Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rambler Spring Trip 2010 Part 1

The 4th annual Spring Rambler trip has come and gone and, well, it went off a LOT better than I had anticipated.

I started this post a few days ago, then got caught up in, uh, I dunno, actually talking with my wife about the stuff that happened around here while I was out galavanting around the desert. Then I got sick (and I still am), so I've been slacking on my reporting.

Because we had such epic riding, I'll break this up into 2 and possibly 3 parts, as to completely bore you with the minutia of each ride such as how the rocks sounded when the crunched under my tires and the exact smell of my jerseys after each ride.

Sometime after rolling out of RC at 1:00 am (yes, you read that right, ONE am) the decision was made that we would ride our first ride in Fruita as opposed to Top of the World at Dewey Bridge. We rode Mary's to Horsethief Bench, which turned out to be a smart decision, as sitting in the car for 11 hours does weird things to your legs. This ride was a blast, but we've done it a lot and it was fairly uneventful, so not much to report on this one.

The next morning (after setting up camp in hurricane force winds which gave me Curt Gowdy flashbacks) we woke up to overcast skies and we could see precipitation off in the distance. Time to layer up the clothes and get out there! This day was going to take us on the Gemini Bridges to Gold Bar Rim to the Portal (yes, THAT Portal trail, the one where people have died), a few of us had done the Gemini portion of this ride, but we ALL were virgin Gold Bar/Portal riders.

The plan was to drop one vehicle off at the bottom of the Portal (which we'd use to go get the other vehicles), shuttle 3 cars up to the trailhead to get 14 of us there. Then one of those cars would drive up and over the first pass of the ride, with 4 riders in the car, into the valley where the Gemini/Gold Bar junction lies. This vehicle will contain lunch for our group and this event will play a pivotal role later in this epic journey.

So, those of us that were going to pedal from the official trailhead take off after the other truck has started heading over the pass. We climb the initial big climb and as we're descending into the valley I get *SNAPPED* in the face with something hard. It starts sleeting like I've never seen. The sleet is gathering on the red rocks and running down like a sleet river. Unreal. In the valley, we actually pass our support vehicle, but just a few minutes before the junction where we're to meet.

After we get the support vehicle crew out on the trail, we roll to Gemini Bridges. This part of the ride isn't difficult at all, being all 2 track and/or dirt road, but once we get to the bridges, it was all worth it. The bridges are two natural arches, side by side, spanning the entrance to a box canyon. At the end of the box canyon is a shelf that hangs out over the end by about 30 feet or so. All of this (the bridges and the shelf) are about 300-400 feet above the canyon floor. As I always do when I go to Gemini, I lie down on my stomach on shelf and look underneath the shelf (which is only about 4" thick on the end), which freaked out everyone in the group.

After we were all done playing around on the bridges, we saddled up and headed back to the car, where we had lunch planned. You have to understand, when we plan lunch, it isn't cold cut sandwiches when possible. Nope. In our vehicle, there was coolers and a grill to make buffalo burgers with potato salad and trail beers for lunch. Yes, we do it up right. We ride our asses off on this trip and gain weight (which I don't need to do).

We end up having to find a cave/crack in the rocks to do our lunch to get out of the gale force winds, which was a great move. Hell, we could have stayed there all day, eating and drinking, but there was more trail to experience!

After our stellar lunch, we hit the trail. The first 1/4 mile was a sand trap, which wasn't making me happy. Soon, the trail turned up and into rock, which was perfect. Climbing was fun, trying to clean little step ups and ledges that would be unthinkable unless you had slickrock under your tires for other-worldly traction, which we did. We ran into a few jeepers and saw a few riders far off in the distance, but the trail traffic on the Gold Bar was light at most.

As we crested the Gold Bar, once again we're on top of a "cliff" overlooking Hwy 191, across the canyon from Arches National Park. This time we're well above 600' above the canyon floor. Hell, the cars look like dots moving across the shoelace that was the highway. The trail book we have says it rolls across the rim following "blue dots" painted on the trail. The book also says that when we lose the dots to stay as close to the rim as possible.

Well, we did lose the blue dots. And then some people started to lose their tempers, and NOW it officially became an epic ride. We were lost, people were getting pissed off, and we were too far in to turn was AWESOME! Obviously we weren't too lost, as I am relaying this story to you a week later.

We eventually did find the trail and continued to roll on. At one point the trail rounded a bend
right on the edge of the cliff, turned back and headed back away from the cliff edge. As a few of us that were in the front of the group turned around and looked back, we notice the trail was on a ledge that had NOTHING UNDER IT. Super cool and creepy at the same time. Flashes of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner went through my mind, seeing the rock fall with the riders on it, unaware they are hurtling toward the canyon floor.

We finally come to the Portal. Ahh, the infamous Portal trail. The trail that has literally claimed lives. The trail that has been talked about in probably every single bike magazine in the English speaking world. I was expecting huge, technical ledges and crazy exposure on a trail notched into a craggy cliff wall. It wasn't anything like that. The two spots where there were deaths don't look too crazy at all, which is why I suppose riders have tried those moves before falling to their deaths. Actually, if there wasn't severe penalties on the left side of the trail for messing up, a person wouldn't think twice about riding these sections.

We all walked down this section and as we got to the corner where the really dangerous stuff was over, we all gathered and were waiting for the others to come down. We turn around and see JT walking with Howie and no bikes. What the hell is going on? Jay and I walk back up to them to find out JT's legs locked up on the edge (from fear) and Howie was helping him down. Jay and I get their bikes and get everyone back to the corner. JT has never liked heights or cliffs, so his fear was understandable.

Finally we're on the final stretch of the Portal and I crash going down this stretch, twisting my bars. I have to stop and fix my bike and the group goes past me. What the hell? I was pissed that no one asked if everything was OK. Son-of-a-bitch. Now I am pissed off. Yep an epic ride.

At some point before the bottom we realize that the vehicle that was to take some of us back to the trailhead wasn't going to be able to perform this task as the keys for this vehicle were LOCKED IN THE TRUCK IN THE VALLEY. Holy SHIT! That means a few of us were going to have to ride the 10 paved miles back to the trailhead. A few of the fast guys volunteered but we realized we needed 4 riders, not 3, so I peel off and go with them. 10 miles into the wind. Uphill. On pavement. On the side of a busy highway. Sounds like a great time, which is why I went.

Shockingly, it was miserable. Probably more so for my partners, as they could have been back 10 minutes or so quicker than they were 'cause they were going slower for me. But we got to the vehicles, got back to town and cracked the keg wide open. It was a completely epic day. We had almost every weather pattern one could imagine, got lost, got scared, got hurt, had mechanicals, forgot keys and had an absolutely awesome time. This ride has to rank in my top 10 rides of all time.

WHEW. That was a lot longer than I thought. My next one won't be so long, as it was two small rides and I was fairly well hung-over, so I don't remember all of the ride.

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