Passing Through: moab, utah
In honor of Dirt Rag, I'm picking up the torch for their Passing Through column.
About 30 miles south of Interstate 70 along US Highway 191 in southeastern Utah is a town called Moab. Maybe you have heard of it before? Some would consider it the most iconic mountain bike destination on the planet, a place that should be on every mountain biker’s bucket list. Although Moab is not really on the way to anywhere, upwards of a million people flock to it every year for the chance to immerse themselves in outdoor recreation heaven.
Despite the fact that Moab is synonymous with mountain biking, have you ever wondered what actually “makes" a Moab trip? In conversations with friends, the gist of things is oftentimes very general, like ”oh yeah, we went to Moab and it was awesome!” I suppose it is like any mountain bike trip there - there is riding, eating, sleeping in a tent, van, or whatever hotel room might be available, a routine to be repeated day after day. And that brings us back to the original question - what exactly is a curated experience like in one of the world’s most well-known destinations?
Obviously, a mountain biker goes to Moab for the riding. There is a lot of it in fact, over a thousand miles of routes to pedal. Although it has been on the mountain bike map for more than two decades, Moab is still building and refining its world-class trails. One of the most interesting new developments is something referred to as (something we are not encouraged to call) The Big Burrito. It is a new connector trail, an option to bail off the Whole Enchilada (more on that later), prior to Porcupine Rim.
Big fat, hairy adventures rides aside, what if you were passing through and had only a few hours to ride something memorable? The answer is most definitely Captain Ahab! For everyone except newbies, Ahab has just the right amount of pedaling up, followed by a thrilling downhill that always keeps your adrenaline meter pegged. Add in amazing 360-degree views and you have a ride that is always very satisfying.
Speaking of the big adventures, eating will be a priority after a colossal ride like Mag 7-Gold Bar Rim or the infamous Whole Enchilada. For this scenario, Milt’s Stop and Eat is recommended. Located on 4th Street and South Mill Creek Drive, it is the kind of place that, during the busy seasons, has a parking lot full of cars, and people lined up outside waiting longer than you would imagine to eat good old-fashioned fried food. A few pro tips for this institution - the tater-tots are extra delicious when dipped in fry sauce, AND, if you go inside and order at the counter, your meal has a good chance of appearing in much speedier fashion compared to outside. If a greasy meal is not your thing, try 98 Center, a Vietnamese inspired bistro neck-deep in farm-to-face, locally sourced foods that result in mouth-watering meals. From vegan to carnivore, the food here will make you very happy. The Loaded Bánh Mì Tacos are a bowl of crunchy, tangy goodness.
What happens when riding is not possible or you need a day off, what else is there to do in Moab? Dead Horse Point is always a good option. A 45-minute drive will take you to the end of Utah State Highway 313 where a scenic promontory rising 2,000 feet above the Colorado River provides endless views across Canyonlands National Park. Despite its popularity, it still remains a peaceful place to contemplate the beauty of the desert. Bonus points here if you like coffee drinks. The state park runs a java cart in the parking lot for all of your sugar and caffeine needs.
Speaking of coffee, look no further than the unassuming Dave’s Corner Market (on the backside of Milt’s) for the best coffee in town. Trust me on this one, you will be surprised at how good the old school drip tastes. If you happen to be a coffee snob like me, you will also be more than excited to have access to over 30 different kinds of beans for all of your Aero Press - Moka Pot - French Press needs.
And when it is finally time to sleep, there are more than enough options for lodging. For the vintage experience head to the Apache Motel. It is on the national register of historic places and still sports the style of yesteryear from the days when John Wayne was filming movies in the red rock deserts surrounding Moab. Located off the beaten path on 4th street, the Apache has some of the cheaper lodging rates in town, leaving you plenty of cash to eat at Milt’s, just a couple of blocks down the street.