Moab (1)

Before my premature bailout from the GDMBR, Bev had booked flights to Loreto, in the southern Baja, so that we could spend Christmas and New Year together. I would need to book flights, too, now that I wouldn’t be riding down the Baja California peninsula.

I wasn’t ready to commit to dates so soon after my return to Calgary; there was a necessary period of adjustment – I needed to come to terms with the change in my plans. I had had the following four months, late August to late December, mapped out: I would be riding down the backbone of the United States, on dirt roads, slowly, getting in shape (for the more demanding Baja Divide), no doubt hiking and pushing up some long climbs, taking rest days as required, but steadily working my way southward. Now, suddenly, chastened, I had four months free of objectives. And time to beat up on myself…

Bev took off on a road trip with her parents, north to where her parents had owned a section of land for around 50 years. On the section were the ruins of an old collapsed farmhouse, some woodland areas and some areas cultivated by a neighbouring farmer. Moose frequented the property. Deer also passed through, unconcerned by the recent arrival of a motor home containing my in-laws and wife.

I, meanwhile, set about adjusting to retirement. Three days of binge-watching Netflix series got me started. Then, I did some ‘work’: lesson preparation for the instructor who had taken over teaching one of my courses for which parts of the content were in my head and not recorded in a file. This was no chore; I have always enjoyed creating teaching materials and a few hours a days of this was sufficient to give me direction and focus. I also watched football (soccer) games featuring some of my favourite teams: Arsenal, Spurs, Barca (for flashes of effortless brilliance from Messi). I slowly came around and stopped beating up on myself.

With Bev back from her family trip and re-immersed in work, it was nice to have the time to do a few of the necessary chores around the house and to ease Bev’s burden. I’m not so good at multi-tasking and, pre-retirement, my workload would grow to consume all my waking hours. Now I could do more of my share around the house.

But I still hadn’t booked flights to Loreto. I wanted to do more than just go down for the same two weeks that Bev had; without my earlier plans to ride to Loreto, we would not have considered jetting away for Christmas in something of a tourist destination. To do so now would be a harsh reminder of my cycle-touring bailout.

So, should I go early? Or come back later? Do some exploring, more traditional backpacking-travel, with camera and credit card? For how long?

What about driving from Canada to Loreto? This suddenly appeared to make a lot of sense. With my bike in the back of the truck, I could do some riding when I reached warmer climes. We would have a vehicle to make interesting side-trips from Loreto without renting a car. And, most importantly, I would be unconstrained by flight dates.

Calf-A restaurant, in a hundred-year-old single-room schoolhouse, in Dell Montana.
Dell, Montana. No drive through southern Montana should miss this hidden gem. The pies are delicious!

The railway runs through Dell. A mile or so down the line, the GDMBR crosses these tracks.

Which is how I came to arrive in Moab for a few days. Two weeks ago. Moab sucks you in; I haven’t been able to leave. Yet. Tuesday. Probably. Maybe.

I first came to Moab in 1978: two climbing buddies, Tony (Tache) Freeman and Andy Parkin, and I flew from England to New York, bought an old station wagon, and climbed at the ‘Gunks in upstate New York before driving to Boulder, CO, (more climbing) and on to Moab, UT, before continuing on to Yosemite, CA, which was, at the time, pretty much a climbing Mecca for Europeans. It was a grand adventure.

We didn’t spend long in Moab in 1978, just long enough to climb Castleton Tower, a 120 m (400′) sandstone tower. But the weather forecast, yesterday, was iffy so I drove up Castle Valley to look at the tower again, 40 years later.

Here are a some photos from that day in 1978:

Andy, leading the crux pitch.
On top of Castleton Tower. Windy!

Of course, 40 years later, we don’t look the same. Hair has changed colour or disappeared altogether. Andy and Tache are as svelte as ever but I am much rounder.

Castleton Tower. Yesterday.

I took the loop road, further up the valley to the La Sal Mountains. And waiting for the sun to escape the clouds for a moment.

La Sal Mountains.

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