Moab, UT – 2014

“Go West Young Man, Go West!

Ride Theme . . . “Beer and Martinis”

Why “Beer and Martinis”? Have you ever heard a great story start with a salad?

10_28_thumb.jpgA LONGGGGGGGGG winter in MSN meant some of the bikers were getting itchy to ride again for more than a day or two here and there (we do have the 8 members of the “At Least Once A Month Club” who rode every month last year and Jan and Feb so far in 2014) so ten of us we decided to head west to the Land of Enchantment and do a little off road biking.

So who are these guys . . . a subset of the premier bicycling group in the Midwest, the Madison Bike and Bowl Team. Mostly retired, lots of grey hair or no hair, enough pill bottles among us to open our own pharmacy, enough aches and pains to have our own wing at the local retirement home, vision . . . not so good, hearing, huh? . . .  but a group with lots of spirit who will try to stay up later than 9:00 MST!

ridersMoab has long been known as the Off Road Biking Capital of the United States . . . but they have never experienced the likes of mbbt members!


The plan is for ten of us to train or car out to Moab, spend three days on the While Rim trail, accompanied by an outfitter, then luxuriate for four days in a condo while we explore what else Moab has to offer. We will then return to the Land of Tundra where hopefully the permafrost will have begun it’s annual spring thaw!

routes1000The outfitter portion . . .


tentLuxury camping  . . . with SPECTACULAR riding

gulp3We’ll spend three days biking the White Rim Trail . . .

whiterim2Assuming we live to tell about it, we’ll end up at Castillo De Las Rocas . . .

moabcondoIts going to be DRY and water will be an issue. We are planning on two gallons a day per person NOT including water that is fortified with hops! Nights in the 40’s with day temps in the mid 60’s will be a welcome relief for those of us who have spent the last four months enduring one of the worst winters in modern recorded history!

 . . . ohhhhh there have been LOTS of planning sessions for this trip AND many beers consumed in the process to help us think about our options. The more beer we drank . . .  the more options we came up with!! AND a special thanks to Greg who spent WAY MORE time than he should have had to with all the planning for this adventure!

planning.jpgAND, of course a special thanks to my Smoochie who once again this year made my birthday one special day,  which in fact  morphed into a three day celebration, and without whose support and encouragement for some of the crazy things I do wouldn’t happen. Of course, every time I leave she remodels something in the house  . . .”Now let’s see, when are you leaving again?”  We make a great team!

party1We leave on Monday . . . if you are interested, check back once in a while for daily updates!

Day 1

The day started with all of us assembling at the Van Galder motor coach pick up points and we were off to Chicago. A smooth transition at Union Station and we were soon rolling out of Chicago headed west.

John, the last in line, didn’t get the memo about casual dress.

Here are our teardrop trailers that will be following us out to Moab for us to use on the White Rim trail!

Bikes for sale on Michigan Ave.

Rick got special treatment from Berna in the loading of his special TREK Fuel mountain bike.

The rest of the guys had to fend for themselves.

The local police use TREK’s. It was fun to watch him go down the steps with it.

BillyB’s stash of goodies he brought out – before lunch snacks.

Greg talks mountain biking with Beth who lives in Schaumburg and mountain bikes in the forest preserve.

Still room for a nice lunch . . . .

BillyB helps out the local economy. Needs munchies for his stop in Grand Junction!

Our kegs finally arrive for storage in Gaylord and TommyHs’ berth.

TommyG goes right to the head of the line for seating assignments, past 200 other train riders waiting in line!

mbbt takes over half the observation car.

Here is the solution to the Badger basketball game dilemma this coming weekend when we will be 90 miles out in the desert – Sirius radio. The boys are thinking of renting one.

The dapper maître de in the club dining car.

Gaylord and TommyH’s spacious, palatial suite. See the movie for the complete tour!

Go here to see the movie: Gaylord’s & Tommy’s

Day 2

Gaylord and TommyH had a great night sleep, the rest of us in coach tossed and turned but before we knew it the sun was coming up. Got to have patience when traveling by rail. We eventually became two hours late on route mainly caused by having to pull over on siding’s to allow freight train, who have the right of way to pass. There were also 35 areas where we had to run at restricted speed because of the poor Burlington Northern track condition.  Maximum speed is 79mph and through many of these 35 areas we were running below 25 mph for some time.

Getting ready for the ride through the mountains during our 30 minutes rest stop in Denver.

Room with a view . . . shaking out his sleeping bag

The schedule set back meant we would arrive late in Grand Junction by at least two hours. The car rental operation closes at 5:00pm and are not willing to accommodate our late arrival. Our two designated drivers Greg and Dave will be renting a truck in Denver and driving to Grand Junction arriving before 5:00pm to get our second truck. Good thing we are retired and not on a time strict schedule

Climbing into the front range if the Rockies.

Snow in Winter park.

The passing trains on the east bound line come REALLY close . . . could reach out and shake hands.

Fraser Canyon, one of four canyons we rode through on our way to Grand Junction. VERY scenic.

Todd, the manager/ restaurateur  of the Lower level lounge. Quite a character! made the trip much more enjoyable.

Gaylord and TommyH had their own stateroom with special service provided by Michael their own butler.

At Glenwood Spring, TommyG made the 3 block RUN (literally) to the local brew pub to buy a growler during the five minute train stop. They DO NOT wait for you if you are late!

We became good friends and had lots of discussions with a family of 8 Amish heading to Montana. QUOTE OF THE DAY: After spending nearly 24 hours with us, on and off, one of the young Amish men asked us, “Are you guys (all) right?”

WE FINALLY got of the train in Grand Junction after about a 27 mile ride. Beer and burgers all around!

Local bike art!

Loading up our two steeds to haul us to Moab.

We arrived in Moab about 8:30.

Home sweet home!



Nice place!

Day 3

Every one slept great after the rock and roll of the train the night before.

Some people were chomping at the bit to bike and were ready to jump from bed right onto their bike!!

Bill had a rude wakening when he went for ice in the freezer for his juice and found this site! No one would owe up too putting the Diet Pepsi in the freezer, but we noticed Greg was missing one of his Pepsi (and he did agree to clean it up).


We heard it was going to get a little chilly overnight but we were surprised when we opened the drapes to see this! SNOW!!!

We thought we had left it behind for the year in WI but it seems to be following us! Our condo is about 4 mile south of town and at a higher elevation. Interestingly as we descended to town for breakfast we quickly ran out of the snow. By the time we returned from our hike in the early afternoon, the snow was gone and they were mowing the grass at the golf course behind our condo.

Terry in his element. Even brought his NaNuuck of the North hat along.

No more of this PLEASE!!!!

So chilly the giant coffee cup at our morning restaurant was steaming!

George and Bill F. are staying at the Lazy Lizard hostel.

Our leader Greg, and the head of our finance department getting together our funds for the grocery bill.

We met up with  Merrick, our 27 year guide and decided on our schedule and menu for the week. He is doing all the grocery shopping and cooking. All we need to do is ride!

Healthy breakfast of tofu, pepper, and curry,

On to the Poison Spider Bike rental shop for the two Tom’s to get their rental bikes.

We decided to do some hiking at Arches national Parked today. Bill F. was coming down with a cold and stayed back. Soon the 9 of us were on the trail.

Truly one of the greatest examples of the beauty of Mother Nature at a VERY large scale.


Some great petroglyphs that are very well preserved.

We had a hard time deciding which hike to do and finally decided on Delicate Arch. After a 2 mile hike we were some what disappointed by the arch. and then realized we had made a wrong turn . . . .

Dave was the only one with enough energy to hike down to the Delicate Arch.

A great drive back to Moab . . .


lead to some final bike assembly . . .


and then a GREAT dinner at Jesse’s Italian Restaurant.


Day 4 – Moab to Shafer Campground


Day 1 camp

After month’s of planning sessions it was finally time to get on the road to the trail.

Of course the most important provisions were loaded first onto the truck, our four boxes of beer! As Merrick later told us the second most important thing in the desert is water . . . the FIRST is beer!

Nobody felt like cooking breakfast so we headed to the Moab Diner for the “Mountain Biker Special” sure to guarantee a quick downhill due to the large portions!

Moab Cyclery and Escape Adventures would be our provider for the adventure and we met at their headquarters to load our gear.

We met up with Merrick again for a final briefing and soon he and Tim helped us old guys up into the vans and away we went for a 10 mile ride to the trail head.

Like most old guys, some had to take care of a few personal issues before we loaded up. No modesty with this group!

Our official ride start photo. Got to count heads everyday to make sure we didn’t lose someone!

The first four miles were gravel road but as we turned the corner here was our first slot canyon to descend. Probably one of our steepest of the whole trip. The hearty breakfast and steep descent put our brakes to the test. Probably 18-20% down hill.

ppPuck Pass was VERY aptly named . . . As we approached the downhill, I heard George say “Oh Boy!” in a tone somewhere between excitement and horror!!


We soon encounter the White Rim, a trail we would be riding the next three days. All jeep trails, we encountered 4 wheel drive vehicles of just about every type and several groups of motorcyclists.

Our first nights camp Shafer Campground. Merrick passed down luggage from the truck and off we went to find our own pieces of heaven . . .

. . . where every room had a million dollar view!

Merrick had a great setup for cooking, one we would have had great difficulty reproducing for ourselves, if we had decided to go totally self supported. It was by far the best decision we made of the whole trip – hiring a company like Escape Adventures to toat our luggage, provision us for our meals, do the cooking AND surprisingly washing the dishes too!!!

First night out . . . fresh grill salmon . . . .

with a feta, tomato salad, boiled baby red Parmesan potatoes – yeah baby, bring it on. Always enough for seconds if you were still hungry!

Who was always first in line . . .

. . . the same person who was last in line. BillyB licks the fudge brownie mixing pan!

TommyH uses the foot pump hand washing station provided by Merrick and company. Very handy!

Believe it or not human waste is a HUGE issue on the park. With the arid desert climate, nothing ever deteriorates and in the last twenty years, as the number of visitors increased, so did the number of slit latrines. So much so that people were continually digging up what someone had left behind not too long ago. The Park Service has installed these outhouses that are first rate! No smell and very clean. I asked Merrick how often they need to be pumped and he said never! The bowels of the pits have a type of beetle that takes care of all the waste. Don’t fall in!

The Canyonlands National Park has some VERY strict culinary safety regulations that all provisioners must follow, such as: no food can be rewarmed and served twice,  so any leftovers are tossed; all food waste must be composted; dishes must be washed in hot water, then rinsed in two clean water baths and air dried. No toweling off of dishes. When the rangers come around for their visits, they use thermometers to test the inside temp of the coolers and the temp of any uncooked meat. Wooden cutting boards can be used for serving only. All food prep must be done on plastic boards that are sanitized. Merrick was very particular in his food prep methods and did an excellent job . . .

. . . which of course gave us more time to be happy. Here TommyH is twice as happy because of his red wine AND Everclear alcohol he mixed with Crystal Light . . .

. . . and George enjoyed his rum STRAIGHT out of the bottle EVERY night!

Day 5 – Shafer Campground to White Crack Campground

Day 2 campsite

Packed up and ready to go. Once we left, Merrick did the dishes, packed all the luggage and loaded all his cooking gear. He usually caught up to us about an hour into our ride. He always had a smile and water for us and followed our group until the last hour of the day when he would shoot ahead to set up camp.

Today started out with a good climb to stretch the legs as we headed up the canyon wall.

One thing that is hard to get used to in the open west is the scale of BIG – EVRYTHING seems larger than life and goes on forever! See circle to get a view of TommyH against the wall of a canyon.

Soon we arrived at Musselman Arch, which you can see behind these Musselman wanna be’s . . . .

. . . Gaylord, who is afraid of heights, surprised us all as he dismounted  his bike and walked to the 6 foot wide arch, as if the 300 foot drop off over the side of the arch was an illusion! Greg arrived and, having had no intention of walking over it, proceeded right behind Gaylord. The rest of us quivered in our cycling shoes!

gregGreg decides to take a walk on the wild side too!

vmusselman Click here to see the movie. Be sure you are seated!

Every time you think it can’t be outdone, check with Merrick. I asked him if other clients had been ‘brave’ enough to cross the arch. Several did handstands and walked across the arch on their hands and he himself rode across the arch doing a wheelie the whole way on his bike! Ahhh . . . to be young again. Of course, he does have several hundred thousand dollars of past medical bills and many broken bones to tell the story!

Not much green in the high desert except along the river banks. BUT, lots of cactus.

A good landscape photo should have something in the foreground of the shot to give a sense of scale. You will notice most of these shots do have a foreground subject. Not so much as a part of the photo but because I was too chicken to get to the edge!

We cycled on and eventually stopped to enjoy the lunch we had packed that morning. BillyB thought it would be a good place to stretch out a bit. A family of cyclists passed us by and the 16 year old daughter cried out, “Are you guy’s OK?”. Fine we said, just old!!!!

Merrick arrives with goodies and water! He carries 220 gallons of water onboard so cooking, doing dishes and a sun shower are always available!

One of the permanent restrooms encountered in every campground and along the trail place at strategic locations. Camping is allowed by permit only in the Canyonland’s and in only certain locations. No open fires really put a damper on our previous trip evening campfire routine. Of course, there is nothing to burn anyway. Merrick used a propane stove to cook and a self contained charcoal set up. He could not put the charcoal  bed of the stove directly on  the desert floor and had to carry all the coal refuse out with the composted food.

Away we go . . . up . . up . . and more up!

One of the few splashes of color on the desert floor.

For those interested, and enough were not, a nightly shower was available. Two gallons of air temp water tempered with two gallons of boiling water allowed for a great HOT shower. Here Gaylord demos an “G rated” version of a shower with a view. Complete with rubber tub liner! He brought is own luffa puff!!!!

Our routine quickly developed to finding our individual camping spots, setting things up, stowing away and getting ready for the evening. Then is was time for beer, lawn chairs and sitting in a semi circle for the magic of our nightly cooking lesson from Merrick and our self generated world problem solving session. The more we drank the easier life seemed .  Ah . . . to be retired, except for Terry, but he is thinking of it.

Here Merrick prepares the noodles for tonight’s lasagna dish. He can accommodate any type of food allergy or eating issue including cooking a veggie lasagna for a Friday Lenten observer. He once had a tour where between vegan, gluten vegetarian and several other requirements basically cooked three dinners every night for a week. The only two rules he has in camp are no religious or political discussions, though I believe he was quite amused by our constant chatter about nothing!

Another night of rooms with a view.

Right next to my tent!

Preparing tonight’s appetizer . . .

. . . onion stuffed, balsamic mushrooms with melted Parmesan cheese!

Merrick used Dutch ovens a lot for cooking and really had the system down to a science. Here is his ‘double oven’.

One meat and one veggie . . . nice guy!

It gets chilly, actually ‘cold’, in the high desert once the sun drops behind the mountains. Dave was definitely our leanest (READ: Least FAT) rider (by a LONGSHOT) and as you can see here stayed bundle up when the temps dropped into the thirties at night. He climbed into his sleeping bag at night with pretty much everything on that he had brought along!

No campfire . . . but Gaylord warms his hand over the Dutch oven lid.

Time for our nightly dessert in the desert! Tonight . . . red velvet cake with butter frosting!

Enough for seconds too.

Greg, our trip leader, served as the perfect host as he made the nightly rounds with his peppermint Schnapps. Went great with hot chocolate!

Ranger Dan stopped by to check our camping permit’s and to inspect the food. He spends several days out in the bush camping at night. Nice work if you can get it!

Day 6 – White Crack Campground to Potato Bottom


Merrick was usually up at day break and got the coffee going. he would put out a cold breakfast spread for those up early. Cold cereal, pastries, and fruit. Once the whole gang was up he would make a hot breakfast. While we ate he would put out the lunch deli for us to make our bag lunches to eat along the trail

Terry was an early rider and enjoyed a little shredded wheat. The hat, gloves and down jacket are not for show. It was cold in the morning until the sun peaked over the mountain tops.

Our group liked their sweets. The pastries and chocolate always went first. Followed reluctantly by the fruit.

Even with the rough terrain and all the twisting and stretching of the vehicle chassis the two dozen eggs came through unscathed with not even a cracked shell.

Breakfast burritos this morning.

Once everyone started folding their burritos, Gaylord didn’t realize it was BURRITOS and not just eggs and salsa.

Done with breakfast and packed up . . . let’s hit the trail!

Taking care of 9 old guys and on semi-old guy can be taxing not affording the time for Merrick to even set up a tent. He just sleeps out on the ground. Actually he always sleeps out and go caught in the snow storm we experienced earlier in the week.

We hadn’t even left camp when the ravens arrived to clean up after us. The park policy is, you bring it in you take it out. The ravens insure nothing is left.

Down the trail before another BIG climb.

Rule #1 when riding the White Rim . . . don’t get too close to the edge!

The scale of things is amazing . . . it’s hard to pick out the riders that are in the lead, even when they are just across the valley.

Dave demos why you ALWAYS want to now what is in front of you  . . .  long ways down here if one is day dreaming. Would be your last dream!

Kodak moment around every corner (Merrick was young enough not sure if he even knew what a Kodak is/was)

Another splash of color in the brown, gray dessert.

What goes up . . .

. . . luckily also gets to come down.

Sore hands from power braking!

Merrick on the trail behind us driving SAG.

Greg, making sure the flock sticks together and doesn’t get too spread out.



Between the rock, loose gravel and the GRADE, some are just too hard to get up. Easy to tell it’s going to be one of those as the first rider ahead dismounts. When we do make it up one and fee puffed up, we think of Merrick who rode the whole White Rim Trail in 13 hours on a single speed fixie. It’s taking us 4 days!

A steep ascent usually involves a discussion about how great we are to have gotten up it . . . even if we had to walk!!

Steep ascents mean fast descents as BillyB heads down at breakneck speed!

Not much wildlife to be seen during the day although if you look close enough it’s there. Lots of critter tracks.

Got to stop long enough to smell the roses . . . and it’s a good time for a rest.

Is that Merrick ahead . . .

Trail lunch today by Chef Merrick . . .

Day 6 cont.’

Pizza right out on the trail . . .

Ready . . . set . . . go

. . . the vultures descend.

. . . lunch on the veranda.

We had such a big lunch that Merrick proposed taking the group on a survival tour . . .

. . . into the abyss.

BillyB, our mbbt mountaineer, was the only one who followed Merrick down the long channel.

Once the water reached chest height and Merrick had to pull out BillyB after he went in over his head, they came out.

Back on the trail to Potato Bottom campground.

The river was a welcoming site on a hot day . . .

. . . but too cold for a bath. Dave takes a birdbath in the hand bath.

BillyB was our mountaineer and George and BillF were our trip scientists and meteorologists. George tuned into the weather each evening and morning to give us the update.

Chips and salsa at 5:30pm . . .

. . . as we watch Merrick add his ‘secret sauce’ to the pork tenderloins.

Ready to eat . . .

Mushroom salad with pine nuts . . .

Happy hour . . . it’s five o’clock somewhere!

As we face west we see our climb for the next day. Several riders pass through the slot as we sipped our vino and beer . . .

. . . we finally figure out the approach. It looked steep.

The call for dinner brought us out of the spell . . . couscous with raisins . . .

Dinner is served.

Seating for five. A little too spicy for BillyB.

A double decker dessert . . . in the desert.

Blueberry and strawberry rhubarb.

Gee . . . I wonder is anyone is interested in dessert?

. . .and maybe seconds, too.

Day 7 Potato Bottom to Moab


Day 4 map


Merrick gets the blueberry pancakes and sausages ready for the hungry crowd . . . see here movie here!

We go through the coffee by the POT! It takes about 30 minutes to brew another pot so we had to enlist our resident scientist/chemist to dole out the 8oz per drinker until the next pot is brewed!

Dave and I thought the tour was down right civilized due to our request for Half and Half being filled!!!

The “Priest’s Member”, as it is locally called, was our sundial to begin pedaling. When the sun it the top . . . we had to start riding.

. . . but not before one more cup of coffee!

Time for the lunch Deli . . . nice spread!

Greg had maps for everyone and we’d have a morning meeting explaining the route. Key factor . . . stay on the road!!!!!!

As we head out . . . Merrick starts his usual morning wind down and more importantly probably his QUIET ALONE time, because we are on the road!!!

The long and winding road . . . . .

OK, Let’s head up the hill we were talking so smart about last night during happy hour.

The start of the climb with our camp in the background.

Our biking resulted in the same experience as the riders last night had . . . walking the 20% grade

But what a great downhill to the river.

Canoes, kayaks and rafts  along the way . . .

. . . heading towards our biggest climb of the trip, Mineral  Bottom.

. . . it took us an hour to get to the top as we moved up the seven switchback. Several years ago a downpour washed out the climb and thee Fed’s spent over $3 million dollars reconstructing it.


One BIG climb!!!

. . . here comes Merrick, but everybody made the climb.

Once we got to the top it was another 15 miles of a steady 3 mile uphill. We finally hit the high point for the day. The old half of us took the sweet 25 mile downhill into Moab.

DaveK heads out on the first stretch of an 8% 7 mile downhill. Bonzai!!!!!

A great view of the LaSalle Mountains AND the desert. Quite a combo!

Once we hit Highway 191 we connected to the 15 mile paved trail that led us to Moab.

Smooth as a baby’s but or Gaylord’s head!!!!!!!!!!!

We all tied up back at Moab Cyclery and had a final beer with our host extraordinaire, Merrick. We wished him the best in his life ahead. We moved on with the rest of our trip and he moved back into his van!!!

Terry missed the group photo because, in his usual caring manner, he was at the City Market buying the group more beer. He bought more beer than anyone on the trip and drank the least!!!

Merrick had not ridden the White Rim Trail with a group for three years. Not sure if he actually had to refer to the manual for this ride but we’re sure he added an addendum for his peers on how to deal with 10 old guys from Wisconsin!!!!!

Day 8–Moab

Today was a day of regrouping with many loads of laundry washed, bikes washed and fixed, dust and sand being emptied out of luggage and just resting. The day also included a hike in the Arches National Park.

Started the day with the old man’s shuffle to the Peace Tree restaurant . . .

. . . where Gaylord had the Green Eggs and Ham . . .

. . . and Greg had the burrito that was enough for lunch too!

TommyG gives BillyB a lesson in washing clothes, who has never done a load in his life!!!!!

Then it was a time for a hike out to see Landscape Arch

Hoodoos along the way . . .

Happy group of hikers . . . at Landscape Arch.

On the way out to . . .

. . . recovery time for Terry who took advantage of the hot tub which was right outside his and BillyB’s suite.

Some watched the final March Madness game while those with more sense went out and had a nice steak dinner!

. . . and at least one left their camera at the steak restaurant and hopes it is still there!


Vesper martinis all around . . . .


. . .followed by an aged New York strip steak with caramelized onions, creamed spinach and roasted potatoes. A stop at the Moab Brewery for gelato topped off the evening!