White Rim: The Most Epic of Adventures

“What section of White Rim are you guys doing?” Sully asked. Not sure how to respond I said, “Uh…all of it…”. “Okay, do you have an exit strategy?” He inquired. “Yeah, finish it and exit.” That wasn’t quite working for him. “What if something happens?” He probed. “Call Alex.” “What if you don’t have service?” “Ahh, we’ll be fine. Don’t worry.” This conversation took place at 9pm on Friday as I was heading to Moab to ride the 103 mile White Rim trail the next morning.

The beginning of any adventure begins with getting there-Ha!

Dana and I had been talking about riding White Rim for a while and the opportunity presented itself when we’d have some friends there the same weekend. Done. We roughly had a plan, start around 8, go clockwise, just keep pedaling, and plan for anywhere between 9 and 12 hours. The route is about 75 miles on double track along the rim with the final 25 miles being on gravel and pavement going back to the start near the visitor’s center in Canyonlands. We thought it would be best to leave a car near the 75 mile mark and shuttle the start. After a little putzing around, like sitting down to eat breakfast, we left Moab to park my car and begin. The road to park my car required some negotiating, the double track was rutted in some places and had massive rocks in others with sand pits scattered in between. I was grateful we wouldn’t have to ride up it in the dark.

Hour 1 selfie

We got to a “Y” and were surprised not to see any other cars but didn’t think much about it. We loaded up into one car and took off for the start. We pulled back onto the highway and about half a mile later saw the road sign for where we should have parked the car. “Uhhh.” “Ohhh!” And then we both hysterically broke into laughter and laughed so hard that we cried. Alex pulled over and asked what we wanted to do. “Muh, we’ll figure it out. We can always hitch hike to the car or have you come get us.” After some confusion on where the start was we were finally on our bikes, it was only noon.  Don’t worry we brought the guide book and a big map.

Guys couldn’t hang

The start was great with a nice 3 mile descent into the canyon. About 15 miles in we came on a group of older guys riding it. We asked where they were stopping and then told us (about 10 miles from where we were) and that they started around 10:30. When we casually told them we were doing the whole thing they seemed flabbergasted. Dana and I rode with two of the guys and the guy I was riding with seemed to want to push the pace so I did. After going around a bend I decided to wait up for Dana. The guy stopped with me to wait for his friend as well. We saw Dana get off the bike but couldn’t figure out what she was doing. The guy I had been riding with expressed his concerns about Dana being able to finish. I started laughing and informed him that she’s one of the top ultrarunners around and knows how to do endurance.  He was stunned and offered me some cliffblocks, which I was about to tell him that I was carrying about 6,000 calories with me but the Wayne in me interjected and saw it as free food so I took it and thanked him. Those guys took off and Dana caught up saying she had to stop to go to the bathroom. We laughed about the fact that they were only doing 25 miles today and were concerned about us when we started 90 minutes after and still caught them. We also wondered what they do at camp all day, like why not keep riding?

The views never got old

After that we faced a steady incline, the kind you don’t realize you are riding uphill until you turn around. It was only made worse by the fact there was a nasty headwind. When do we turn around and get the tailwind? We rewarded ourselves at the top with skittles. We kept cruising right along running into only two more groups riding. One lady was very excited, “That’s just fantastic! Two girls, just two girls riding into the dark! Doing the whole thing! Just two girls!” Dana replied with, “Yep! Just two girls pedaling” which was our motto from there on out.

We kept saying how lucky we were because we have the best views watching the sunset from the top

of a hill. We were then greeted by a friendly family when we stopped by a campsite to put our lights on. We chatted and took them up on their offer for a buffalo chicken sandwich. They made sure we didn’t need anything else before we continued. As we were walking away I quietly told Dana that my light was dead. She fumbled around in her bag and produced another headlamp. Good lord, it’s not like I don’t have access to multiple other lights and I pick the one that can’t hold a charge. 

Dana crushing!

We took off into the night with about 17 miles left. Riding at night was pretty awesome. You could never quite tell when you were next to the rim except for a feeling of vast emptiness lurking right there. We even contemplated telling Alex to sit this one out, we were going to do another loop.
We were certainly slower in the dark but didn’t fret much about it as we were only going to mile 73. Plus, the temperature had cooled off a bit making it more enjoyable riding weather.

The last 17 miles were pretty uneventful. We both fell, but it was more of a slow motion get stuck in the sand and then fall over, which if nothing else was more comical than anything. With some more navigating we got to the campground right around 10. Two people came out and asked if we needed
water, which we both had plenty of. What we really wanted was a ride but they weren’t picking up what we were dropping down. Seven miles was the next push, and we figured we’d probably see Alex sometime soon.

The seven miles were flat and dead-ended into a “T”. If we turned left it took us two miles down to Mineral Bottom, where we had initially planned on parking. If we turned right it took us up a ridiculously two mile steep climb before another 10.7 miles to the highway. We paused at the conundrum. We took the left, hoping maybe Alex thought to park where we wanted to. We descended down and reached a parking lot. We went through seeing no sign of his truck and stopped in sand gully. We looked at the two track leading out the other side and only saw deep sand going up. Not wanting to forage through that we turned back to head towards the highway. If nothing else we’ll get cell service there and have Alex meet us. “Oba dee obladi da…” Dana would sing when we got back on our bikes, “just keep pedaling.” And then we’d laugh. Just two girls pedaling. We climbed back out and passed by the road we had just come from and started the incessant climb. We stopped about halfway up and sat in the middle of the road to eat snickers. We contemplated taking a nap but thought it best to get a hold of Alex and then sleep.

Clearly not taken at night.

We persisted and crested the top and began an easy spin on the gravel. Two miles later Dana’s phone pinged. Oh my gosh this is the best! Dana tried calling but not enough service to connect. I sent a text, “Alex it’s 12:14- we are on mineral spring road heading to 313- please come get us :)” Not a moment later I got a response. “En route” Oh my gosh! This is it! “Dana! He’s coming!” We continued cycling on, because really at this point why not. Debating what “En Route” meant, was he at the big campsite, or town or closer. We worried maybe he would take the wrong road but decided he probably wouldn’t. We saw what looked like two head lights in the distance, “Hammer time!” We pinned it for maybe 2 minutes before realizing the closer we got the further it seemed to be.What is that? Is it a car? Even if it’s not Alex, we’re getting a ride (Alex later told us it was a well site, which made sense as to why it was not coming to get us). We kept checking in with Alex. I told Dana it was the longest I had been on my bike, she told me to join the club. At one point she biked closer to me and whispered, “So, four minutes ago….” thinking it was going to be something about Alex, I said “Yah…?” “I ran over a snake!” Still hushed. “Was it alive?” “Yah” “Okay, well thanks for waiting to tell me.” Later I found out she was going to wait 5 minutes to tell me but couldn’t wait that long. I thought to myself, this is why we’re not sleeping out here, I’ll have some snake cuddle up next to me and that would be the death of me.

The best shuttle bunny.

The rumbling of Alex’s truck along with distant headlights made us euphoric. “Most epic adventure ever!” As we took off towards the truck. I told Alex I have never been happier to see any human at 1:30am as he rolled down his window. We recited the whole trip to Alex as he drove us to my car. We decided to all camp there instead of driving an hour back to the big camp. Marinating in 13.5 hours of sweat, dirt and blood wasn’t my ideal condition but I still seemed to have a pretty restful sleep. When I woke up the next morning and got out of the car I saw Dana and we immediately burst into laughter. Like she said, “You know it’s a good adventure when you wake up and just start laughing before saying anything.” I couldn’t agree more.

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