and forth.  Another led out to an entire terrain of slickrock, which in and of itself looks like another planet.  Another offered the “cliff option,” trekking along a rim with a drop 100 feet down.  Peeking in was enough for me now, and I was glad my ass could withstand 8 miles of any trail after the biking hiatus I’ve had!

And I have to tip my hat (again) to my friend, Emily Mills, who gave me some of the most succinct and brilliant advice I could ever need as a beginnger: (1) Look where you want to go, not where you are; (2) Let the bike take the impact; (3) When coasting, balance your footing horizontally instead of vertically.  I have all the confidence that this advice has made me the best rider I can be at this point, because these three tips so deeply connect to trust and confidence in both my and the bikes ability to manage the terrain, and because it puts one’s attention int he right places to keep moving forward with strength instead of rooting down in fear.  Hyperbolic?… Never!!!

So I finished the ride and made it back to the camper by 7:45.  Not too shabby!

Needless to say all I want to do is mountain bike now.  Madison area is a good place for it!

But before we get to that, we are actually in Dubuque, Iowa right now!  So we’ve gone from red rock, desert, mountains, and tumbleweed to grass, trees, farmland, and more farmland.  And even more crazy… we got here in 2 days!  Less, even.  We went 1300 miles in about 20 hours of driving time.  We left at 6am yesterday and drove until about 8pm last night, then slept at a truck stop (without even hooking up or setting up the slides… it was cozy!), and then got back on the road at 8am today.  We got here around 4pm!  Eli was the best champion traveler you could imagine.  He read his books, watched some videos, slept, looked out the window, and hardly ever complained.

We originally were going to go right back to Madison, but decided a little rest might be nice before we hunker down for the summer at home.  So we’ve got a sweet spot here at Miller Riverview Park, backed right up to the Mississippi River and overlooking a forest on the other side.  It’s definitely a campground (instead of an RV park), so we intend to partake in all the camping activities: campfires, hot dogs, s’mores, and evenings gazing at the stars…. things you probably thought we were doing all year, but really it wasn’t like that 🙂

Eli is putting two words together, and in the cutest way imaginable.  He says the first word with unexpected vigor and then almost whispers the second one, and all with his cute, gentle, baby voice.  “BLUE!  truck.”  “MAMA!  hair.”  “YELLOW.  balum.”  Translates: balloon.  And we will be lying in bed and he will just start listing off things.  “RED! balum.  BLUE! balum.  PUH-PUL!  balum.”  And it’s like, “Holy shit!  This kid is thinking about stuff he’s not looking at, like daydreaming! About balloons!”  There’s  just nothing cuter in the world than your own kid…..

So there you have it…. Hiking, biking, trekking…. and then driving like hell!

And getting the mountain bike I’ve wanted all along.  It’s good to follow your heart and do what you want, even if you get a late start.

Madison, we will see you soon!  For now, it’s time for some R&R in Dubuque!

2 Responses to The Mecca of Moab, and Booking it Back…

  1. Mom

    Sounds so wonderful and Eloise…………..love the name!!! And so glad Madison will be Eloise/Susan/friendly!! 🙂
    Enjoy the peace, calm and rest and we will see you soon….<3 Mom

  2. Cees

    This is great! The beginnings of your love story with your new found bike is amazing. Moab is the BEST place to be learning to ride! I rode there for the first time when I was 14 and it changed my riding forever. I’m so stoked for you guys! I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog! Keep it up!

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