Posts Filed Under: Unsolicited Opinions

10 Aug

Biking in Moab: A Guide for the Practical Nature Lover

Posted by on August 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm

I am a Moab enthusiast. My husband and I have been traveling to Moab twice a year for almost a decade. In this post, I will be giving practical tips for mountain bikers visiting Moab. It’s my wordy shout-out to my favorite desert destination.

Before I begin my lengthy advice, let me congratulate you on your consideration of Moab. You are as wise as you are wise. Second, let me warn you. If you don’t already know that you need to take plenty of water and slather on sunscreen before heading out into the desert on a two-wheeled contraption, this blog post is not for you. (I’d recommend Common Sense in the Outdoors 101.) Or if you prefer to zoom through unbelievably beautiful terrain like you’re in a race, this post won’t apply. These tips are for the nature lover that happens to love nature best from the seat of a bike. Now, with that covered, let’s move on to my oh-so-helpful guidance.

Much of the desert surrounding Moab is so intensely colored it looks fabricated.

Much of the desert surrounding Moab is so intensely colored it looks fabricated.

How do you get to Moab?

The same way you get anywhere. You jump in a car and drive or you fly. Salt Lake City, along with its expansive airport, is only about a four-hour drive from Moab. Moab has a small airport but it’s very small. If you don’t have your own plane, then Salt Lake City is a much better option. Be aware that the section of Utah between Salt Lake City and Moab does not represent the terrain of the state as a whole. Parts of it are really quite homely and I’m embarrassed to include them in the irregular hexagon I call home. Also, keep in mind that if you are flying for any portion of your journey, you don’t need to worry about packing a bike. (Overhead bin?) There are a whole slew of places to rent cycles in Moab.

Do I need to make hotel reservations in advance to stay in Moab?

Yes, yes, YES! In fact, making reservations a couple months beforehand is not a bad idea. Definitely don’t expect to just roll into town and find a place to stay on the fly, unless you’re keen on car snoozing. There are a number of locations to camp around Moab too but, frankly, mountain biking in the desert is a messy affair. Nothing is quite as necessary, or as delightful, as a warm shower after an intense day of sandy cycling. Therefore, although we like to camp, when we are in Moab we stick to lodgings with non-mobile walls.

Canyonlands National Park is just a quick ride from Moab.

Canyonlands National Park is just a quick ride from Moab.

Are there a lot of biking options around Moab? I’ve only heard of Slickrock.

I’ve probably spent about 50 days biking and hiking in Moab since I’ve been married and the only trail I’ve biked more than once is Slickrock, which my husband and I have done three or four times. The path possibilities are really a little overwhelming because so many of them are so delicious. That’s one of the reasons we keep coming back, to make ourselves feel better about what we just can’t get to each time.

Are the biking trails in the area easy to find?

Some are a cinch to find and some are harder to locate than a belly button on a caterpillar. Jason and I have purchased a few guides to biking in Moab to make trail detecting easier. With so many paths in the area that crisscross and evaporate, I would highly recommend you do the same. We like FalconGuides or Rider Mel’s. On that note, be mindful that the ride times listed in these books are typically way off unless you are a diehard that doesn’t care about stopping for lunch, pictures or breath. If you appreciate scenery and snack breaks, doubling the times given in these guides should leave you lots of wiggle room.

If you like photography, you'll love Moab.

If you like photography, you’ll love Moab.

Are all of the biking trails around Moab extreme and difficult?

No, the only thing all of Moab’s biking paths have in common is their remarkable setting. No matter what your skill level, you can find trails right for you. Plus, even the more difficult routes can be handled by those less experienced if they are in decent physical condition and have the common sense to walk their bikes on the sections that are way too challenging for their abilities. The only path I wouldn’t even recommend walking a bike on is the Portal Trail. Three cyclists have died there and squeezing across its tiny brim is intimidating enough without trying to hang onto a bike. If you feel inclined to check it out, I’d suggest going sans cycle.

Be aware when choosing trails that mileage alone is not a good indication of exertion required, especially when sand is involved. You may ride a mile in sand at a barely perceptible pace and feel like you’ve run a marathon. Remember, many of the impressive rock formations around Moab are made out of sandstone, which isn’t called that for nothing. Know what to expect from a trail before you expend all of your emergency energy reserves, the ones only for running from a T. rex or saving Ferris, wading through the maw of some gritty beast or scaling up an incline even a mountain goat would snub.

The hiking options around Moab are as numerous as the biking ones.

The hiking options around Moab are as numerous as the biking ones.

When is the best time to go to Moab?

Not the summer! Moab is a desert and July and August there range from miserable to deadly, especially if you are pedaling about like a mad person. We like to go between mid-September and mid-November in the fall and between mid-March and mid-June in the spring. If you do find yourself in Moab when it is roasting, I would recommend biking in the La Sal Mountains instead of on the desert plateaus. You will miss some of Moab’s most unique scenery but you’ll also miss expiring from heat exhaustion.

If you timed your trip just right, from the middle of March to the middle of April, you could actually have the best outdoor vacation of your life. You could spend some time snowboarding or skiing near Salt Lake City and then drive a few hours down to Moab for some fabulous mountain biking. We’ve snowboarded on three feet of fresh powder one day in Park City and biked in 70s perfection in Moab the next. Life doesn’t get any better. I mean that.

I don’t want to starve for 40 days out in the desert? What about lunch?

Almost all of the eateries around town do lunches to go. These establishments are used to their clients being the impatient-to-get-out-there type. Our favorite place to pick up lunch and breakfast at the same time is the Love Muffin Café but there are numerous options for this in Moab.

This was taken during one of those magical sunset moments.

This was taken during one of those magical sunset moments.

Any photography suggestions?

There are five to ten minutes of light magic that happen as the sun is setting on Moab’s red rock. The stone smolders in the sinking glow. It’s practically impossible to get a bad picture during this brief period. If you see the rock start blazing, stop whatever you are doing and start shooting. You will be amazed at what you can capture.

Any other random tips?

If you plan on biking multiple days, please keep your tush in mind. Yes, your tush. Mountain biking in Moab is really bumpy. If you aren’t used to that rattle, or if you’re taking your bike out for the first time since winter’s tantrums, your butt is going to throb after a day on the saddle. Getting back on your seat the next day will feel like a cactus to the crotch. We like to give our backsides a break with a day of hiking sandwiched in between our two biking days. This doesn’t always alleviate the pains in our arses but it does help.

Moab, despite its familiarity, always feels like an adventure to me. It’s that perfect mix of gorgeousness and exhilaration you wish you could find on a dating site. My final bit of advice? Get to Moab and ride!

13 Mar

From Roxy to Woody

Posted by on March 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm

It’s hard to say goodbye to an old friend, especially when that friend has carried you through many highs and lows, from dipping arid wastelands to lofty peaks. When that buddy has been a part of the happiest adventures of your life, separating from them is painful.

Jason and I purchased my trusty Mazda Protégé, Roxy, used shortly after we got married. Before we bought her we were sharing a car, which was highly inconvenient since my workday started at 5:00 AM and his began a few hours later in the opposite direction. We had to come up with an elaborate drop off scheme to get to our jobs. Needless to say, we were extremely grateful for a second car. We purchased Roxy for very little but, to a couple of poor newlyweds, she was the height of sophistication. With power windows, electric door locks, cruise control, and comfy seats she felt like a Rolls-Royce to us. Over the years Roxy proved herself far more valuable than her cheap price tag would suggest. Besides a couple of small AC and CV joint repairs, she never really asked us for anything so I was in no hurry to swap her. Although most of our friends kept changing vehicles and nagging us about trading up, I was prepared to hold onto that car until her bumper fell off but I guess all good things must eventually end.

It's hard to believe that these dings represent $1600.

It’s hard to believe that these dings represent $1600.

Roxy was aging very well but Jason and I decided a couple of years ago that we should start saving for a new vehicle since there was no telling when she’d begin to break down. We intended on replacing her roughly sometime this winter. This plan sounded reasonable in theory but Jason may not have ever been able to convince me to go through with it if it hadn’t been for an especially snowy winter day. That particular December morning I-15 hadn’t been plowed even though about 4 inches of snow had accumulated on it. Jason was driving Roxy to work and, like most of the other commuters, he was moving at only 15 MPH due to the slick conditions but, leisurely pace notwithstanding, about halfway through his travels he suddenly started sliding into an adjacent lane. Despite his best efforts, there was just no going back. He ended up hitting a large truck that was inconveniently in the exact spot Roxy was destined to occupy. Roxy only had cosmetic damage from this incident but it was enough dints and dings to total her. Rather than paying to fix her up, we decided we’d keep her until she hit 200,000 miles, a target she was quickly approaching, and then sell her to Jason’s brother. That meant it was time to shop.

We reached 200,000 miles on Roxy with barely any repair bumps along the way.

We reached 200,000 miles on Roxy with barely any repair bumps along the way.

Jason and I are not the type of people that purchase cars on a whim. We look up as much information as possible on the vehicle class we are considering and then we test drive like crazy, examine additional figures, and ponder some more. This style of shopping is time-consuming but it has served us well. Since we’ve been extremely happy with the cars we’ve purchased using this method, we weren’t about to alter our system. Hence, it took us months to decide what we wanted to buy this time.

Our new vehicle needed to be a small or crossover SUV with 4WD or AWD. We were done skating on freeways and we wanted something hardier for our biking/snowboarding adventures. We were also looking for a car with good gas mileage that was little enough to fit easily into our cramped garage. Room to load up our bikes and boards was also a requirement. We are usually used car people, new cars really are a waste of money, but in this particular case, with our specialized needs, we found that the contenders in the used arena were pretty limited and not much cheaper. We realized that in order to get what we wanted we’d have to buy new.

As we began searching lots of spanking new vehicles, we discovered that it’s harder to shop for a new car than a used one. With new cars the selection is plentiful and the options are many: makes, models, colors, innards…we were a bit overloaded. After weeks of researching and test driving, we finally focused our attention on the Subaru Outback and Forester. We debated back and forth between these two for days but in the end I just couldn’t say no to the Forester’s large windows and spacious interior. (And Jason just can’t say no to me.) So the 2014 2.5i Limited Forester it was. The 2014 model, which has improved gas mileage, better torque, a streamlined exterior, and a swankier interior compared to the 2013, had only been shipped in restricted quantities to dealers two days earlier. Ours wasn’t even technically on the dealer’s lot when we bought it. We had the distinction of owning the only 2014 Forester on the road in Utah when we drove that baby home, a distinction I’m sure we’ve already long lost at this point. It’s barely 2013 so it doesn’t make sense that the 2014 is available at all; just try not to think about it too much. I’ve named our Forester Woodford, or Woody for short. (It’s a Forester and its name is Woody. Get it?) I love how open this SUV feels with its giant windows and huge sunroof. Woody already has quite the fan in me.

Woody is a cute and friendly car. He's just what I was looking for.

Woody is a cute and friendly car. He’s just what I was looking for.

But alas, with Woody purchased it was time to part ways with Roxy. Jason’s little brother was very excited about having a car of his own; however, I wasn’t very excited about letting her go. I’m only a little ashamed to say that before we dropped Roxy off at his house I cried. I know, with my many layers of sarcasm and constant teasing, I don’t seem like the sentimental type but deep in this complicated heart is plenty of emotional turbulence that usually emerges at embarrassing times.

Roxy has not only been a very reliable car but she’s been part of a lot of wonderful memories. My whole married life, which has been extraordinarily happy, has passed in the presence of that vehicle. Her aging is a reminder of just how much time has elapsed for me as well. Where have the years gone? It was hard to say goodbye. I’m sure Matt will take good care of her and she’ll be as dependable a friend to him as she was to me but I’ll miss her still. Here’s to Roxy! My classy girl that has far outlasted many “superior” vehicles!

Roxy is my kind of girl: steady, comfy, small but gutsy.

Roxy is my kind of girl: steady, comfy, small but gutsy.

A post script: I miss the straightforwardness of older vehicles. What happened to the days when a power door lock was as fancy as it got? When you would turn the heat on if you got cold and the AC if you got hot. Now cars practically do everything automatically, even if you’d rather they didn’t, and there are so many knobs on their control panels that you need to pass a NASA course just to figure out how to adjust your radio stations. It’s funny how complicated we’ve made “simplicity.”

And what’s up with recent car models’ tiny windows? So many of the vehicles we test drove had such small windows that you could barely see the road from their stuffy interiors. They made me feel like I was driving around in a coffin. Claustrophobics of the world unite! Sure, from the outside their designs looked sleek but I think I’d prefer being able to see traffic to having aerodynamic windows. Carmakers, let’s not sacrifice functionality and practicality just so our vehicles can look like spaceships. Remember: the only flying cars can do currently is into pavement so it would be nice to be able to see that pavement before takeoff.

27 Feb

Valentine’s Day the Rachel Way

Posted by on February 27, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Every year I complain about complaining. Yup, you know the drill. I can’t handle the incessant Valentine’s Day whining that is so ubiquitous during February. For crying out loud people! Is doing something special for your special someone really that much of a burden? If they aren’t worth a little effort then one would have to wonder about the accuracy of their “special” title.

Valentine’s Day, that abhorred and adored holiday, just hit again and once more I heard lots of griping over it. For instance, one of my coworkers was grumbling about how Valentine’s Day is the stupidest of holidays because he has to buy his wife flowers. Since, out of all the February moaners, those that object to doing something nice for their spouse annoy me the most, I will focus the venom of this preachy post on that sorry group.

Jason got me such a huge bouquet of flowers I had to rearrange my desk to find a space for it.

Jason got me such a huge bouquet of flowers I had to rearrange my desk to find a space for it.

In contrast to the pathetically unromantic mentioned above, I love Valentine’s Day. It means I GET to do something thoughtful for the man that I adore. It provides an excuse for me to remind Jason, AKA the best husband in the world, that he is my favorite person. I would never waste this occasion with whining and neither would my fine hubby.

This year it was Jason’s turn to plan our Valentine’s Day activities and he wisely chose to get us tickets to Cinderella the ballet. (Yes, you men can go to the ballet with little risk that images of leotards will be permanently burned into your retinas.) We had a great time laughing at the clumsy stepsisters and admiring the grace of the other dancers. A couple of days later, Jason surprised me with another round of Valentine’s fun: a Mexican flavors cooking class up at Sur La Table. I’ve got one smart man. I love to cook and Jason’s culinary skills could use some improving so this tutorial was an excellent idea. Jason’s motives for signing us up for this course may not have been entirely selfless though. I’m sure he realized that this class would increase his chances of getting yummy Mexican food in the future. Whatever his reasons, we thoroughly enjoyed preparing and chowing our flavorful dinner of pork-and-cheese arepas, pork and beef-stuffed poblanos, chipotle-rubbed salmon tacos, and Mexican chocolate pots de crème. Tasty! Obtaining culinary masterfulness obviously requires a lot of eating; I’m willing to make the sacrifice.

Jason and I had to put some effort into eating all of this fruit arrangement before it spoiled but our hard work paid off. Not a single strawberry went bad

Jason and I had to put some serious effort into eating all of this fruit arrangement before it spoiled but our hard work paid off. Not a single strawberry went bad.

Even though it wasn’t my turn to head up our celebrations this year, I still plotted plenty. I sneakily planned a series of treats for Jason. First, I took some fancy donuts and hot chocolate to his office for him to share with his coworkers. Next, on another day, I took some balloons and handmade chocolates to his office for him not to share with his coworkers. And then, on Valentine’s Day, I showered him with a whole slew of presents that I had fastidiously wrapped.

Jason too wasn’t content with just going the extra mile on Valentine’s Day…he wanted to go the extra hundred. He brought a gorgeous bouquet of flowers to me while I was at work and then, a couple of hours later when I suspected nothing, he had another bouquet delivered. This second bouquet was made of delicious fruit and chocolate covered strawberries. I have to say that I got a twinge of warped delight from the shocked look on my coworker’s face, the one that had been complaining about having to give his wife flowers on Valentine’s Day, when he walked by my desk and saw everything Jason had sent me. That’s right dude, there are plenty of fabulous husbands out there that, unlike you, aren’t content with a mediocre marriage and I’m wedded to one of them.

The poblano peppers we stuffed in our cooking class were mighty tasty.

The poblano peppers we stuffed in our cooking class were mighty tasty.

I have the happiest marriage imaginable because both Jason and I see occasions like Valentine’s Day as opportunities not inconveniences. There’s more than just a correlation between our outlook on matters like this and our atypical bliss. I know that some of you, even after my poignant words of wisdom, are still thinking that Valentine’s Day just isn’t for you. For that group, here are a couple of the most common excuses I’ve heard for ignoring Valentine’s Day and the reasons I think that they’re invalid, especially for the permanently committed:

Excuse 1: Doing something nice for my significant other on Valentine’s Day is too expensive.

While I tend to bestow my hubby with a few too many gifts, such is my way, one can show someone how much they love them through many other means: cleaning out their car, making them a yummy dinner, serving them breakfast in bed, selflessly volunteering to take care of the kids while they have a guilt-free day out with their friends, giving them a relaxing foot massage, baking them cookies, writing them a thoughtful love note, cleaning the house, watching their favorite chick flick with them without complaint, surprising them at work with a lunch for two…like the Energizer Bunny I could just keep going and going. The point is that financial limitations are no excuse for not celebrating Valentine’s Day.

I always make sure Jason's Valentine's Day gifts are wrapped extravagantly.

I always make sure Jason’s Valentine’s Day gifts are wrapped extravagantly.

Excuse 2: I don’t like the expectations of this holiday and would rather surprise my significant other on some random day when it will actually be a surprise.

While I get this, I’ve found that those that don’t do anything special for their spouses on Valentine’s Day are usually the same people that are thoughtless the rest of the year and the least likely candidates for ever surprising their partners out of the blue. Putting effort into a relationship is a habit and a refusal to do something considerate for your significant other when given the chance, even if it’s expected, is typically indicative of a trend of marital laziness. I enjoy surprising my husband often and am known for bringing treats unpredictably to his work. (I’m quite popular with his coworkers.) But I still delight in concocting Jason-related Valentine’s Day schemes, even if he expects such shenanigans. After all, he should expect to be shown how much I adore him constantly. If he ever ceases to expect that then I have failed him as a wife.

Jason and I are supremely content with our life together and we have a blast celebrating Valentine’s Day. If you can’t say the same then perhaps you should consider putting forth a little more effort. Any physicist can tell you that you have to put energy into a system to get energy out of it. If you aren’t putting any energy into your relationship, why should you expect to get anything worthwhile out of it? Do I say this with smugness? Absolutely. I’m not exactly known for holding back my opinions on any subject but, considering the strength of my marriage, I think I’m in a pretty good position to give advice on this particular topic. So go forth and celebrate Valentine’s Day and think twice before you come crying to me about having to remember your valentine. Frankly, you’d fare better just buying those flowers without comment.

14 Mar

Captivated by Blackberry

Posted by on March 14, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Until recently I was the happy owner of a Blackberry Curve. That baby was the best phone I’ve ever had. It lasted through multiple droppings and 4+ years of heavy usage. No matter what hot new mobile device hit the market I hung onto my Curve. Near the end its battery held about as much power as an 80 year old man after a marathon so alas, getting a new phone couldn’t be delayed any longer.

Choosing a replacement for my dependable companion was not easy. I debated several options. I know that practically everyone has an iPhone and all those people seem to think that it’s the best invention since butter but I can’t say I’m the biggest of fans. I text a lot and texting on an iPhone is highly inconvenient. After my Blackberry’s easy keys I don’t think I could handle struggling to squeeze my fingers into tiny spots or flipping from screen to screen to find punctuation marks. Thus, I said no to the iPhone despite the many acquaintances telling me I “had” to get one. I seriously considered getting a Bold, the newest in the Blackberry line, as my replacement but Jason convinced me to try an Android for a change. I chose the Samsung Captivate Glide. I’m still not sure if I made the best decision; I miss my Blackberry. Here is some of what’s not right in the world without it:

1. My messaging life is practically unmanageable without a blinking light telling me when something new has happened. Does Blackberry have a patent on that or what? Why else would every phone not have a similar function? I have a tendency not to check my phone on the weekends so I loved that light. It meant I could ignore my phone but not miss anything. Now sometimes it’s 48 hours before I realize I have a message or missed call.

2. Smart phones are really dumb when it comes to power usage. My Blackberry, once charged, was satisfied for nearly a week but my Captivate is so needy. It gobbles energy faster than Pac-Man eats dots yet it’s too dignified to let me know when it’s drained. It just quietly shuts itself off. I’m accustomed to neglecting my phone; this charging regularly thing is something I’ll have to get used to.

3. My call log was much easier to sift through on the Blackberry. The Captivate lumps text messages and calls together so, since I text a lot, if I need to return a phone call I usually have to do some serious scrolling to find that call.

4. While my new phone has a retractable keyboard, the spellchecker doesn’t work when you have it extended. Someone in quality assurance must have been taking a snooze. So to those of you that have gotten texts from me that are so jumbled that you’ve assumed I’m speaking Swahili, my apologies. I blame the phone of course not my very substandard spelling skills.

My little Blackberry may look miniscule next to the Captivate but it is actually quite tough and served me well.

Here are a few things I quite like about my new gadget:

1. The whistle sound it makes when you get a text message is delightful. What a happy noise.

2. The slide out keyboard is pretty sweet. I especially love that it has arrow keys. I haven’t quite gotten used to it enough to text at the supersonic speeds I used to on my Blackberry but give me time.

3. The Facebook updates on the home screen are right at hand and easy to flip through if you find yourself having a moment of boredom.

4. The notifications bar in the top corner shows you all the missed calls, voicemails, text messages, emails, Facebook updates, etc. that you’ve received. I like this feature a lot even though I still need to figure out what all the symbols stand for. Some aren’t as self-explanatory as you’d think.

5. The screen is much bigger than my old one. No complaints there.

I do like the fancy functionality of my new phone. It’s pretty nifty but dang it if I don’t miss my flashing lights and roller ball. I don’t care if Blackberry is pooh-poohed by those that claim more sophisticated tastes in phones. Say what you want, my steadfast mobile lasted through a couple of Jason’s phones, including an iPhone. So, as far as I’m concerned, you can all go call yourselves!

The jury is still out on whether the Bold would have been a better choice for my particular preferences than the Captivate Glide. Maybe this isn’t the droid I was looking for? But for now I’ll take my big screen, cute sounds, and nice keyboard. Just don’t be surprised if my texts from here on out look like they were written by a second grader.

19 Sep

My Buddy the Avatar

Posted by on September 19, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I am now a surprised fanatic of the cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. Jason and I started watching this show a few weeks ago and I became totally engrossed. I was not expecting that, it is a cartoon after all.

I went through all 3 seasons of Avatar in about three weeks. Those who know me know I typically spend very little time watching TV and movies at home so this was a very unusual occurrence. What can I say? I got completely absorbed and I just couldn’t help myself. Don’t judge me unless you’ve conquered the mighty pull of the Avatar yourself.

Cruising through a series that quickly does have its disadvantages though. Now that I have finished all of it I’m having some serious withdrawals. The Avatar dreams I keep having every night just aren’t enough.

This series comes with the highest Rachel rating available and can be viewed instantly on Netflix. After watching it all though I decided it was something I needed to buy.

I would highly recommend The Last Airbender to adults and children alike. This is something you can enjoy with your kids or just keep all to yourself. The characters are complex and endearing, the script extremely well written, and the animation fantastic. It’s funny, thought provoking, and action packed. Perfection!

On a side note, this incredible series should not be confused with the James Cameron flick about the blue aliens. Nor should its unfortunate association with The Last Airbender movie hinder you from viewing it; that movie was dismal and humorless and in no way reflects the quality of the cartoon.

So check out Avatar. You’ll be astonished by how quickly you become bent on it.