In fact, Brad was so new, he was riding on a borrowed bike. And not only were we new, but we were not exactly in the best of shape. Bob was only a couple of weeks out from a broken hand. Tracy was as accident-prone as Jackie Chan on steroids, but boy, what enthusiasm.
If you look at a map of the cliffs and trails surrounding Moab, things seem pretty simple. For example, Gold Bar Rim looks like a ride that simply traverses the top of, you know, Gold Bar Rim. Seven Mile Canyon appears to be a gentle trail through, well, Seven Mile Canyon. And everyone knows the Gemini Bridges trail is easy. Descending Poison Spider Canyon? Cake, right?
It's downhill, after all. To four intrepid yet galactically stupid mountain bike neophytes it seemed a simple affair to string all four of these rides together to form an all-day mega-ride. An epic ride. And while the ride turned out to be indeed epic, simple it was not.
First problem: late start. After leaving Bob's truck near the bottom of Poison Spider Mesa, we didn't get to the Gemini Bridges trailhead until close to 10 a.m. We didn't get underway until almost 11. It was a beautiful morning in early November, which meant darkness would fall around 5:30 p.m. Leaving at 11 a.m. also ensured that our big Moab Diner breakfast had plenty of time to wear off.
We started, as I mentioned, enthusiastically, down the Gemini Bridges trail. After six miles of rolling downhill, we stopped off at the bridges for a quick peek, backtracked a few miles, and headed over toward Seven Mile Canyon, which none of us had ever done.
Which brings up the next problem: our complete inability to choose the right path. It only took a mile or two before we'd lost the trail.
This adventure took place many moons ago, well before the organized efforts to clearly mark the Moab trails for mountain bikers. And I can only describe our route-finding skills as inept.
In a sequence that was to become very familiar during the coming long day, we'd reach a fork, spread out, and discover the dead ends of several spurs (many of which provided excellent riding) before regrouping to continue on the "real" trail.
In this stumble-bumble way, we finally found our way to the lower junction of the Seven Mile Canyon and Gemini Bridges trails. Stupidly, we'd already eaten our lunch, thinking we'd accomplished the hard part, and now we simply had to ride up to Gold Bar Rim, cross it, and quickly descend Poison Spider Mesa back to the car. Moronically, our entire lunch had consisted of Lunchables and water yummy, but hardly sustaining.
Turns out, the climb to Gold Bar rim is complicated. You climb a steep jeep road for several miles to a preliminary "mini rim." That's where things really began to fall apart. Wait. No, things were just starting to crumble here. Things would really fall apart much later.
While we collected ourselves at the top of this "mini rim," Tracy a fine fellow who would probably cheerfully try (and, or course, die trying) to ride to the top of Mount Everest if someone invited him began to have trouble with his elbow, which, due to a straight-over-backwards fall on Slickrock the day before (par for the course for Tracy), was now the size of a large grapefruit.
While Tracy lost what remained of his breakfast to Montezuma behind some rocks, we discovered an energy bar and some honey-soaked bread in Tracy's seatpack. Tracy, sacrificing himself, offered the victuals to Bob. Not only does Tracy look like Jesus (well, at least the hair), he acts like him too.
Ignoring the energy bar, which he naively thought disgusting, Bob started in on the bread. I demanded half. Bob sized me up, decided that in his present condition he probably couldn't take me, and so he forked the bread over.
Then we discovered our third problem: Not only was our food lacking in sustenance, but we didnt have enough, another one of our shortcomings.
We dropped into the valley preceding Gold Bar Rim, and began the painful climb up. We reached the top in what seemed like no time at all. Dancing around, pointing down the other side at Arches National Park, generally having a good time, we celebrated our tremendous achievement. We were young, stupid, and very naive.