4 turkeys, green bean casserole, pork loin, pheasant, two kinds of cranberry sauces, homemade applesauce, roasted vegetables, homemade macaroni and cheese, squash, hot fruit, mashed potatoes and gravy, green salad, tater tot hotdish, and more pies than I can count. That menu and more served Thanksgiving dinner for 35 in Moab, Utah last week. It took three kitchens and several hours to put it all together, but Dirt Turkey 2012 Thanksgiving dinner raised the bar once again. The dinner was a good barometer of the weekend on the whole.
It started with a drive, spread out over two days, I made my way from Solvang, California to Moab, Utah. After a morning in the warehouse, I put tires to pavement, skirted Los Angeles traffic, and drove across the Nevada desert. An early night off the road landed me in Mesquite, Nevada. I had planned to drive a couple more hours that night, but a $17 hotel room stopped me in my tracks. This also meant that I got to pop up the next morning and hit Saint George, Utah at breakfast time, which meant an exit at Bluff Street and eggs, bacon, and coffee at Jazzy Java, an old favorite from my years guiding in Bryce and Zion. A stop in to buy ingredients for green bean casserole, homemade applesauce, and cookie salad, and I was back on the road – next stop Moab.
A few more hours on the road, and I flicked my turn signal right at Exit 182, turning southbound on Hwy 191 toward Moab. The sun was dipping rapidly, and would soon disappear behind the ridgeline at Gemini Bridges. Watching my plans of a ride fade as quickly as the daylight, this time I turned my signal to the left, and pulled into the trailhead at the Moab Brand Trails. I kitted up in a different kind of kit and laced up my Asics. Heading out between riders gathered after a day of riding, I strode out for my first ever run in Moab. It wasn’t my ideal, but after two days on the road, I was just happy to get out and play in the red dirt.
Thursday brought a lap at the Sovereign Trails with about half of our group while the rest headed out to Amasa Back. We returned to our respective houses to prepare the much anticipated feast. Eventually we gathered at one house and ate until we couldn’t eat anymore. There was so much food prepared that even with 35 people gathering for dinner, two turkeys went completely untouched. Some might see this as a problem, but it presented amazing opportunities for leftovers.
Friday was the pinnacle of the trip for me. We fueled with a quick breakfast and prepared Thanksgiving burritos, wrapped and tucked away in our Camelbaks. We gathered at the City Market parking lot and soon our caravan headed to the top of the Magnificent 7 trail. Mag 7 is one of the newer trails in Moab, and the first time I rode it was at last year’s Dirt Turkey festivities. It rocketed to the top of the list of my favorite trails in Moab, and I was super excited to get back on the trail this year, and to show it off to some of my friends who couldn’t make it to Moab last Thanksgiving. When we rode with our smaller groups the day before, we stopped regularly to keep the whole group together. When rolling with over thirty, however, there was no intention of keeping everyone together, and within a few miles, we had separated into groups who were well matched on skills and the speed we wanted to ride that day. Pretty soon we were down to just Sean, Rebecca, and I, and we had an amazing ride, a ride that will undoubtedly be one of my favorite rides of the year.
Mag 7 kicks out below Gemini Bridges and we crossed the highway to the Moab Brand Trails. A few of us drove up to retrieve the vehicles left at the trailhead, and over time the rest of the group finished the ride. The short loops at Brand Trails gave the faster riders something to do while the rest of the group finished the ride out from Mag 7. Finally we all gathered in the parking lot, ecstatic from a great ride, but the day was far from over. In a new twist to this year’s festivities, the first annual Dirt Turkey Olympics were held. Most of the group headed that way, but I was craving more time on the dirt. There was a big contingent from Minnesota at Dirt Turkey this year, guys who I worked with at Penn Cycle, some of whom still race for Penn, some of whom work or have worked for Trek Travel, and some who had been on one of our end of season trips before. We headed off the other direction from the parking lot and rode a few more loops at the trails. One of the guys in the group I have known for ten years, all in the context of the bike shop, but we had never ridden together, unless you count being at the same mountain bike races at various points over the years. We rode until we couldn’t ride any more, unsure whether our legs or our heads would give out first. We pedaled the last meters into the parking lot, with a couple celebratory jumps off the kickers along the road, and unclipped from our pedals, huge, exhausted grins across our faces. We sat in the parking lot, tossed a disc around, drank a beer, and basked in an amazing sunset, a perfect cap to a perfect day.
Too exhausted to gather as a big group on Friday night, we all headed back to our respective houses for a well deserved soak in the hot tub. It was an early night for all, but not before we created yet another amazing Thanksgiving leftover delivery device – Thanksgiving Pizza. After a long day on the trails, our group had an insatiable hunger, and we powered through a series of pizzas. All went to bed early, anticipating another big day on Saturday.
Unfortunately Saturday meant the end of Dirt Turkey 2012 for me, but I wanted one last ride before I left. With a sixteen hours of windshield time between me and being back in Solvang for work on Sunday, I knew even a short ride would have to happen early. I planned a quick spin on my way north out of town, back at the Brand Trails. A core group of my oldest friends at Trek Travel – Dan, Tony, and Berkas – all committed to coming with me on the ride. By the time I turned out the lights Friday night, a chunk of the Minnesota crew promised to join us early, too. Alarms went off Saturday morning, and the sun just peeked over the mountains we rolled out of the driveway. Many layers protected us against temperatures in the mid-20s. After an hour on the trails, my legs were shredded from an amazing weekend of riding, and the guys had to get back to the group to head out for their big ride of the day. I pointed my steering wheel back north on Hwy 191, and Dirt Turkey was a wrap for me.
More than any year in the past, this year’s Dirt Turkey really demonstrated what I have to be thankful for. There’s the usual list of things, that I’m healthy enough to do those rides, that I’m in a position to eat a huge and amazing feast for Thanksgiving dinner, that I have a job that allows me to take this kind of vacation every year. There is one thing that stands out above everything else, though, and it’s the amazing group of friends that I have. I have the kind of friends who would get up before the sun to ride with me before the temperature topped freezing, just so I could get one more ride in before I leave. I say all the time how great my friends are, and above everything else, I’m thankful that I got to spend Thanksgiving surrounded by so many of the people that I’m so thankful for, doing so many of the things I love the most.
Let the planning for Dirt Turkey 2013 begin!