The White Rim road and I have a somewhat twisted relationship. If a road had gender, I think this one must be female as there is no other way our history could be so dysfunctional. The first trip I ever took around the rim was a success despite a riding partner's hypothermia and subsequent emergency fire starting. Other trips have had beautiful weather while last years attempt by Marni and I to ride this together ended up with the Element teetering on a snow covered cliff, both of us working hard to keep it together and get out safely. We've even come close to death in a narrowly avoided huge tan cow/car collision. But this ride has a strange combination of beauty and a desolate feel that keeps me coming back and also wanting me to share that with my friends. It's both accessible and serious. And now after a year of trying and a few recent weeks of bad weather, I've gotten to share it with Marni.
Friday was a whirlwind day of packing. Last minute weather watching, calls to the Canyonlands visitor's center and route deliberation left me running around all day with no lunch. Finally with Turbo safely at doggy day care, last minute food procured and Marni picked up from work we both relaxed. The drive to Moab is familiar to both of us by this point and autopilot quickly took over with Marni pulling the big driving leg of I-70. We rolled in after dark and tried to sleep in the Hotelement. Marni snoozed all night while I tossed and turned, energized by the coming adventure and the bright moon reflecting off of everything.
Dawn came and we both downed some blueberry muffins before getting dressed and driving into Canyonlands NP. We stopped at the visitors center, packed up and said good bye to the Element for a couple days. Wanting to start at first light and make the best of the now shorter days offered us a brilliant view of the sunrise over the La Sals.
My Epic Designs seatbag and frame pack helped me haul all the food, water and gear we would need to ride self supported without my back wanting to kill me. Despite hauling ~10L of water on top of everything else, my pack was a reasonable ~18lbs which the Nathan 759 hauls pretty well.
Marni took my Black Diamond flash pack with her day supplies and we both sported the red knee warmers. ;)
Dropping into Shafer we got to see these guys. What a wonderful surprise and only the 2nd time I've ever seen them!
Marni was pretty excited to drop into the canyon and it never disappoints.
She's that little dot down below me as Shafer stretches out to the White Rim road.
It didn't take us long to reach Mussleman arch and it corresponded nicely with a snack break. Marni ventured out while I snapped some pictures.
Then we had a nice good morning arch hug shadow.
From here the road rolls up and down and through lots of gaps to unveil new terrain to the view. We had it all to ourselves as the supported touristas were still sleeping.
Even early on, the sense of scale began to sink in a bit but Marni was determined.
We kept rolling, stopping for snack breaks every hour and alternating camera person. Big views all around kept the miles rolling under our wheels.
Aerobunny does white rim.
It wasn't all smiles as Marni's knees were bothering her but she's a trooper and pushed on with some help from vitamin I. Any offer to turn back was quickly rejected.
I can't say I blame her. There are worse places to ride.
We rode in silence and we chatted. Adventures like this that push one person's boundaries so far are difficult. But for us, each one we come through makes us stronger and neither of us would have it any other way.
I loved getting to share one of my favorite big rides with my favorite person in the world.
Plus she was kicking butt!
The stretch of riding to Murphy's Hogback is tough. It climbs a bit and it seems mentally further than sections between previous landmarks but we were both still going strong.
Where we'd been.
Where we were going. Yes there is a road up the side of that. Well dirt and 4wd anyway!
The call of our lunch stop was strong and we both pushed up the hogback.
Now this is a nice lunch spot!
Tired but ready to fuel with sandwiches, Pringles and candy!
We chilled for a while and enjoyed the views and food. Before too long though the trail was calling as we had a ways to go still before dinner and camp.
At least this section gradually begins to give back all the elevation you gained up to Murphy's and it goes much more quickly.
It was hot as the shadows stretched out. We both played the water drinking police and stopped every 45 minutes for more snacks.
Shade was nice wherever we found it, even next to the Potato Bottom privy. Smiles motivated by M&Ms and mini Luna bars.
A little more riding and some sand kept bringing far away landmarks closer.
A little more climbing brought them closer still and to the last highpoint of the day.
A little descending brought our tired legs to camp as the shadows stretched out.
Now the ponies could rest and so could we.
I cooked up dinner and we ate Snickers for dessert. We readied our gear for the morning and marveled at the stars from our cozy tent. Sunset brought about bedtime and the end of a long but wonderful day.
Alarm clocks brought about Marni's least favorite time of day, morning. Somehow I coaxed my puffycoated friend out of her sleeping bag with cheese danishes and hot cocoa.
We ate and watched the sun rise all around us.
We reapplied our bike clothes and packed up camp to hit the road. Big weekend trips require a certain amount of haste to return before Monday AM.
We were rolling by the time it was light out and both a little stiff and sore. Butts and legs usually complain in the AM but a little pedaling and they remember their tasks.
A little sand riding...
and a little sand walking.
Picture to compliment our similar Kokopelli photo.
We both enjoyed this part along the river.
I think the beauty plus lack of climbing made for a nice warm up to the day.
Soon enough we arrived at the bottom of Mineral Bottom road. It was here we got stuck last year and Marni was eager to find the spot where the old Element met the canyon wall. I was just happy to make it to the top loaded with 2:1 gearing.
Yep we came up that.
Marni on top of the last big climb.
Of course after the switchbacks, there is still 13 miles and 1000 vertical feet of dirt rollers to reach the pavement.
The section is pretty but it gets a little long in the tooth at the end of the loop. My favorite is to do it first.
Nevertheless we popped out on the road eventually, stripped off our knee warmers and pointed our bikes down the final section of our ride.
9 miles of road led back to the visitor's center and our car.
Landshark says goodbye to the White Rim for now.
Marni says enough of the pavement already.
Give me danish! And Pringles! After 102 miles and 6000+ feet of climbing, I think she earned them.
We changed, threw the bikes in the car and pointed it down to Wendy's. 6 hours and a couple ice cream snickers later, we grabbed the pup and collapsed at home. White Rim mission accomplished!