Road2Recovery Ride – Blue Diamond Trails

Road2Recovery – February 2013

While I wasn’t an official sponsor nor was my shop an official sponsor of this event we were invited nonetheless to participate with this amazing group. Road2Recovery offers cycling as a way to repair emotions and cope with wounds in a practical and lively environment. It’s a little surreal when you arrive at the effective trailhead and see men and women on mountain bikes, most with some prosthetic limbs. Some of these limbs were modified to deal with the stresses of mountain biking.

Blue Diamond Trails - Road2Recovery

It was humbling, too. On days when you think, “Man it’s cold outside, I should stay here and rest and stay warm in the house,” this offers a new perspective. These wounded are out riding and enjoying the experience because they have the ability to still do it. Everyday is a treasure to them. Every moment they can ride is a blessing. I have full use of my body. Situations like this can make you feel like a real dirt bag.

The trip started as an invite that I thought I wasn’t going to get to be a part of. Then things changed and changed again and all of a sudden I was on the road with Zack and Kyle en route to St George, our first stop. We’d ride the Zen trail there and continue on to meet the group in Vegas on Monday morning. We arrived in Vegas on Sunday evening ready for a good time. As it would turn out we wouldn’t spend more than a couple of hours a day with the Road2Recovery group, just enough to do some fantastic desert riding with them.

Blue Diamond Trails - Road2Recovery

After breakfast on Monday morning we hit the road bound for Blue Diamond, a place I’d never heard of but a place where there are some 150 miles of mountain biking trails in an area known historically for Spanish mining. The Spaniards went off in all directions in search of glory, gold and God.  They found gold in what has become the tiny colony of a town, Blue Diamond, and started mining, looking for the gold. Just as many hard-rock camps in the west they needed ability to move massive amounts of rock and debris so they brought in mules. Those mules and their masters created the eerie old, inexplicable roads that now lace the desert countryside. Their work made way for the mountain bikers who’d be along centuries later to build trails and bring new life to this corner of the desert.



Blue Diamond, Nevada

Blue Diamond is a town at the center of all of this. They have their own zip and post office. There’s even a quirky little bike shop manned by a quirky and amiable mechanic. He’s the guy you want sitting around a campfire telling stories of the past. He’s the one that you need to ask about the trail system here

Surrounding Blue Diamond is that haven of trail systems that you only dream about. In the middle of winter when all the trails at home are covered by 9 feet of snow and daily skied across, you long for a ride and Las Vegas answers the innate call for a winter ride. Blue Diamond is desert country and is a place that is shrouded by near mythical history which doesn’t exclude Spanish prospectors. Redrock.org has a brief history of more modern times of this area.

Blue Diamond Trails - Road2Recovery

The trail is hard and soil filled with what seems to be river bed stones. They’re all rounded and give the dirt unmatched stability. There are sandy sections, like the section called Viagra… there are several small regions with different names: BFR (?), Badger, Red Canyon, and Cottonwood. There are probably others but I think you’ll get the idea when you get there.

Road2Recovery Group

Back to the riders: all had some new limitation to either mobility or confidence because of either emotional or physical injury. I wasn’t sure that my volunteering had much to offer because I usually add assistance when there are mechanical issues. But the second day came around and I started to understand why I was there.

Carlos had several C-vertebrae discs fused. His injury and recovery left him without confidence that he could ride like he used to. He stopped dead on a moderate climb and kicked himself for feeling so out of shape and limited. We encouraged him and told him that he had to keep on with the climb in order to overcome the weakness. The more he did this the stronger he’d become. I didn’t think much would come of it. I was wrong. It was all he needed.




At the end of the descent off the backside of that climb, he came up to Cole and me and thanked us for what we had done for him. I didn’t understand but then it hit me. I was volunteering to support this crew in a way I never had. They needed fellow humans to believe in them, tell them they could do it.

That was what this was about. Kind of a life lesson if you will. Most of my time I spend with athletes or recreational athletes who suffer pretty basic injuries. I may never know what war does to the mind. What I saw in those individuals, maimed emotionally more than physically, was sadness and activities in groups like that had power to begin the healing.

Johnny T

One more thing, I got to chase Johnny Tomac for a while on Monday. I’ve idolized that guy for a long time and met him briefly once before. I’d never been able to ride with him though. The only reason I could keep up was because there was a slower guy in front of him that day. I watched, really watched, and I could see that riding with company for him was like playing dominoes. He flicked rocks off the trail with either tire and manualed over rocks, large ones… and rollers. Generally, Johnny T is a legendary rider and in my eyes a living myth. I was stoked that he was part of our ride.

Blue Diamond Trails - Road2Recovery
Riding with Johnny Tomac in the middle of the pack




Moab – Trail Riding

A Little History on Moab
moab brand map
I had never ridden this trail, thought it would be a great idea

I have spent a great deal of time in Moab since the day. When I was younger and discovering the growing sport of mountain biking us two 14 year old boys took a trip to Southern Utah to discover the place. It wasn’t a busy place and it had been marked on the map as a mountain biking town, among mountain bikers… I was too young to know what was really going on. I road the Slick Rock Trail and then Amasa Back on that trip. Back then Slick Rock wasn’t the hit that is today. Amasa Back was just a jeep road.

How things have changed. Town is now a mecca and cannot be overlooked by any serious mountain biker. (As you define a serious mountain biker you will also find a serious spending habit on livable Mercedes vans and an affinity for cheap beer – a subject for future discussion). For me, it is reminiscent and nostalgic. I cannot leave the place behind because I have spent so much time here. The riding is all time, every time.

North 40 Mountain Bike Trail - Moab, Utah
From here the loop just gets exciting




The trails have grown and for those of you who don’t know, this means actual single track and not jeep roads and motorcycle routes. There are bike only trails! And it all started with the Sovereign Trail between Dalton Wells and Willow Springs roads. But out that way, there has always be someone else digging in the ground for treasure.

Moab has a long history as a mining town, which interests me for many reasons. Anyone can see this but most don’t appreciate what it is or what has been going on there. Check out this article in HCN, High Country News. This is why there are so many jeep roads and motorcycle routes. And that is how all this started. For some great history on the mining in the Moab area, Raye C. Ringholz wrote a comprehensive book on what happened called, Uranium Frenzy: Boom and Bust on the Colorado Plateau.

Trail Riding in the Moab

Moab mountain biking has a very specific feel and it’s a unique experience, which is why, I assume, the place has grown in use to unsustainable numbers of visitors. Be careful when you visit the place or you’ll be waiting in line wherever you go.

North 40 Mountain Bike Trail - Moab, Utah
The spectacular view from any point on the North 40 trail is simply stunning.

The actual riding is mostly technical. If trails were music, then Moab is mostly a Smashing Pumpkins album, specifically, Siamese Dream. Cherub Rock seems to make the cut… The trails are extremely rocky and have some pretty extreme maneuvers but that’s part of the uniqueness here. Your mind picks up something left by time and you never lose the thread, meaning you’ll always be back to ride another day.

My last visit was 1 and 1/2 years ago. I live 4 hours away. My excuses are many, kind of like why there’s dirty dishes in the sink. My last ride on the iconic Whole Enchilada was two years ago. One of the reasons, a very valid one, is that the town experiences way too many visitors these days. These are the days that Edward Abbey described in his prophetic prose about the region. If you don’t know about Ed Abbey, leave this page and go find out.




It wasn’t a place that was ever supposed to become a mecca for mountain biking. But let’s face it, mining towns always find a way to thrive. Look at the mining towns of the west, especially the hard rock mine towns of the Rocky Mountains, they became ski resorts!

I’ve started to stay north of town in my recent years of riding here. It’s easier for me to avoid town. Which I hate doing because I love town, or the ghost of it. Emotionally, it’s easier to spend as little time there as possible. I’ve counted on trails like the Brand network, Sovereign, and Dead Horse Point area to become my go-to tracks.

North 40 Trail
North 40 Mountain Bike Trail - Moab, Utah
The sun was setting and this was not a moment to let slip by

I discovered that someone had built a new one out on the Moab Brand network called North 40. This is a spectacular trail and offers the kind of riding that can only be found in the deserts of Utah, uniquely in the Arches and Canyonlands proximity.

The last 14 years Moab has been expanding its trail system. And it is gorgeous. The Brand Trails hadn’t always offered challenging rides but now things are different. This North 40 trail has flow and punchy climbs, it has technical moves that will kick you right off your bike, appropriately. Riding a fat bike made things less challenging and I enjoyed a good deal of continued momentum.

I remember a specific section where I was rallying through, little bits of desert dirt flying out from the sides of my huge tires, and I emerged from behind some rocks. There, on the trail, two people were listening and watching as my huge tires rolled into their memories. I charged past them on a mission to maintain rhythm, chased by a romantic dream of a desert I used to know.

The sun was setting, in more ways than one on that ride. I love Moab, I love the desert. The time in my life where the deserts here play a critical role in my well being is coming to an end. It’s a place to enjoy and defend and will always be special. I don’t cherish my new memories of the place the way I cherish the old ones. All my experiences are great but something about the old Moab holds on; it persists, it drowns out the voices of the present.

Maybe it’s just me, a lost rider still on a trail that has gone away. One day, though, forty or fifty years from now you’ll find me as a pile of bones on a rock over-looking a deep canyon, next to a burned-out fat bike.