Living in Moab, Spring 2016


It’s always been a pilgrimage for me.

It’s always a been a good idea, too. It was the first truly good idea I remember having. And like all good ideas, it was stolen from someone else. My best friend in 3rd grade talked about taking mountain bikes to Moab, and how you could ride on sand and rock. I don’t think he had actually been. We didn’t know what a mountain bike was, what Moab meant, or even where it was. But I remember thinking it sounded cool, so I mentioned it to my Dad. “Hey Dad, we should bring mountain bikes to Moab.” He agreed it was a good idea, which surprised me. It’s the earliest memory I have of him thinking a plan of mine was worth something. Most of my plans consisted of ways to spend more money on computer games, or more time playing computer games, so it makes sense that he jumped at an idea that meant something other than couch potatoing.

It was some time before the family made it to Moab, and the first visit didn’t include mountain bikes. Dad tried dozens of ways to get me away from the computer and doing something physical. All team sports were dismal failures. Fitness for the sake of fitness just didn’t take, and my scrawny kid body made everything difficult. One shining day, I received a “Firenze” (K-mart brand) mountain bike for my birthday. It wouldn’t be considered a mountain bike by today’s standards, but you could ride dirt on it.

Dirt I did ride. I rode that bike into the ground, eventually getting an upgrade to a Costco bike called the “Trailhead Trailridge” (or was it “Trailridge Trailhead” — we were never quite sure). I started riding every day in the summer, keeping track of my stats in a logbook piece of software I wrote in Turbo Pascal.

And finally, we rode bikes in Moab. I was in love. I never wanted to leave. Surely, I was obsessed with mountain biking, and Moab is world famous for a reason. But it was more than that to me. It became a holy place. Each journey felt like a pilgrimage, like coming home.

Why? One could wax romantic until the cows come home about all the desirable qualities of the place (sandstone! sandstone!). But for me it represented, more than anything, an escape. More than a vacation, it was an escape from a lifestyle and world that I was becoming aware did not fit me. Growing up in the LDS church in Salt Lake City was not a bad way to be raised, but if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t fit. Trying to make it stretch and fit is painful, more painful than sliding your knee down bare slickrock.

Sometimes a bovine or two don’t come home. I left that life, moved to the desert (Arizona) and didn’t need the pilgrimage any longer. I lived in the desert, and had much less uncertainty about who I was and where I was going.

Fast forward some number of years, and thanks to the dreams and wisdom of a girl with a ‘Z’ in her name, we moved into a small trailer and embraced a more nomadic life. It wasn’t until we’d been in Moab a while that I realized two things:

1) It was still a sacred place to me, as a worshiper of the earth and all its beauty
2) I didn’t have to leave

In so many ways, I was fulfilling dreams of old. Never having to leave Moab. Riding only limited by the fragility of my mortal frame (which can be quite fragile…).

We spent 6 weeks Scamping in Moab, approximately 5.5 weeks longer than I’d ever spent. Was it a vacation, an escape? No, not really. Surely we spent a lot of time outside, perhaps more than other times of the year. But emails came in, trackers needed to be set up, Tour Divide riders had burning questions, like how do they sign up for tracking, and how do I get one Matthew Lee to respond to my burning questions about how to sign up for tracking?

We got tired, and when tired, computer work sure is nice. We spent time at the library, at the cafe, pretending to work. It was nice to accomplish some things, have some money coming in, while also playing hard in the desert.

Moab trips of old were vacations — there was nothing to do but ride, eat, and ride. Or as Hans Rey puts it in TREAD, “there is no plan like there are no limits. We just ride, ride and ride some more.”

Clearly Moab is still that to many people. But that isn’t all it is to me.

Nostalgia is a strong positive influencer, and surely that plays into it. I have many deep memories here.

Deep memories were dug out, riding with my Dad and brother. I love that they came down to visit and to ride — a return to Moab riding after even more years than I had been absent. We also got Eszter’s Dad out for a bikepack around White Rim, which was a rewarding experience, for him and for us.

With plenty of time, we were able to revisit some classic rides, now relegated to “B” ride, “C” ride, or dust bin forgotten status.

Some of them are so, so, good. Though I cannot control for the nostalgia factor.

Yet, there remains something about the place that draws so many people, that makes it so special. I know many of the reasons, but it’s also more than the sum of its parts. It’s unique, it’s Moab.

Finally, it did get hot. We saw a forecast bleeding red with nineties. That introduced me to a new sensation — wanting to leave Moab.

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