Meeting Challenge in Moab

When I first arrived in Moab, coming down out of the dramatic red canyons past the entrance to Arches National Park, I was greeted by a mess of traffic. When I got into town, I could see that the main road through town was totally congested due to construction.

This was a double blow to my expectations, as I had been hoping for a peaceful unharried experience, and the route I intended to ride here ran through town along the road that was cut down to 2 lanes by construction.

The route I intended to ride was the La Salle Mountain Loop, a 60 mile loop that started out following the Colorado River and proceeded to climb the La Salle Mountains and offer amazing views of the area.

By the time I arrived at my campsite, I had a headache from drinking too much yerba mate and enduring all the elevation changes on the drive from Denver.

I was trying to keep an open mind, but I wasn’t feeling optimistic about my trip at that point. My muscles had been really sore feeling overworked the whole week before I left.

That night as I tried to sleep in my tent, my calves were cramping up, adding to my doubt about my ability execute on the ride I had planned.

Between my muscle pains, dehydration, and the unexpected construction, I had plenty of fuel for anxiety to call me to question whether I should try the ride.

In the morning, I decided to get up and set out with the option of just riding a little to see how I felt. I started my route-finding app with the whole route because I figured I might as well.

The ride through town wasn’t terribly convenient, but it didn’t take long to get to the Lions Park trailhead at the intersection of US-191 and UT-128.

A view of the Colorado River from the bike path that runs along the first few miles of UT-128 East of Moab.

The reward was about 15 miles of riding through indescribably beautiful red-walled canyons that open up into one fantastic view after another. This was one of those rides where one of the challenges was limiting how many pictures you take so you can actually get somewhere!

By the time I got into the canyon, I had settled into the pace of the ride. I still wasn’t sure how far I was going to go or how much energy I would have.

I had a lot of new kit, and it was my first time riding somewhere remote.

Ultimately, I just kept peddling. I had driven the route the previous day, and I was really looking forward to getting to some of the unique and wonderful scenery that laid ahead.

As soon as you start climbing the La Salle Loop road, you’re greeted with a unique landscape of plant-covered red dunes.

Around 20 miles into the ride, I arrived at the start of the La Salle Loop road, much of which winds through National Forest.

I knew the route was going to start climbing, and I was concerned about the weight of my saddle bag throwing off the balance of my bike. I had only just got the bag and hadn’t done any climbing with it loaded.

I ended up drinking the couple liters of water I had in the bag to lighten my load. Then I stretched out a little bit and set out to do some climbing.

The road started out climbing steeply, causing me to slog along in my lowest gear. I stopped to remove some layers halfway through the climb, as the day was warming up. Then I finished the climb and found myself in Castle Valley.

The north side of Castle Valley is lined with fascinating rock formations.

Caste Valley is an incredibly scenic valley that provides views of spires on its north side and a long continuous cliff face along its south end that slopes upward along with the whole valley to the La Salle Mountains.

I knew that the route I was planning to ride had a lot of climbing, but I wasn’t prepared for how much of the climbing took place in Castle Valley.

I didn’t have any ability to corroborate how much climbing I was doing, but I did have my simple odometer to tell me my speed. And the ride through Castle Valley was very slow.

I could see across the whole valley for the entirety of the 10 miles I rode on this stretch. It was a huge mental challenge to keep riding with the strain of slowly going uphill while the enormous valley went by so slowly that it felt like I was getting nowhere.

I ultimately ended up climbing 3700 feet, and most of that was in this valley.

Stopped and had a snack here on the La Salle Loop Road. This may be where I picked up a thorn that punctured my rear tire.

As I neared the end of the valley and was approaching the base of the mountains that the route climbed up, I had to admit I was exhausted. In fact, I was so exhausted that I didn’t even take a picture around the area. All I was thinking about was how tired I was.

I didn’t realize how much of the climbing I had already done. I wrestled with myself about turning around, but I knew it was what I had to do.

As it turned out, it was a good decision. As I was flying back down Castle Valley beyond the top speed gear of my bike, which was when it truly struck me how much I’d climbed, I realized I had a flat tire.

I stopped to change the tire with a spare tube I had in my kit. Unfortunately, I think my technique in replacing it wasn’t great. I was able to ride another 15 miles or so on the new tube, but then it, too, blew out.

I was out of tubes and in the middle of the UT-128 portion of the route with about 12 miles left to go to get back to my campsite.

Riding the route back on UT-128, I enjoyed what views I could despite riding a flat back tire.

Since there was no reception in the canyon, I realized the only options I had were to try to get a ride back to town or ride the flat 12 miles back. I decided to ride the flat.

It wasn’t ideal. I just had to keep myself going mentally.

I was counting off the miles one by one, trying not to get ahead of myself mentally. My roommate, Mandi, had told me about a ride she’d done on Vail Pass where she had to ride a flat a lot of the way. So I had some ability to frame it in my mind as just a thing that happens sometimes.

Eventually, I got back to town, had a huge dinner, and crashed for the night. In the morning, I tried to change my back tube again and blew out the new tube as I was inflating it.

I was bordering on giving up on riding for the rest of my trip. I even posted my frustration on Facebook. Fortunately, a friend of mine, Lynn, gave me some encouragement.

I decided to keep trying. I went into town to get some more tubes, then I found a YouTube video that showed a different technique for changing a tube. I followed the tutorial and was able to get my tube fixed.

In the end, it was a ride that presented a range of challenges that provided me with opportunities to grow. Now that I’ve dealt with all those challenges, I am more confident in being able to ride in unknown areas.

Published by Miles of Mindfulness

My name is Mike Bragg. I'm a Denver-based cycling enthusiast and a big advocate of mindfulness. I enjoy the outdoors, and I use mindfulness practices to help myself be more present with my adventures. I like to read challenging material, and I have a keen interest in ancient history and natural sciences.

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