Home » 2005 Cross Country Road Trip

Moab - Town, UT

Sunday, July 24, 2005 - 6:00am by Lolo
148 miles and 3 hours from our last stop - 2 night stay


We were back in Moab, one of my favorite towns of the West. There's just something special about this place, especially if you love the outdoors. The scenery is incredible, the recreational opportunities are endless, and the town itself is full of life, not to mention some great shops and restaurants. Moab has a personality of its own. We had been to Moab twice before, once on our maiden voyage in 1999 and again just two years ago. It's the kind of place that you can come back to time and time again and always find something new to do.

Arches National Park post stormArches National Park post stormThe first thing on our agenda in Moab was celebrating Tommy's 14th birthday. He had actually turned 14 the day before in Capitol Reef, but refused to count the hike we did in a thunderstorm as an appropriate birthday bash. So, we promised him a night out on the town in Moab, which was something he really was looking forward to. More than anyone else in the family, Tommy loves to shop and eat out. Ironically, he rarely buys anything, but he just loves to browse. Andrew, on the other hand, could care less about shopping, but manages to load up with purchases whenever we do.

After getting a campsite at the Canyonlands Campground, the only one right in the heart of the town, we set off down Main Street to do some browsing. Our first goal was Ruby's, the funky store where we had bought the Jimi-Hendrix bathing suit and the windup dancing penises two years ago (see Moab 2003 for a picture of this very unique item). To our dismay, the shop was gone. How disappointing!

Undaunted, we continued up Main Street and found The T-shirt Shop. The place had more t-shirts than I had ever seen in my life, including hundreds of choices for customizing your own. Andrew, who is kind of a retro child of the 60s, bought a great tie-dye t-shirt, with a guitar-like pattern on a black background. To this day, he gets compliments on it whenever he wears it. I tried to encourage Tommy to get something--after all, it was his birthday--but he just couldn't find anything he wanted to buy.

Lolo reading Harry Potter to the youngLolo reading Harry Potter to the youngThere were quite a few photo galleries in town to browse through. Our favorite was the Tom Till Gallery, which had some of the most incredible images of the Moab area that I have ever seen. His photos would make anyone feel insecure as a photographer. He does have the advantage, though, of living in Moab and being able to wait for the perfect lighting and weather conditions in which to capture the dramatic shots that he does. However, I could live here for a life time and never come close to capturing the images he does. It did give us some ideas though of what to strive for.

Tom wanted to have dinner at the Fat City Smokehouse where he had celebrated his 12th birthday - that's right, this was Tom's second birthday celebration in Moab. Unfortunately, Fat City had gone the way of Ruby's and was no longer in business. We were getting a little paranoid. It seemed like everything we touched last time we were here was gone.

As an alternative, we chose the Moab Brewery, which turned out to be quite nice--good food, great beers, upbeat atmosphere, and friendly service. They brew their beers right on site and most of them are quite good. Herb and I shared a sampler, which consisted of 12 little Dixie cup size glasses, each containing a different beer, with names like Lizard Lite Ale, Dead Horse Amber Ale, Park City Steamer, and other appropriate Utah-like names. We had a really fun waitress to whom we happened to mention that it was Tommy's birthday. When Tom got up to go to the men's room, the waitress informed everyone on the patio that it was Tom's birthday and that they should all join in on a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday" when he returned. Poor Tom. He really is quite shy. He turned several shades of red when he returned and was greeted by a patio-full of strangers breaking out in song in his honor. I personally think it was pretty cool.

Lolo of the Colorado RiverLolo of the Colorado RiverSince we have a tendency to stick with a good thing once we find it, our plan for the following day was to raft down the Colorado River along the same stretch that we had 2 years ago. We even called the same shuttle service (Coyote Shuttle) to drive us up the river. Fortunately, he had eluded our bad luck touch and was still in business. In fact, it was the very same guy that picked us up last time. As he drove us up the very scenic Utah 128, which ran along the river, he entertained us with tales of foolhardy tourists that had come to unfortunate ends in the harsh lands around Moab. Many of these stories involved mountain bikers that made a wrong turn, got lost, and consequently died of dehydration. He told us that it happens at least a dozen times each year. Some of the trails he mentioned were ones that I had considered doing. It made me feel much better about our decision to raft today rather than mountain bike.

He dropped us and our raft off at Hittle Bottom and we began our 12-mile journey down the river. The water levels were considerably lower than they had been 2 years ago, with much more exposed rock. However, the scenery was just as incredible as always - it was like watching Monument Valley float by. I must admit though that it wasn't quite as good as our trip 2 years ago. It's always more exciting seeing things for the first time. Also, we were a lot less carefree and adventurous this time. Two years ago, the kids and I had spent most of our time out of the raft floating through the rapids with our preservers. That was until we had a scare--Tommy had gotten caught in an eddy that kept pulling him underwater. Thankfully, he got out okay, but we definitely learned a lesson about the possible dangers of the river. So, this time we were much more cautious, probably even too much so, and stayed in the raft for all but the calmest portions.

Trusty 21 year old Avon Redshank raft with Northwest River Supplies rowing frameTrusty 21 year old Avon Redshank raft with Northwest River Supplies rowing frameSince we were in no particular hurry, we often just let the raft float along at its own pace. As the afternoon progressed, however, thunderclouds started building, as they so often do on a summer afternoon in Utah, and the wind began to pick up. Not wanting to get caught in a storm, Herb began to row more vigorously. By the time we got to our takeout point at Take Out Beach, the storm was very close. We quickly began the process of deflating and putting away the raft, hoping to finish before the storm hit. Just another 15 minutes and we would have been okay. Instead we had to deal with a wind and sandstorm similar to the one we had experienced at Lake Powell a few days ago. Sand pelted us so hard that it hurt and we could barely keep the raft and its paraphernalia from blowing away. Everything was covered with a layer of sand, including us. It was very scary.

Safely back in the RV, we tried to regroup and decide what to do next. Since we had no plans for the night yet and the sky was looking quite dramatic, we decided to quickly drive into Arches National Park and try to emulate some Tom Till photographs. On the way in, we checked for campsite availability in the Devils Garden Campground, but were told that it had filled up early that morning. We would later find out that we were lucky we didn't get in that night (see next day's writings).

We hurried along the scenic drive through the park racing to an overlook before the sky cleared. We were just about 15 minutes too late for the really dramatic stuff, but we did manage to get off a few good shots. Meanwhile, I called the Canyonlands Campground and was able to get our site back for another night.

Back in Moab, we saw that the storm had had a pretty dramatic effect on the town as well. The usually dry creek bed that is the Mill Creek in Spring, was now a raging river of red silt flowing under the bridges through town. The streets were crowded with people and a party atmosphere filled the air - I just love this place!


Moab is the largest town in southeastern Utah with a population of 5,500. It lies in a green valley near the Colorado River and is surrounded by high sandstone cliffs. Its location makes it an excellent base for exploring Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. In the past 20 years of so, it has become a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts or “yummies” (young urban macho men into extreme sports), who flock here to mountain bike, river run, rock climb, four-wheel drive, hike, etc. It is the most youthful and vibrant community in Utah, and the Main Street through town reflects that with its numerous restaurants, bars, and shops.

Moab - Town location map in "high definition"

Javascript is required to view this map.