Friday, March 5, 2010


Last Friday the Junkie family headed out for a long weekend in Arizona. If there’s anything our family could call our collective superpower, it’s our ability to tolerate long car trips. When we lived in Boise, we made frequent trips to Utah to see family, so five hours in the car became de rigueur for the kids. It’s about 12 hours to Phoenix, which is a little more to take on, but they handled it with aplomb.

Part of our success was based on a strategy of dividing the trip up into digestible chunks with stops for interesting things to see or tasty things to eat in between. For instance, on the way there, we stopped for dinner in Las Vegas then again at the Hoover dam.

When I was 18 I made a road trip with some friends that took us across the Hoover dam in the middle of the night. We all stood on the edge of the guard rail and peed off. This time I stood behind the guard rail and looked down and can’t even imagine standing up on it today. Not to mention the Dept. of Homeland Security wouldn’t let me. Soon we won’t even be driving over the dam but over the massive bridge under construction to bypass it.

Just before arriving in Phoenix, we encountered a bunch of people running along the side of the road in the dark. It was the Ragnar relay. I’ve actually considered joining a team to do the Wasatch back sometime, but having now been reminded that you run at night, in the dark, I’m not so sure. Mountain biking in the dark I’ll do. Ski tours that start in the dark are fine. Running along a highway with traffic in the dark, not so much. Rachel’s friend Kate did it, though, and had a great time. So maybe there’s something to it.

Our purposes for traveling to Phoenix were two-fold. Rachel was there to visit her grandmother and other family members. I was there to ride my mountain bike. UTRider’s brother Paul lives in Scottsdale and is a way cool guy to hang out with (we've skied together in the past), so I was happy he agreed to be my tour guide on the local trails. I have a great network of trails adjacent to my neighborhood, but I think Paul has me beat.

Rachel had the camera, so I didn’t get any pictures of the ride, but I lifted these pictures (as well as the one at the top of the post) of the trails we rode from UTRider’s site to give you an idea of what it was like. I was geeking out big time about all the desert plants, but I don’t really know anything about them. Go check out Alex’s awesome series on the Sonoran Desert if you’d like to actually learn something.

After the ride, I hung out at the pool with the kids and really wanted to take a nap but let them coax me into the water instead. This was followed by pizza at Rachel’s aunt’s house. Sonoran singletrack, swimming, and pizza. My batteries were recharged in one day. Oh, did I mention Rachel’s aunt has an orchard in her backyard? Bringing home 50 lbs of fresh citrus was nice too. The kids had fun picking it.

Sunday afternoon we went shopping before driving up to the biggest ditch in the world, also known as the Grand Canyon. We got there in time to snap a few pics before the sun went down.

Monday was more Grand Canyon sightseeing.

We stopped to check out these ancient ruins, even though they were mostly covered with snow. The museum near the ruins was fascinating but small enough not to exceed my limited attention span.

Back in the car and back north towards home, with a quick stop at Glen Canyon dam on the way. I haven’t seen Glen Canyon dam since 1983, just three years after the dam that was completed in 1964 finally held back enough water to “fill” Lake Powell, and when the spillways were shooting water hundreds of feet out into the canyon because of the floods that year. Things are a little different now. Things are a lot different than the float trip Edward Abbey wrote about in Desert Solitaire. I wonder what exactly the Bureau of Reclamation is reclaiming and from whom.

We were always on the go packing what was really a week’s worth of travel and sightseeing into four days, but having the kids skip two days of school seemed a lot more reasonable than skipping five. Given the choice of staying home or a whirlwind long weekend trip, I’ll choose the trip.


  1. "The biggest ditch in the world." That's funny. I recommend running from the north rim to south rim. It's very exciting and adventurous. Last I heard you couldn't take a bike on that route, correct?

    That Del Sol Ragnar race has claimed a life each year it's been done. Last year someone was hit by a drunk driver and this year someone else was hit crossing the road. Evidently Nevada is a dangerous place for runners. But I would most definitely recommend the Wasatch Back Relay. It's fantastic.

  2. Rabid: I'd like to do rim to rim, but I'm thinking I'll start with hiking and then maybe try running. Definitely in a day, though. No bikes allowed in the NP, but I'd be surprised if that trail is one that would be fun to ride anyway. Seems pretty steep.

    Kate told Rachel that someone died this year, but I wasn't aware it was a traffic accident. That makes me ache inside. Scary, scary stuff. We took it real slow when we were driving along the course.

  3. sbj vh1 and i are running it in May (Rim2Rim2Rim). you pulled off a sub 9 in leadville last year with a last minute entry - come run with us.

    haven't heard much from you this winter - you racing any dirt endurance this year? all road?

  4. I wonder what the penalty is for that? Guantanamo?

  5. Did you find the Mcdowell's steep compared to your local stuff, or about the same?

    Too bad about missing Tom's Thumb. It is a lot more climbing, and assuredly some pushing, but very rewarding up and down.

  6. Enel: I'd say that overall the climbing is on par with what we have here. Some of ours are longer, but if they are, they're typically not as steep. The biggest difference is loose rock. Most of our steep climbs are dirt rather than rock, so traction isn't as much of a challenge. I was working pretty hard not just to get up the hill, but to keep the bike on the trail and getting traction.