I had the great oppurtunity to spend this last weekend in Moab, May 13-14th. I went there for a golf tournament, the big golfer that I am, not. It is a great time with 27 other knuckleheads, chasing the little white ball around in a spectacular setting. 54 holes in two days, marathon golf. But… because I was down there, I had to bring a uni. I chose the 36er.
The ride I wanted to do has been on my list for awhile, a new one for me.It is the CLASSIC La Sal Mountain Loop Rd. It starts and ends in Moab, another bonus for choosing this ride. I was going to ride it Sunday, after spending two full days in the hot Moab desert, crazy I know, but that is how it had to be.
I hydrated very well while golfing, so come Sunday morning I felt ready to go. Well, as ready as my lazy ass has been, ready. This was to be my longest ride of the season, why not. My biggest worry was waking up early enough to beat the heat in the afternoon. I woke up to the twilight, about 1/2 hour later than I had hoped for. I was camping in my motorhome, so I cooked up the usual before big ride breakfest, brewed the coffee, and drove to the start point only a few miles away.
By this time it was almost one hour later than I had planned for and the sun was up and heating the earth. Saturdays high in Moab was 90F, (32C) so I really wanted to be done by 2 pm. I knew that the ride was 62 or so miles with lots of climbing, and many view points to stop and check out. I had planned for 8 hours on the road.
The first 12 or so miles was gradual climbing out of Moab valley south with the La Sal Mountains to the east and Moab rim to the west. The spinnin was going ok as I warmed up to a nice pace. When the road turned left towards the mountains I knew that the hard work was about to begin. I stopped in the shade a huge cottonwood tree, fueled up and looked ahead at the steep climb.
Switchback after switchback came at me, and I made all of them. I was really pleased with how the temperature was dropping as I climbed higher. I also noticed that the vegitation changed as well. Desert sage gave way to pinyon and juniper, which gave way to oak. Then as I got higher and higher it was aspen and larger pines. The snowcovered peaks of the La Sals looked like I could reach out and touch them. Just two hours before I was in the barren desert, now I was in the alpine slendor. I still had the toughest section to go before I would summit, the first summit anyway. The grade really steepened and I pushed hard. I got to a point where I couldnt go any further, so I dismounted. Time for another pressure break anyway.
Got back on the 36er and pushed ahead. I could finally see the summit of the ride. At this point I was in Pine and Spruce forest, and to my liking, lots of deer crossing the road, luckily none of them hit me. I had also spotted many eagles and hawks soaring into the hot rising air. A car passed with a chick asking to take a picture, I said " I will trade you water for picture". I had my 100 oz bladder full at the start, but I wasnt sure if I could find water along the ride, so I was using every oppurtunity I could.
I spun nicely across the high plateau as the road for the most part leveled out. The views were unbelievable at this point. To the west you could see canyonlands, lake powell, the henry mountains, to the north you could see the bookcliffs and of course to the east the La Sal mountain range. This mountain range is the second highest range in Utah, with 6 peaks over 12,000feet. My time out so far was 4 hours and I had only gone 28 miles. This was the climbing portion of the ride, so I felt like I was doing ok for time. The temperature was ok, but as I looked far into the distance where I had to go, all I saw was dry hot desert.
I then came to a spot in the road that sent chills up and down my body. I could not believe my eyes, the view was world class spectacular. The huge red rock canyon landscape covered a good portion of the view, but right in front and down was Castle Valley. I was at a high point looking down onto the magnificent Castle Vallley.The red monoliths of Castle Valley from this vantage point are astonishing. For those that have ridden Porcupine Rim trail, you know what I mean. I am 1000’ higher and at a different angle than that. I had to stop to just take it all in, and luckily there was person at the same pullout. I had her take a picture for me, we talked and I pedaled on. I could definetely see where I had to go, and it was still way out there. The descent into Castle Valley was electric, the road was steep and included many nice banked switchbacks. I laughed for what seemed like 30 minutes, quite fun! The views of Castle Valley only got better as I neared the valley floor. My next goal was to ride the 11 flat miles until it intersescts with the Colorado River.
I stopped once where a older fellow had stopped to take some pics of me. I chatted with him, very nice man, and then continued on. Oh yea, he told me that when he was on top that at one of the view points where he had stopped, that he ran into another man. This man told him with a perplexed look on his face that he had seen a man on a “unicycle”. He wasnt sure, but it was to early in the day to be drinking, so it must have been.
I wanted to put on some miles as the temperature was only getting warmer and I was getting lower on water. Castle Valley was awesome, you ride right under the famous “Priest and Nun, and Castle Rock”. As I was maintaining my longest, fastest section of the day ,a car full of ladies pulled up and rolled down their windows. The look that was on their faces were classic. They said that there is a academy in this valley that uses unicycling as a main focus in their schooling. I high fived them and kept going, not very social, but was moving pretty good at that point. This part of the world is so different, but yet so beautiful. If you havent been here, you must come. Don’t come in the summer though, make it spring or fall.
There it was, the mighty Colorado River, flowing strong with it’s spring runoff. Made the left turn onto Scenic Hwy 128 knowing that the homestretch was close. What I was really looking for was shade and water. Along the river here in two or three spots now are Resorts, and I knew that one was coming up. Sure enough, I pulled in and went into the lodge for a break. I refilled the camelbak, cooled down a bit and enjoyed being off of the wheel. To this point I had gone 45 miles and was out 6 hours.
The final push home, yeah, as I followed the breathtaking Colorado River. Rafters were down on the water enjoying the day. It was a excellent day indeed. The road was hot, but the occasional breeze would pick up and cool me down momentarily. Unfortunately, my ass was starting to hurt. I stopped four times in the last twenty miles for ass breaks, and some shade. I felt fine otherwise, still had pleanty of strength in the legs. The best part was that I knew just before the turn to Moab, that a natural spring would be there. I so looked forward to fresh cool water and cooling off in the spring. I pull up to it, and there is a line of people, bummer. It was the longest 5 minutes that I had all day, I was hot and thirsty. As soon as my turn came, I put my head and body under the strong stream of cool water. My core temperture seemed to cool instantly, something I had been looking forward to for hours. It seemed like I was there for eternity, under that cool water in the shade. The temperature was 90F, (32C) and on the road, obviously warmer. 62 miles to this point and 8 hours on the road.
The last two miles into Moab was pure adrenilene, after the ride I had just done and now my body was rushing with cool wet clothes on, I was feeling pretty darn grateful. I knew that there was a great smoothie shop in town, so I started craving one. There it was, the Peace Tree Juice Cafe. As my ice cold pineapple sherbert dribbled off my chin, I realized what I had accomplished, and how glad I was to be able to do such a ride. The sherbert was gone before I knew it, so I ordered a orange smoothie for the ride to the motorhome. The desert heat didnt seem so bad now.
This was one of the best rides that I have ever done, now I know why people talk it up all the time. This tour has everything - beautiful red rock canyons to alpine vistas to the colorado river valley. The climb is demanding, but perfect for a 36er. It is tough, but as I’ve said before, the more you put into life the more you get out of it. I am lucky to be here today sharing this with you, thanks for reading!
Length 64 miles - 103 kilometers
Lowest elevation - 3900’ 1189 meters
Highest elevation - 8400’ 2561 meters
Time out on ride - 8 hours 30 minutes
Time in saddle riding - 7 hrs 7 minutes
Average moving speed - 8.9 mph 14.3 km/hr
Total climbing - 7,393’ 2254 meters
Total descending - 7,455’ 2273 meters
Average Temperature - 80 F 27C
High Temperature - 90 F 32C
Average Heartrate - 132 bpm
Max Heartrate - 173 bpm
175 mm cranks
Bob Marley & Jah