|Riding Musselman Arch|
Now 100 miles is a long way to go on a mountain bike. Besides the distance, the biggest problem is water. There is none available on this ride. The ideal solution is to have someone drive a sag vehicle. Then the ride isn't very committing and you have supplies galore. Of course the problem is finding someone to drive 100 miles of 10 mph road. Rotating drivers is a common solution. Another way is to go unsupported. That's a much more difficult task.
Nowadays you even need a permit to ride the trail in one day. They don't cost anything and no one checked us for a permit, but the idea is to limit the number of people out there. We saw a number of other people but it never felt crowded and nearly the entire time we were alone.
Mark invited his good friend Dan to join us and he headed out a day early. Having two cars gave us a significant advantage, as we stashed one vehicle 18 miles into our ride. With a cool shortcut that Mark found using Google Maps, our ride was 96 miles. Hence, we only had to ride 78 miles unsupported. To handle this distance on a day forecasted to get into the high 70's we carried 150 ounces of fluid each. That's a load.
|Starting out at 6 a.m.|
By the time we met Dan, stashed the vehicle, and got down to our campsite it was midnight. Dan tested out his bike and promptly endo-ed when his front tired dropped into a foot-deep ditch. He was shaken up and went to sleep with a stiff neck. Our plan was to be riding by 6 a.m. via headlamps and we snuggled into our sleeping bags. My phone was buried in the pocket of my jacket and I didn't heard my alarm. Dan was sleeping fifty feet away and he did. I didn't wake up until I heard the other two getting their gear together.
We turned the pedals right on schedule. I had a $10 Target headlamp and clustered around the two so that I could see. Mark's light was as bright as a car's high beams. The climb up to the plateau is only a mile and a half and went by relatively easily, steep though. Then we rolled along for nine more miles, climbing gradually, until we came to our shortcut. It was light at this point and we turned off our lights. The shortcut road is much more fun to ride and more representative of the rest of the ride. It's highly recommended.
We took two hours to get to Dan's car, where we took a 20-minute break to refuel, shed our warm clothes, and take on our full load of food and water. Then we dropped in...
The White Rim Trail is so named because it follows the rim of the plateau that is a thousand feet above the Colorado and Green Rivers, and 1500 below the Island-in--the-Sky plateau where the paved road is. The trail is mostly level, with some rolls, except for two significant climbs: Murphy's Hogback and Hardscrabble, not counting the giant climb out, which we'd already done.
|Dropping down the Shafer Trail|
We stopped, briefly, at Musselman Arch because it is so cool and such fun to ride across, as it looks spectacular, though not hard to do. Dan took the photos because once his wife saw a photo of him riding it, she banned him from ever doing it again.
We cruised around, catching other riders and chatting them up a bit before moving on by them. Forty miles into the ride, Dan went through a rough patch where he was bonking a bit. With more than half the ride to go, this caused him some concern. We slowed down a bit and he hung tough. Dan had ridden the White Rim in a day a half dozen before, so he knew about rough patches and how to get through them.
Five miles before Murphy's Mark and I were having some fun riding fast and rolling through descents and short rises. I got pumped up a bit, spotted some riders ahead, and gave chase. Why? Just for fun. I caught and passed a couple of riders and then set my sights on a fit, fast guy ahead. He appeared to look back at me a couple of times, which only increased my motivation. When I caught him, I eased up and rode along next to him. We were still moving plenty fast enough. He was part of a 7-rider group doing the trail in a day, with a support vehicle. We'd seen the support vehicle earlier, when we passed it. In it were two chicks, one a young, leggy blonde. We nicknamed them the PYT group, after the Michael Jackson song.
|The White Rim is very sharply defined|
I ate my sandwich, drank 24 ounces of Gatorade and waited for Mark and Dan. These two wisely saved their strength, not burning any matches, and pushed their bikes to the top. We rested for a bit. Dan hydrated and downed a 5-hour energy drink that he found, yes, found, on the shortcut road four hours earlier. This stuff apparently works, as Dan was a new man after this climb, riding off the front of Mark and I for most of the next twenty miles.
|The team at the top of Murphy's Hogback|
We stopped in the shade of the final outhouse at the foot of the Hardscrabble climb. We had only ten miles to go, but we were fading fast. After some hydrating and food, we mounted for the final push. Almost immediately, Mark bonked, though we didn't know it at the time. The rejuvenated Dan led me up the climb, while Mark faded. I barely made it up the first steep section, working hard in no small part because Dan was cleaning it in front of me. The crux section is the steepest and loosest of the entire ride. Dan made a valiant effort, but no dice. He dismounted. I didn't make it either, but instead of dismounting, I tipped over. Mountain biking is not my forte.
|Views on this ride are pretty amazing...|
I stayed with him and we made it to the top of the climb together with just one more rest. There Mark got a lot more liquid down. This would help immensely, but would take awhile to get into his system. For the next thirty minutes Mark had to push his bike up any rise in the trail. Once we started the descent from Hardscrabble for good, though, Mark was able to ride all the rollers. He was still tired and certainly not fully recovered, but he did fine finishing the ride.
|Dan atop Hardscrabble|
And Mark and I got in our big adventure for 2016... Hopefully we do more in 2017.