Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Moab Area - Day #2

Lots of stories from yesterday's riding were shared as we gathered at the Broken Oar for dinner last night. And lots of plans were being made for today's riding. The group would break up into even smaller groups of 2, 3, 4 riders for the next day's outings. Some would head into Arches National Park and Canyonlands, some would ride 128 again, some would head into the La Sal mountains for some off-road riding.

I awoke with a bit of a headache, sort of like a hangover headache but without the hangover. Gosh darned it! The least I could have done was earned the headache by imbibing in some of the fine local microbrews!

I had decided to do Arches National Park and then see how I felt. If the headache persisted, I would go back into town afterward, have lunch, and then just chill out at the motel sitting in the shade and enjoying a cool drink. I was going to head out alone, and was just getting ready to start up the bike when Claye walked up and asked what my plans were. We decided to ride the park together. This would be fun, as I always enjoy riding with Claye! We both needed gas and we regrouped in front of the motel and then headed toward Arches, just a few miles north of town.

It was only 9:00 AM but already the cars were streaming into the park. A group of four MTF'ers were entering the park just ahead of us as Claye and I stopped to take the required photo at the entrance sign, and we then went through the entrance gate and to the visitor center.

Claye got a great photo of us and our bikes at the entrance:

We met up with Joe and Deb who had plans to spend the day in the park doing some hiking. If I hadn't felt so puny, I might have joined them. I had compression shorts on under the riding pants and my running shoes in the topcase. I'll just have to come back!!

Back on the bikes, we worked our way up the series of switchbacks to the high plateau upon which this national park sits. The air seems almost rarified and the sunlight unfiltered by atmosphere, giving a brilliant, yet harsh white cast to the distant views. I pulled into the Park Avenue overlook, our first glimpse of the rock formations that created this weird and otherworldly landscape. According to the park leaflet, unstable underground salt beds from ancient seas cause the shifting and buckling and ultimate fissures that lead to the formation of "fins." As these fins erode, they either are reduced to spires or underlayers fall away to create arches. It's fascinating! The Park Avenue formations are mostly spires and fins, and it's easy to envision how the erosion progresses by looking at these. I took some photos and a panoramic video of this natural valley-like formation. The massiveness of these formations just doesn't translate well into photographs!

We agreed to proceed to the side road that would take us to the Windows section of the park but before getting there we would pass the turnout for Balanced Rock. We parked the bikes and as we walked toward the rock formation I spied an older couple trying to get an optical illlusion photograph of the man holding up a fin formation to the left of balanced rock. We stopped and chatted and they said they'd tried to do the same for the Balanced Rock but were unable to figure it out. They walked away and Claye wanted to give it a try. She scouted a slight hump of sand, bolstered by a small log and had me stand at that spot. Then she started crawling around on the ground below me, looking for that perfect angle to get the illusion that I'm holding up the rock. It took plenty of instructions - raise your arm; lower your arm; turn your hand; lift your palm, etc - before she was satisfied with the shot. Then I took her photo, and when the older couple came by again, we took their photo. In the midst of this, Dan and Janie from our MTF group walked up and fired off some candid shots of Claye as she writhed and squirmed on the ground to get just the right angle for the couple's shot. Here's Claye, making sure Balanced Rock stays up:

Claye caught me taking a swig of Gatorade:

The landscape is so stark and sterile that I found it almost oppressive. How do these scrubby little bushes survive up here? Where there wasn't brush, there was sand, and were there wasn't sand, there was petrified dunes which looked like concrete had been poured over the top of the sand, creating an otherworldly effect.

It was beginning to get very hot, as well, and I let Claye know that after we went to the Windows formations I was going to start heading back toward town, having seen as much of this park as I cared to. We continued to the turnoff for Windows rocks and when we got to the parking area we got off the bikes and took some photos. Coming down this spur road, I could see several arches. the North and South Windows ahead, a cool tunnel-like arch off to the left. And at the bottom of the road, at the parking area, some excellent arches and near-arches beginning to form on some of the fins.

After some debate as to whether to make the rather long walk to the Windows, we decided we were both on the same page as far as physical exertion in that heat went. Claye rode on up ahead to find a turnout to get some photos of me and my bike underway. These didn't turn out so well, so Claye got ahead of me again, wanting to get photos of me riding back down the switchbacks.

As I passed the Courthouse rock formations, I could see Claye in the turnout in front of a tour bus and surrounded by people. I pulled over at the next turnout to wait for her, thinking she'd gotten sidetracked by tourists. Well, she did...in a way. An elderly tourist with that group was unable to hike back on a trail and they asked Claye to seek assistance. She took off and I took off after her, catching up with her at the visitor center at the bottom of the mountain. She got the park rangers onto that situation. Some of our MTF group were in the parking lot and they convinced me to go with them into town for lunch. At this point, it didn't take too much convincing. I was ready to eat and find somewhere to sit in the cool or shade.

I followed Ray into town and he pulled into a convenient parking lot near several restaurants. The first one we chose was severely understaffed and after standing there for 10-15 minutes then watching the sole clerk answer the phone and proceed to take a phone order, we turned around and walked out. A great little Italian restaurant next door had a wonderful covered outdoor eating area and we were quickly taken care off. I was keeping half an eye out for Claye, since she said she was going to find the interagency office and check for a national park stamp before finding us and joining us for lunch. Sure enough! She rode past and we all waved at her.

After lunch, I headed back to the motel where I quickly changed into shorts and sandals, took some Advil, and joined Janie who was sitting under the trees enjoying a Frostie. Hmmm! That looks like the perfect after-lunch treat! But Claye and I had an even better idea! We walked across the street to the Maverick convenience store, bought some cold drinks and pints of ice cream and then enjoyed them in the shade back at the motel.

I was perfectly content to just sit there for the rest of the afternoon. Several of us swapped SD cards and downloaded each other's photos onto our laptops and just generally chilled out for the rest of the day. Other riders starting arriving and joined us in the shade. Soon I sensed some commotion behind me and I turned and saw that "Beemerchef" - Ara Gureghian - had ridden up in his BMW sidecar rig with his companion, Spirit. Ara maintains a blog entitled Oasis of My Soul and posts regular updates at several forums including LDRider and IBA forum. He saw our motorcycles (mostly BMW's and GoldWings) and was curious who we were and what we were doing in Moab. It was a very pleasant surprise!

This evening our dinner reservations were at the Moab Brew Pub on the other side of town and many of us piled into the two pickup trucks that came to Moab, rather than ride our motorcycles down there. The food was good but I was still digesting that whole pint of ice cream! Tonight was the final episode of The Biggest Loser on TV so I retired to my room - rather unsocial of me, I know - so that I could watch it. I'd gotten so hooked on this show, and it's the only TV show I've watched in several years! I just couldn't miss the finale! I had let others know what ride I planned to do the next day, and if anyone wanted to join me they were welcome to, but I would do the ride alone otherwise.

Tomorrow: Catching the parks I missed today, including Deadhorse Point and Canyonlands.

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