Sloppy Joe (with Cheese): What a Difference a Day Makes
In “Sloppy Joe (with Cheese),” Neil Beltchenko takes viewers on a bikepacking trip to Moab, Utah, where Mother Nature served up a generous helping of the elements and a reminder that things are never guaranteed to go to plan. Although his group’s time on the trail left them soaking wet and covered in mud, it was a lesson in seeing the beauty behind even the messiest of experiences. Watch it here…
I often find myself daydreaming. In fact, it happens a lot. Like most people, I dream about things I’m looking forward to, such as upcoming bikepacking trips, or travel, maybe even the weekend. It was no different when some friends invited me on “The Sloppy Joe with Cheese,” a spin-off of Colt Fetters’ Hey Joe Safari bikepacking loop in Utah. I guess what we didn’t realize was how on-point the name would prove to be. You can watch the video below, then scroll down for a selection of photos and a written version of the report.
I’m sure many of you are aware that winter in the western United States was active and, in some cases, even historic. While the Colorado Plateau and Moab typically aren’t affected as much as the surrounding mountains that saw record-breaking snowfall, it still sits on the Colorado Plateau. And, this year, we were not so gracefully reminded that any precipitation in the forecast is unsafe. After delaying our trip to find some nice weather, our crew from Gunnison finally settled on some dates in early April.
Adam, Arly, Chris, Tim, and I were excited to escape the snow and enjoy some dirt. The goal was a three-day and two-night trip. We got what we came for. Day one was beautiful, a little cloudy, but very pleasant riding temps. We camped off Willow Springs Road, so we started with some Sovereign singletrack before making our way to the Klondike Bluffs trail network. This is a small fraction of Moab’s amazing mountain biking. The trails meander through sandstone rock formations with the mighty La Sal Mountains as a backdrop. These trails, especially Sovereign, are fun and sometimes challenging, whereas the Klondike trails are much easier to negotiate but still a blast.
After The Klondike Network, the route crosses Highway 191, the road that eventually leads into Moab, making it a great spot to stash water and snacks before heading into the more remote stretch of the route. The forecast called for the wind to pick up in the afternoon; sure enough, it was spot on. The tumbling weeds were doing their thing. Luckily, it wasn’t all that bothersome as we made our westbound trek on a collection of BLM roads.
I love singletrack, but I also love dirt roads. They offer the opportunity to converse with friends while you ride, and there was plenty of that. But, the further west we went, the more challenging the riding became with sand—lots and lots of sand! Sometimes, it was so debilitating that it was impossible to pedal through, even with the incredible amount of moisture the area had seen over the winter.
By late afternoon, the sun greeted us, and there were even moments when it felt hot. The sandy dirt roads soon became well-maintained and graded roads as we approached the Hey Joe Canyon down climb, which is a portage of sorts. I think it’s categorized as a class three climb. There are some challenging spots, but generally speaking, no ropes are needed. After a long day of pedaling, we left that for the morning and enjoyed incredible views of the surrounding canyon that night.
That night, I woke up with sand blowing into my tent and mouth. It was warm, but the wind made for a disruptive night’s sleep. The sun rose, but it didn’t come out all morning. Around 8 a.m., it started to rain. The forecast called for a 30 percent chance of a tenth an inch of rain. Not too bad, right? I felt a sense of urgency within the group. I think we all wanted to get finished with the downclimb before any major precipitation.
As we started the downclimb, a moderate rain turned into a steady one and eventually a downpour. And, technical move after move, the sandstone became completely saturated, and we questioned our footing with each step. At times, I was thinking, “Should we just go back up?” But the group was composed and still had a good sense of humor. As we made our way to the bottom of the down climb, it started to dump snow. Unfortunately, I lost most of my fun footage from this section when I lost my GoPro amid the chaos, but you get the picture. It was intense.
We finally made it along the Green River, and while the rain started to let up, The roads were, well… sloppy. Our attitudes were no longer composed. We were soaking, and our bikes were debilitated. When the clay-filled roads get saturated enough, it’s worse than any sand. I can’t think of any other way to describe it better than death mud. You can’t pedal. Actually, you can’t even walk next to your bike as the wheels quit turning.
We still had a long way to go. We had miles alongside the beautiful Green River and up and out of spring canyon, and plenty of miles before we would hit the Navajo Rocks rails, riding the downhills, walking the ups, and trying to power through the mud on the flats. And, right after we thought things were getting better after the sun came out briefly and we cleaned our bikes and lubed the chains, we hit more death mud that would once again debilitate our bikes and our souls. In the end, it took us eight hours to cover just 32 miles, averaging a whopping four miles an hour on day two. We were toast.
I think we often daydream of the good moments, yet when you get back home from something like this, you realize that the challenging moments are what you remember. The way you persevere, the way you cope with the uncomfortable, the way you complete something that seems impossible at the time. And, while we bailed to the car that night instead of completing our trip, I think it’s safe to say Sloppy Joe with Cheese truly lived up to its name.
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