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Family Values in Utah

Towards the end of a mountain bike ride, when I am feeling my best, I saw this family enjoying a ride together in Utah. I don't think a vision of a family ever seemed more appealing.


The boy was even wilder and more spirited than the border collie. His parents were wise to let him go first so he wouldn't always be struggling to keep up with them, and becoming discouraged. The bike was too large for him, but no doubt he was looking forward to growing into it -- and as soon as possible!

The Longest Day...in Frog Hollow

It is quite something how popular 24-hour races have become over the last few years. But why should that matter to anybody other than extreme athletes? 

That was the challenge before me, as I camped in "Frogtown" and volunteered at the "longest 24 hour race in the world," so called because it goes from 10 am Saturday to 10 am Sunday, over the end of Daylight Savings Time. Thus it is 25 hours long in real time, and Frog-Time.


Practical benefit: I learned how some 29 inch mountain bikes will accommodate the 27.5 inch (aka, '650') wheels with 'plus' sized (wide) tires.  I was leaning to the 650 Plus bikes for my next mountain bike.

Additional benefit: having my nose rubbed in the obsolete-ness of my 26 inch mountain bike. Will I even be able to buy tires for it five years from now?

When roaming free range over a wide group of people, it is so easy to begin categorizing creatures. Otherwise the human mind drowns in minute and fractured details. Here is a li…

Finally, Finding Hope in Moab

I have been struggling to make 'lemonade from the lemons' of Moab. The pressure was made worse by a Utah school holiday coming up. But I'm glad I didn't give-in to defeatism. 

Surprisingly good results can come from remembering that 'the early bird gets the worm.' There is a jeep/ATV road that is easy to see from my campsite. It looked quite appealing to mountain bike on. Should I be so foolishly naive as to try?

I started a few minutes after sunrise, when it was still chilly. For the first hour and a half, not a single motorized device passed me, despite this trail being well-signed and well-known. Then I popped out on a dirt road and had a nice conversation with a young couple who was taking their niece on a walk. My dog loves children, and vice versa.

It is not surprising that this worked, but it is that it worked so well, and in Moab! There is probably quite a wind chill factor when 'four wheeling' in an open jeep, ATV, or Texas wheelchair ('side b…

Part 2: Hopeless Moab

What is that crazy dog up to now?! She took off running up a cliff. But I have learned that bizarre behavior on her part is usually due to ravens.  The raven sat right at the top of this strange, ugly geologic feature. 


She never learns that the raven will simply fly away before she gets there. On the way down, Coffee Girl seemed to pose for the camera, with a look of contentment in her body language. 


It seems that I am content to look at things from her point of view. 

Often I run across unpleasant and impractical dogs, and wonder why the owner was so 'stupid' as to choose that dog. But to be fair, it really isn't about stupidity. Didn't the Bard say (more or less) that 'a young man falls in love with his eyes, not with his heart.' The same could be easily said about most people as they choose their pets.

It would be better to choose a dog blindfolded. Lower your hand to its mouth for an eager, but bashful, lick. Feel its body start wriggling when you petit. Hear…

Moab Is Hopeless, But Is That So Bad?

Is there something cheerful to think about when you are in Moab, UT? Let's be playful and take it as a challenge. (And no, red rock scenery doesn't count.) So far I am drawing blanks...

1.  And yet look at all the people milling around town: they seem pleased to be here. They must be doing something right. Enjoying Moab vicariously seems like the only approach that might pay off.

To fail at this completely is still good news, if it helps me to appreciate novelists and scriptwriters. This could be a big deal to me. Just think how good they must be at putting themselves into other people's 'shoes' in order for their novel or script to be the least bit interesting!

2. Quite separate from the angle of vicarious enjoyment, there is a second approach thatties in with the book I am reading, by Siedentop. Why did early Christians choose Hope as one of their cardinal virtues? I think it is pernicious. It only leads to disappointment and disillusionment.

I came to Moab without …

Understanding the Driving Force of a Movement

For a traveler of the interior West, few books are more natural to choose than Wallace Stegner's "Mormon Country." Nevertheless I had never read it until recently, after a friend put it into my hands. Stegner did an admirable job of being unprejudiced about Mormonism per se. Clearly, he was more interested in the human story of the Mormons than theological doctrines, and rightly so, considering the drama of the Mormon story.

Somewhere in the book, Stegner said (more or less), "After the faith had subsided a bit, the driving force was still there." But then he didn't say what that driving force was! That is really the question that interests me. Although the non-Mormon reader today may have no interest in Mormon theology, it was important to the Mormons of the time. Their great efforts were predicated on a theology that convinced them...but of what?

Stegner can be forgiven for not really explaining what the Driving Force was. It is difficult to look back into…

The Autumn of Experiencing Nature in America

What should an experienced outdoorsman look for in a hackneyed location like Moab, UT? Certainly not the iconic red rock arches and canyons. They are justly famous, but you've seen them a hundred times in jeep commercials, cellphone commercials, nature pin-up calendars, etc. They belong to everybody and to nobody. They certainly cannot belong to you.

But that doesn't mean you should just give up, and relegate Moab to the tourist trade, as I used to do. When the weather was still a little summer-ish, my dog and I started a mountain bike ride before most of the tourists were up. As always, we wanted to beat the heat.

We started going downhill; not far, maybe 300-400 feet. I was shocked at how chilly it was getting. In fact, I wished I had gloves on! At the bottom of the canyon I was amazed to find a "crystal house" of dew, that is, preternaturally dense dew, glazed onto grasses in a little swale. 

It reminded me of the ice crystal house in Dr. Zhivago. The movie was filme…

Ghouls Silently Dancing Along the Ridges

Many people in the USA live along the latitude of 40 degrees north. So did I for much of my life. Typically there was a nasty weather collapse near Halloween. Now living in the Southwest, I should be free of all that.

But not this Halloween. Actually I put it to good use. Blue skies can make scenic areas look too predictably pretty. And insipid. I rather like the moodiness of mesa and canyon country during storms.


Canyons also give you a little protection from blustery winds. Of course if it were raining hard, you would be wise to stay out of the canyon. So I took my dog, Coffee Girl, up some canyons that are parked right outside my camper's door.


I wonder who loves this more, she or I? But this time the experience was enhanced by the stormy weather and the possibility of rain on the walk. It sounds ridiculous to think that a little rain has become some great Malevolence to me, but I guess living in the Southwest will do that to a person.







Good luck put a little more mood into this Hal…

The Mesa Minders

OK I admit to feeling a naughty grin when I looked down on the mesa where some Lazy Dazers are camped. My dog and I were on a mountain bike ride on a higher mesa popular with my breed, near St. George UT.


Zooming in, I can see somebody's rigs, left-center and slightly to the right of center.


An allegory popped into the mind: do you remember that episode in the third season of the original Star Trek, called "The Cloud Minders:"  a community of exalted intellectuals, musicians, and poets live in a city called Stratos that is levitated in the sky. They do nothing but pursue intellectual and aesthetic pursuits all day. Meanwhile, down on the planet's surface, live the miners who do all the grunt work that allows the elitism and luxury of Stratos to exist. 

As I looked down on the Lazy Dazers and grinned naughtily -- and haughtily -- the allegory grabbed control over my mind. Why was it so powerful? It was not caused by the visual stimulation alone, impressive as it was. M…

Time Travel in Utah's High Country

On a recent mountain bike ride near Richfield UT, they caught me sleeping. I was focusing on choosing a path between the rocks, when my herding group dog, Coffee Girl, took after a herd of sheep that we had almost stumbled into. But she was eventually scolded into returning to me, and the sheep weren't too rattled.

Hey wait a minute, weren't we only a couple seconds from an ambush by giant white dogs, screaming out of the sagebrush to protect their herd?

But none came. As we sidled up the ridge, the size of the herd became more apparent.


Where were the dogs and the human shepherd? Eventually we spotted him. But he seemed to only have a couple border collies to help him.


I waved at him so he'd notice that my dog was now on a leash, but he didn't respond. Maybe he didn't speak English, or even Spanish. Maybe he was a Vasco, that is, a Euskal from the Basque country. I'm a bit skeptical about Great Pyrenees dogs being hostile to humans, but I wasn't so sure what t…

Make Room for Mistakes and Surprises in Your Sport

It was surprisingly chilly this morning so I switched from a mountain bike ride to a hike down some canyons, right outside my trailer door, on some BLM land near Torrey, UT. But what if they turned out to be nothing more than uninteresting gullies? 


This must be a surprise to the other hikers in our camping group, since I squirm out of just about every hike that they propose. But this is the right kind of hike. And once again it worked beautifully, but with a gratifying twist at the end. 

At the risk of sounding like the Judi Dench character in "Room with a View", here is the exact science of an interesting hike:

1. Start from the the trailer, early enough for chilly weather. Don't drive an hour to some trailhead; by the time you would get there, you are already lost "spiritually."

2. Choose ordinary scenery, not some tourist attraction that is written up and photographed to death in a guide book, probably entitled "Top Ten Hikes in Capital Reef National Park…

Rethinking the Tribal Dance

Normally I'm not as slow in finding some significance to an outdoor trip as in the last post. I did mention that it was the best group event in 16 years of full-time RVing, and that the little spring was the first gurgling of water that I had ever seen in the desert. But now I want to try harder.

There was a similarity between the ebullience of the dogs and gurgling of the water out of the side of the arroyo. Think of the 'irrepressibility of life.' I know, it sounds a little corny. But it's true. Perhaps it only seems like corny overstatement because we live in an age when we can take water, the stuff of life, for granted. The early explorers or settlers in the Southwest would not have needed convincing. They would have fallen to the muddy ground at the foot of the spring's trickle and prayed.

If we can't appreciate something as fundamental as water, isn't it likely that we are handicapped in general when it comes to experiencing anything authentic in nature…

'Best in Show:' Wild Canids in the Canyon

The reader might be familiar with the semi-recent movie, "Best in Show." The spine of the plot is a dog show, but it is not really a 'dog movie.' Rather, it's a comedic mockumentary about their neurotic human owners.

Today's hike in Zion country (southwestern Utah) turned out the opposite: it was the humans who were acting sensibly, and the dogs who were nuts. We had five dogs in our party, eight humanoid-companion-units, and a neighborhood dawg, Blue, who tends to join any frolic taking place on her BLM land.

As we drove up, I thought my kelpie, Coffee Girl, was going to crash through the windshield with excitement when she saw all these playmates. All of the dogs, no two alike and weighing from 10 to 80 pounds, got along beautifully. I get really charged up by the frantic synergy of dogs. You could think of this walk as a linear-BLM-version of a dog park.


Up we all went, up the arroyo towards one of the famous mesas of the area. I was surprised to see puddles …

Whose Voice Could Be Out There?

Is that who I think it is? I heard what I thought was Mark's voice. My dog, Coffee Girl, perked up her ears. She too caught it. But where were they?

We were resting at the high spot of a dirt road that our friends were taking from their RV park (blush) in Virgin, UT. We had biked from the other end of the road, where we were dispersed camping.

It was dead calm, so maybe a human voice really could carry through all that hum-drum Zion scenery.


You can see the road in the left semi-foreground of the photo. And here they come: Jim & Gayle, Bobbie, and Mark, raring to summit on this road. 


It was fun to watch the gang coming to us on the summit. Better yet, the "incompatibility" of boondockers (me) versus RV-parkers (them) has been turned into an advantage. 

I was promising to take them down a secret canyon, and back to the main road. It would be the first time for me, too. But I cheated a little the previous sunset, and had walked up the canyon from my dispersed campsite. Whe…

Murphy and the Mesa

Following our fearless leader up and over a crumbly cliff near Moab, I nonchalantly grabbed onto a boulder, about 2 feet in diameter. When much of my own weight was transferred, the boulder pulled out of its matrix, missed my leg by a bit, and crashed down onto a jeep road. Some day a jeeper's adventure will be interrupted by this boulder in the middle of their thoroughfare, and they will be forced to get out of the vehicle and use muscles to move the boulder. (They will then use that as an excuse to go shopping for a new GPS system or smartphone with a new app that identifies boulders on jeep roads.)

This really wasn't such a close call, but it was the largest adjustment of the Earth's surface topography that I have ever been responsible for.

Later in the scramble I was forced to wedge between two larger boulders. As I transferred my weight to one of these large boulders, I wondered how evil Murphy really was. Imagine if that boulder pulled into the other one, with my poor …