Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back in the Summer of 2012

Here are some more highlights from our first Utah summer. One of these days, we will get caught up on this blog so that I am not still posting about our summer adventures when it is almost November…

Ben & Sara’s Wedding
The week before Ben & Sara’s wedding was a fun time as guests from literally all corners of the country started to arrive in Utah. Lots of family, friends and even more food. The group headed up to Solitude Mountain Resort on Thursday in a shuttle van driven by the one and only, Jon Zerbe. Literally, less than 10 miles after departing from the Zerbe-Bridges Casa, this van started shutting down. Multiple pull-offs and engine restarts later, and after rescue vehicles came to transport passengers, we finally got that stinkin’ van up the mountain.

In the days before the wedding, we all spent time checking out the resort, soaking in the hot tub, playing cornhole, enjoying the first Zerbe-Hess Bierworks home brew, Hesseweizen (label created by yours truly), mountain biking/hiking/frisbee golfing, and just hanging out. It was like summer camp. I may or may not have sung Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All” acapella-style into the retractable kitchen sink nozzle with Jon’s cousin David. From scavenger hunts to poker to Apples to Apples, this weekend had it all!

While the weather on the big day was not the best, it was a beautiful ceremony. You can’t really go wrong with huge, beautiful mountains behind you. The reception was a lot of fun and all of the food was delicious. It was great to have everyone in one place!
Rehearsal Dinner

Hesseweizen home brew 

Uinta Trip #2
In August, Ben, Sara, Jon and I made a little trip out to the Mirror Lakes in the Uinta Mountains. We got up there on a Friday and pretty much set up camp near Washington Lake and went to bed. We stayed in the Hess Family Camper.

Romy on a kayak!
Saturday, we made our way over to Lost Lake where we all took turns kayaking in the lake and fishing off the shore. The fishing wasn’t so great, but the weather was beautiful. Romy even enjoyed kayaking, snuggled down into the nose of the kayak. We found a great camp site for that night and sat around the camp fire drinking wine, then ate some delicious flank steak for dinner. Sunday, we went to mirror lake for more fishing and kayaking.

Jon fishing in Mirror Lake

Romy loving life on Swim Beach
Flaming Gorge Trip
Jon and I were super excited to finally get a weekend on Ben’s boss’ boat in the Flaming Gorge. We drove down on the last Friday in August and camped out right on Swim Beach. We woke up early for sunrise and some pronghorns joined us for the view! Since there weren’t that many people on the beach, Romy LOVED running around and splashing through the water.

We got on the boat early in the morning and set off. We drank caesars, ate lots of food, went fishing, soaked up the sun, and swam in the gorge. It was a lot of fun. We ate dinner on the dock and pretty much went right to sleep after a long day in the sun. We went out on the water again Sunday for more fishing. All together we caught about six rainbow trout that we kept and took home. I got to reel in my very first fish (other than the time I went with Jon’s parents to the hatchery which was like catching fish in a barrel). Yes, even after growing up with my Dad, I somehow had never caught a fish for real. We also got to take home some kokanee, which is a type of salmon that some other people that docked their boat nearby caught. So it was good eatin’ that week!


Jon fileting fish on the back of the boat

Other Things of Note
We met Geena Davis. Okay, we saw her.
We watched the Tour of Utah in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Our garden was killa. Still kinda is.


Friday, October 5, 2012

Transition to Weekend Warrior

This year will mark the first year in my life since 2002 that I didn’t compete in a single bike race. There is cyclocross season coming up, but to be honest I am in terrible shape compared to past years. It doesn’t mean I have ceased riding altogether. My SLC riding buddy Ryan Emery calls racers - “try hards”. Plus I am making “real” money again, I am becoming increasingly important at my job, and my bikes are in need of some serious upgrades. So my workout schedule now consists of one or two big rides a weekend.

A quick reflection on when I raced back east. After you ride Blue Marsh for the thousandth time it’s nice to go out and do a race series that basically forces you to ride new places – especially those races held on private land (I miss the Cat Classic). Even when I lived in West Virginia I only raced three WVMBA races and two were in Davis. I did go to a lot of collegiate races. The point is when living at a new place that has so many new trails, I think it is ok to cast aside racing and start exploring.

I did plan a whole race season scheduled around Enduro racing – where you still have to climb but only the downhills are timed. But schedule conflicts and expensive entry fees pretty much kept me out of all of the races I wanted to do. So I explored the wonderful state of Utah and thankfully my job facilitates that.

The Front

There’s plenty of riding within a short drive from my house – and really great trails with sick downhills. City Creek, Mueller Park, the Bobsled Trail – just to name a few. And I’m quickly finding out why everyone out here rides a trail bike that climbs well – closest rise is an 8 mile loop, 4 mile climb of 1400 feet. You can shuttle some of these but the climbing is still there. I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to grunting climbs on my Cannondale Moto. Leading me to one of the worst crashes I ever had. The day after my sister’s wedding at Solitude (which I rode some lift chair runs in the rain the morning of the wedding) I took Jarkon Anderslammer for a quick Bobsled shuttle. Climbed up to the top, and as we started coming down I heard a noise like tire rub then the next thing I knew the front wheel CAME OFF. No time to brace for impact, I went tomahawking down the trail with the rest of my bike. In fact, when Jarkon rode down he saw only my front wheel and nothing else. Only to discover I was down the trail, blood everywhere, with my bell rung. All he could say was expletives, and the only first aid we had was some toilet paper I fastened to my arm with a zip tie and a rubber band from a tube. Long story short I rode the rest of the way down with my cracked helmet, and the nurse found a pebble in my arm. I walked away with lots of road rash, two puncture wounds in my arm, and my neck and back feeling like I was hit by a car. To this day I’m not sure how my front axle unthreaded itself.
The crash put me out for a month of prime riding time. I still managed to get some sweet rides in. Elsewhere along the Wasatch Front there’s an awesome set of IMBA built trails down in Draper called Corner Canyon that has one-way downhill trails (my favorite part). There’s Mill Creek which has the Pipeline – I swear it’s the only flat trail in Utah – which has one of my favorite downhill options called Rattlesnake Gulch. I also got to ride DH runs at Deer Valley on my Scalpel with Andy during the Cannondale sales meeting.  But the highlight of all the front is the Wasatch Crest. It’s a massive shuttle ride that starts at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon and finishes in Mill Creek Canyon. Ryan and I rode it for 3 weekends in a row trying to get it in before the snow comes. Of course I take the Moto and suffer up Puke Hill and the rest of the 1000 feet of climbing, but oh my the downhills. The iconic section of this trail is “The Spine”, a super rocky section featured on the label for Squatter’s Full Suspension Pale Ale. Check out this video of it when I had Ryan’s GoPro on my seatpost - The Spine

Vernal, Payson and Jenn’s Century

Work does take me to places in the middle of nowhere, so I usually will try and find a middle of nowhere trail – the Corkscrew outside of Vernal in northeastern Utah. I am one of 7 people who have ridden it and recorded it on How did I find the trailhead you ask? GPS coordinates and the hubcaps and bike shoes nailed to the fence.  It was a fun, sandy trail, and I can’t wait to check out this area more next time I am sent out for work!

Jenn did the Wonder Woman century in Payson, UT which sits at the southern end of the valley. She bravely signed up for the 100 mile ride, even thought she had never ridden anything that length. While she was out riding, I was going to head up Payson Canyon with the Scalpel to check out the riding up there. I should have had the Moto and a shuttle vehicle. And just a tip, if you ever go to a place that is best setup for shuttling, you are shuttling with a big pickup truck and only 2 guys, and you talk to a guy in the parking lot who’s by himself and has never ridden here – offer that guy a shuttle. 4 hours, a clif bar, and 70oz of water later I got back to my truck. I was beat. I talked to a guy, by himself, unloading his bike and offered him a shuttle. He turned it down. I told him, I thought I would ask since I could of used one and continued to describe him my ride – his response “Wow, yeah, that’s a lot of climbing.” Once I got to Subway and housed a foot-long I saw my Strava results – 4506 feet of climbing in 23 miles. I just laughed. By the time I got back to the start/finish for Jenn’s century and got a text that she was already at the 70 mile mark. I just hung around and waited for her to finish. I was so proud to see her roll in at around 9 hours despite getting 2 flats!

St. George vs. Moab

Despite being here almost a year, I’ve only made one biking trip to Moab so far and it was for Ben’s bachelorish weekend before the wedding. Jason, Ben, and I went “patches deep” in the Whole Enchilada – 4+ hours, 5 tubes. By far that is my favorite ride. Jason’s first time down, he reflected on the experience by saying “If this isn’t your favorite trail, you haven’t ridden it yet.” Truer words have never been spoken. But I got to ride another southern Utah mountain bike hotspot….


On the other end of Utah in the very southwest corner is a little place called St. George. Nearby town of Virgin hosts the Red Bull rampage. I thought of checking out the rampage area but I took the Scalpel down again, because I did have to work during the day so my riding time would be limited. On the first day, I rode Gooseberry Mesa, probably the most famous of all the trails down there. It is just south of Zion National Park, which paints a beautiful skyline for most of the ride. Gooseberry is similar to Moab’s Slickrock Trail, but in my opinion is a better ride. The trail is just more fun and has unique tricky areas and more play areas with names like “God’s Skatepark”. Also has areas of singletrack scattered about. This area alone makes me want to forego taking visitors to Moab and instead take visitors to St. George. The next night I had to race against the sunset and pound out another quick fun loop called Barrel Roll. The next day was the most disappointing, because I started on another St. George classic –Bearclaw Poppi. This trail at the bottom has a million different lines and is confusing especially to a newcomer like me. I ended up taking Stucki Springs and got lost a little bit and finished it as an out-and-back. I’ll try it a second time before I bash it completely, but so far I see why Moab still remains on top. St. George is less than 2 hours from a major airport – Las Vegas, compared to 3.5-4 hours from SLC like Moab. But the trail systems like Gooseberry and Santa Clara (Barrel Roll) require decent vehicle clearance and can be tricky to drive to (especially with a rental car). There are trail markers in both areas, but in all the times I rode in Moab I think I took one wrong turn. ONE! I struggled to stay on track in St. George, even using the same one page ride-guides. St. George has potential, I just need more time and another trip down there for work.   

With all these places I’ve ridden and only riding every now and then, I have been pretty happy being a weekend warrior. I appreciate you reading this long post, so I’ll try to keep the blog updated with more individual riding adventures.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Moab Adventure

After our extended week with my parents, we took one weekend to relax before we started another adventure – in Moab!

It was nice to finally get down to Moab; everyone has been telling me how much I would love it ever since we moved here. Jon loves it there and it was kind of hard to believe that we hadn’t gone down there at all yet, considering we’d been here over EIGHT months (can you believe it?!). So, the weekend before Ben & Sara’s wedding, a group of us headed south.

We got there Friday evening in time to check into our hotels and grab some dinner and beers at Zax. And that was pretty much all we did Friday night. We had to rest up for the next day.

Saturday, we all regrouped at the Moab Diner for breakfast. Delish and I ate a lot, ignoring the fact that I’d be bouncing around in a Jeep all day. No matter. After breakfast, we went to the Jeep rental place and scooped up two more Jeeps to add to Ben & Sara’s, and we all set off to the Seven Mile Rim trail. It was a gorgeous day which provided for great sight-seeing and pictures. The off-roading experience was a lot of fun. I was only slightly nervous and as the day went on, I got less and less so.

The Jeeps

Uranium Arch

The Group -- Sara, Ben, Paul, Jason, Scoob, Jim, Me, Jon, Bryan

Determination Towers

Burnt Toast Slices (kind of center of the photo here)

After riding with my trusty man and protector of sorts (aka JZ), our Jeep went all-girl. Sara, Scoob and I conquered major off-roading obstacles all the while looking pretty. ;) While Sara was clearly the most experienced in our Jeep, we all got to take turns driving which was a lot of fun.

Girls' Jeep

I drove! And yes I was slightly nervous, but that's not why I look retarded here... I was also chewing a Snickers.

After a full day of Jeeping, we headed back to town to shower up and headed to Eddie McStiff’s for some dinner and afterward went to a nearby bar for a few drinks and hula-hoop spectating (you read that right).

Sunday, the boys headed off for some mountain biking and I went on a road ride on a nice paved path that leads right out of town. It was a nice ride and very scenic.

A sweet, paved bike path was available

Riding over the Colorado River on a cleeeearrr day!

When I got back, we milled around downtown, got some lunch, then Jon’s Dad, Scoob and I drove out to Castle Creek Winery for a quick tasting and tour of a museum highlighting all of the movies which were filmed in Utah (several). After buying a few bottles, we headed back to meet up with the group and start our drive back north.

Castle Creek Winery

All in all, a great adventure! Looking forward to going back soon so I can check out Arches National Park! J

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Allen & Cindy Do Utah

In June, my parents came out for a long visit. We filled their time here with lots of fun stuff! They arrived on a Friday evening; we welcomed them to Utah with a fresh, all-grill-prepared dinner and we ate outside on our newly purchased patio set (that was a display model with a very slight tear in the umbrella, so it was $50… steal!). Romy was so excited to see my Dad she peed on the floor, which had not happened in ages. Sweet girl knows her family.

Saturday morning, we got up early, loaded my parents’ rented Jeep Compass, dropped Romy off at Diggity Dog and then headed for Jackson, WY. The drive was, of course, scenic – it is Utah after all – and it was given soundtrack by my Dad’s “oohs and ahhs,” “look at thats!,” and “holy snot bubbles!” comments, which were played every minute of the way. Seriously though, he did say those things all day, every day for like 3 days straight. Haha – love ya, Dad. :) We were also required to stop for several typical tourist photo ops, including this one:

Mom & Dad at Welcome to Idaho sign
We arrived in Jackson a little after lunch time and went to The Antler Inn to check into our room before heading out to explore the town. Once we got to the room and unloaded our things, we realized we would have new cause for exploring the town – getting clothes and undergarments for Jon and myself, who like dummies, forgot our bag of stuff at home. Thankfully, The Antler Inn is about ten steps from an Eddie Bauer, which was having a pretty good sale so we were able to get a few staples to carry us through the next couple days. We still needed undies and socks, however. So, Jon and I went on a mission to find those items (which took a while, surprisingly) while my parents continued walking around the town.

After all of that, we were ready for a drink! We all got ready, then walked to the Snake River Brewpub for dinner. While eating our yummy food, we overheard (or eavesdropped, whatever you want to call it) people at the next table talking about a rodeo. Apparently, the Jackson Hole Rodeo show would be taking place that night. We looked up the location and asked our server how far away it was. She told us it would be a 20-minute walk or we could take the bus, which was free and had a stop right down the street. I am not a huge public transport person (I’m sorry, I just don’t like being that close to strangers sometimes… when I think bus, my mind automatically goes to the drunk bus in Ocean City.. no thanks) and I don’t think any of us felt like walking, so we went back to get the Jeep. Five seconds later, we were there. Seriously, it would have taken us TWO minutes (not twenty you silly, spatially-challenged server girl) to walk there. Oh well.

Right away, I think we were all pretty excited. It was a real, freakin’ rodeo! YEEHAW! We got seats in the bleachers, then Jon & I got ourselves some Coors Banquet. The rodeo was pretty cool. I would have to say the girls that ran the horses out super fast and around the barrels was my favorite event. I was NOT a fan of the event where the cowboys tried to lasso a calf by its head and back hooves. On the handful of occasions where they were successful, the calf was basically pulled at both ends and fell down in the dirt. It was just kind of sad to watch that! Jon made friends with this guy sitting in front of us and they bought each other beers. Ironically, two days later we saw them at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. It’s funny how you always see the same people on vacation even when you’re not trying to. After the rodeo, we called it a night.

Mom & Dad at the Jackson Hole Rodeo

Jon & I at the Jackson Hole Rodeo

My favorite event at the rodeo
Sunday morning, we got up early, got breakfast and started our drive to Yellowstone. On the way, we passed by the Grand Tetons, which are stunning. It was a beautiful drive and we did get out a few times to get a few photos in front of the mountains and also at Jackson Lake.

The Grand Tetons are b-e-a-uuutiful!

Mom by Jackson Lake
Then we got into Yellowstone Park. First observation about it: it. is. GI-NORMOUS! Just so, so vast. Visiting Yellowstone means lots of driving from stop to stop. So, our stops on that day included:

Stop #1: Continental Divide Sign – a typical tourist photo op requested by my Dad

Mom & Dad at the Continental Divide
Stop #2: Yellowstone Lake – view of the Yellowstone Lake at the West Thumb, as well as many small hot springs around it

West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake

Mom & Dad in front of Yellowstone Lake

Some of the hot springs by the West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake

Stop #3: Old Faithful – saw it erupt twice, and also saw the eruption of Beehive Geyser (a less active and less predictable one, so pretty cool! It is also said to shoot higher than Old Faithful)

Eruption of Beehive Geyser

Old Faithful post-eruption with a nice sky

Typical tourist photo op at Old Faithful

Stop #4: Midway Geyser Basin – included seeing the Grand Prismatic Spring (really cool) as well as other, smaller hot springs and geysers

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring
Stop #5: Fountain Paint Pots – paint pots are these things that looking like bubbling clay, if you want the actual description of what they are, please ask Jon Zerbe

Fountain Paint Pots
Stop #6: Gibbons Falls

Gibbons Falls
Stop #7: Canyon Village Campground

We set up camp, then is started to drizzle. It rains almost EVERY time Jon and I camp, so I was like REALLY?! But thankfully, it only lasted like 20 minutes. After that, we set to work making a dinner of chili then ate it and played cards. I may or may not have been a nazi about putting everything food-related back into the Jeep immediately after its use for fear of bears tracking our scent. It is Bear Country, people! We slept pretty well minus what sounded like a bear but really was a man in the next campsite over snoring to high heaven. We got some breakfast and coffee, then headed out for our second day of sight-seeing. Stops included:

Stop #1: Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River – probably my favorite sight, so beautiful and so much to look at in one place

Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Jon & I in front of Lower Falls
Stop #2: Tower Falls – waterfall where Tower Creek meets the Yellowstone River

Tower Falls
Stop #3: Petrified Tree

Petrified Tree
Stop #4: Mammoth Hot Springs – a really, very small area of hot springs… actually, it’s pretty f-in huge.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Hot Springs

Canary Pool at Mammoth Hot Spring

Liberty Cap, dormant geyser near Mammoth Hot Springs

Herd of buffalo that held up traffic on our way out of Yellowstone
After that, we made our way out of Yellowstone and continued the drive back to SLC. On Tuesday, Jon went back to work, but I still had a couple days off. I took my parents out to Park City. We walked around the town, got some lunch, then went to the Utah Olympic Park. At the Olympic Park, we signed up for a guided tour but had a little time to kill, so decided to do the zip line thing. The zip line descends at the same angle as the Nordic ski jumps which were used in the 2002 Winter Olympics. We took the chair lift up and ended up having to wait a while because of the wind. After waiting a little longer, one of the employees there let us go down the Alpine Slide for free, which was this little toboggan ride. Pretty cool. Finally, we were able to do the zip line, which was fun, but we had wasted so much time we’d missed our tour and now had time to kill until the next one. We passed the time by watching people do these ski jumps into a pool. It was actually pretty entertaining. Then, we took the tour which was pretty fun and informative. We got to get very close to the bobsled track, which is what’s also used for luge and other sports. When the Olympics were held there, people could pay $35 to stand that close to the bobsled track. CRAZY! That night we took my parents to Red Iguana for some delicious Mexican food.

Mom & Dad at Utah Olympic Park

Mom & Dad riding the chair lift at Utah Olympic Park

Mom coming down the Alpine Slide

Curve 11 of the bobsled track at Utah Olympic Park
Wednesday, we wanted to go do a tour of Timpanogos Cave but as it turned out there was no room that day, so my parents made reservations to do it Thursday. So, we headed off to Red Butte Gardens to take a little tour and walk around. I had been there before with Christina and it was very nice, but this time the rose bushes were in great bloom and looked lovely! That night, my Dad, Jon and cousin Lance played golf so my Mom and I got pedicures and made some dinner. 

Roses in bloom at Red Butte Gardens
Thursday and Friday I went back to work, so my parents were on their own. On Thursday, they did the Timpanogos Cave Tour which they enjoyed and on Friday, they drove to my Aunt Linda’s so my dad could go fishing with my Uncle Tom and they got lunch and spent some time visiting with them. On Saturday, we had a cookout so that my aunt, uncle, and cousins that live in Utah could come down to the house and visit with my parents. It was fun and lots of good food. That night, we all went to see the Salt Lake Bees, a local minor league baseball team. Then Sunday morning, we saw them off as they headed to the airport and back to Maryland.

Overall, it was a really great visit. I was so happy that we were able to see and do so much! Can’t wait until they can come back again!