By Luke Pearsall · Published April 4, 2019
A few months back I received an email inviting me to take part in a bike tour operated by Escape Adventures along with a handful of other media professionals on what was called their FAM Tour. As a former Adventure Guide in South America in my 20’s this really sparked my interest, especially since the invite was a chance to bike around one of my favorite places in the country; Moab, Utah. This would be my first time actually participating in a bike tour not as a guide participant and as an actual client, something that I have always wanted to do.
Escape Adventures is a family run company that has been operating hiking and biking tours since 1992. Its founders Jared and Heather Fisher have grown their company to include over 100 destinations and cater their tours to all levels of physical fitness and a full spectrum of activity types which I believe to be a wonderful quality of a tour company. I think too often people don’t take tours because they think that they physically won’t be able to keep up with a group or with the rigors of a tour that requires physical demands but this tour was a perfect example of how a company can make sure that everyone from the most physically fit, to the least physically fit person has an incredible time.
One of the things that drew me to wanting to work with Escape Adventures is their commitment to the environment. They are the only company that has built an, “environmentally friendly, LEED Platinum – Net Zero Energy facilities to house both operational and retail business.” That’s a technical way of saying that they have committed themselves to leave as small an environmental footprint as they can in their operations from office to the field, and that is something that I truly appreciate and respect about any company especially one that is so personally connected to the outdoors like Escape Adventures is.
DAY 1 ARRIVAL
Booking the tour was incredibly easy, efficient and seamless really. Jen, our contact with Escape Adventures took care of all the details for us and a few short weeks later my bags were packed and I was headed to Salt Lake City on a short flight from Denver to meet our guide and the rest of the media folks who would be joining the tour as well.
At Salt Lake City airport it was easy to find Merrick and Will our guides who were conveniently standing with an easy to find Escape Adventures sign right at the baggage claim where they said they would be. After some quick introductions, we hit the road and headed on our van ride to Moab like one big happy family. My side note here is that I actually live close enough to Moab that I could have probably driven to Moab quicker than the flight and the drive but because I knew I would be writing about the trip I wanted to get the full experience that any other attendee would. I actually found the time I spent in the Van with the other media folks to be a really enjoyable experience because we were able to get to know each other and our guides a bit as we passed the time. The ride was beautiful and the time seemed to pass by quite quickly.
Our first night we were treated to a Delicious Dinner at the Moab Brewery where Jen came to meet us face to face and we were introduced to the full crew of guides who would be with us for the following three days. Merrick was the lead and Will and Ian accompanied him. From that very first dinner, the three of them treated us all with a great deal of respect and kindness as they were more than happy to answer any questions or concerns we might have about the following days to come on the tour.
After the meal, we all retired back to our accommodation at the Big Horn Lodge on the main street of Moab. I was roomed with a young Canadian photographer named Matt Massa who over the course of the next few days I would come to know as a very talented, kind and passionate young man. The Lodge was conveniently located just about 100 yards from the Moab Cycle shop where the Escape Adventures Tours are operated out of and super convenient to walk to almost anywhere or anything you might want to see or do with your downtime, which was a nice bonus if you wanted to grab a snack or pick up something you may have forgotten from the grocery store after the tour had dropped your off for the night.
DAY 2: BIKING
On the morning of day two Merrick, Will and Ian met us promptly at 7:45 am where we were treated to a delicious breakfast right at the hotel’s attached diner. Quaint and very traditional breakfast foods done well and attentive staff, even with our large table made breakfast a great start to the day. A few cups of coffee and a full belly later we then transitioned over to Moab Cycle to be fitted on our bikes and get an overview on the day’s adventures.
I think this is a good point to mention the electronic assist bikes that Escape Adventures had us on. It having been a long exercise less winter for many fo the media crew we initially had our concerns about the amount of physical fitness required to cruise through the rather intimidating landscape that we had driven through on the way into town. These bikes eased our worries in no time. Once you sit on them and pedal just a bit, an electronic motor assists you in keeping a great pace without having to exert a tremendous amount of force. Our group had a range of athletic abilities and these bikes suited us that wanted to go fast and quick and those who wanted to cruise at a steady pace and take photos as they road.
After our introduction to the bikes and bike safety, we packed up the van worked our way out of town to a spot where we could all safely get on the road and begin our ride. Ian, a young enthusiast Escape Adventure guide from Colorado led the way. It was apparent that he had a real love for Moab and had a really rich knowledge of the landscape and the sport of biking. Will, another very knowledgable and outgoing guide took the rear position and made sure that no one fell behind him without support. As we pulled away, Merrick passed us in the van towing a support cargo hauler behind which was equipped to handle any immediate emergency that might occur. Every few miles we would see him sitting on the side of the road and the group would pull over and take a quick break, refill water bottles or have a snack which was all provided as part of the tour.
Morning into afternoon was extremely pleasant as we pedaled our way down the Colorado River passing campgrounds, rock climbers, and ancient petroglyphs carved in the walls of the stones of the area they called Wall Street. One of the highlights was stopping at an area called Jug Handle Arch which was an appropriately named rock formation that resembled a jug handle hanging off the side of the cliff.
Before we knew it, we had reached a natural turn around point and began heading back to our midday lunch location. I think it was safe to say by the time we saw the white Escape Adventures van at the roadside pull off that we had all worked up an appetite. Also, as a side note, by this point in the day, my butt was probably ready for a little break as well as I had foolishly foregone the idea of wearing the padded cycling pants because when I tried them on they felt too bulky to me. In hindsight, I would have definitely worn them and saved my butt some mild discomfort and just dealt with the fact that I felt like I looked funny wearing them. Lunch was simple bet well thought out and accommodated several of the other media folks dietary needs. Escape adventures went above and beyond in my mind to make sure that there was something for everyone to eat, even with one of the attendees who as very specific health-related dietary restrictions. A wonderful Greek Salad with Pita and Hummus along with an assortment of fruit, chips, and beverages made for an extremely pleasant meal along the riverside in folding camp chairs and provided us with the energy we needed to push that final few miles to our ending point for the riding portion of the day.
In total, I believe we rode between 30-35 miles which might seem like a lot but, with the technology built into those bikes it was a very manageable distance. In fact, there were many parts of the day when I thought to myself how great it would be to get my 72-year-old father out on one of these bikes to rediscover a sport he had once really enjoyed but had since semi-retired from as he has gotten older. I hope one day I can make that a reality with him on a tour like this as I know he could still do it with these e-bikes assisting him.
DAY 2 HIKING
After a quick stop back at Moab Cycle to change into our hiking clothes and grab fresh camera batteries, we were off headed for a late afternoon hike in Arches National Park. Driving into Arches is like entering another world as you climb steeply at first into the park along the entrance road. The rock formations and colors are incredibly unique. It truly is a sight that I don’t think you can witness in many other places in the world.
We began our hike down a well-groomed Devil’s Garden loop trail and quickly reached the impressive Landscape Arch which is that longest natural arch in the world spanning 306ft across. You can’t get up close and personal like you can on some of the other arches in the park but this was by no means our final destination for the day.
Merrick, Will, and Ian urged the group to continue with them down the trail on a more challenging route up the rock and around the bend until we reached Partition Arch. We were pleasantly surprised to see that we basically had the whole area to ourselves to explore, take photos and climb up the nearby rocks for incredible vista views as far as the eye could see. It was apparent that we were in the good hands of professionals who knew where to take a photo-minded group of people. This was greatly appreciated by all of us.
After an hour of climbing on the rocks and taking photos, we worked out way back to the car for one last little surprise on the day. Merrick saw how excited all of us were to hike and take photos so he made the call to take us to one last spot to catch some sunset shots. He went out of his way to cater to the wants of his passengers and push back a dinner reservation he had planned ahead for earlier and that was welcomed by all of us. We stopped at Double Arch and Windows Arch for sunset and witnessed a subtle and wonderful sunset across the desert sky.
Having been a former guide I can appreciate what our guides did to accommodate an extra hour to photograph sunset especially since I know they just tacked an extra hour on to their day which had already reach about 12 hours and knowing that they still had to get us fed, deliver us home and prepare meals and wash dishes from the days events when we returned. Again, a shining example of people who are dedicated to giving their clients the best possible experience they can have even at the expense of giving up an extra hour fo their off time after an exhausting day.
Dinner commenced at a local Mexican restaurant which provided some excellent options and even better conversations as we recapped our first day together as one big happy group of travelers.
Day 3 BIKING/HIKING
Much like the start to Day 2 we met with the rising of the sun and were transported to a great little breakfast spot in town for a hearty meal to start the day. The food in Moab definitely surprised me. I figured a town that was known for its outdoor adventures wouldn’t exactly have a lot of options but all of the food we had on tour was excellent across the board.
After breakfast, we took the van up towards Dead Horse Point State Park where were had more of a freestyle riding experience. The inside of the park is not huge so it would be practically impossible to get lost. We were cut relatively loose with a meetup time to meet back at the van to meet up for our road ride to lunch.
If you have never been to Dead Horse Point State Park you should visit. Although not designated as a National Park it butts right up against Canyonlands National Park and provides some spectacular views of the canyons below. We could literally look down towards the where we were riding the previous day and I really appreciated that different perspective looking down on where we had been.
After our free time riding around and creating photos we met at the Van and started our ride towards lunch. Again we passed through miles of gorgeous roads that had really just a light amount of traffic on them that would occasionally pass us by. There was never a feeling at least for me that we were on roads that had too much traffic.
We pulled in to a designated parking lot where Merrick had again prepared a wonderful meal which included a Pasta Salad made from beetroot pasta. I was very impressed that he could be so involved with our tour in the morning ride ahead just a short while down the road and prepare a homemade meal from scratch the way he did.
Post lunch we had a great downhill ride to our final resting spot where the bikes were loaded on to the vans and we were treated to some up close and personal of views of petroglyphs right where we were loading up. Shortly after, our guides took us on a very educational hike where we learned about the history of the native people who created some of what we had been seeing and more also about the cryptobiotic soil we were surrounded by and how important it is to the desert landscape and ecology.
On day three we finished a bit early and had a nice little break between our afternoon hike and evening activity. Again, knowing that we really wanted to get some great visuals for our stories, our guides scooped us up for and sunset trip up into the mountains where not only did the sunset deliver with vibrant oranges and yellows but our guides so generously offered to model for many of the photos that we wanted to take. It seems like that wouldn’t be a big deal but when everyone in your group wants to make photographs and no one wants to be in them, having someone to stand on a rocky point is critical in making a photograph look interesting.
After the sunset, we headed down into town where again Merrick had planned a wonderful dinner reservation at a small but extremely tasty Thai Restaurant in town. I had a Tom Yum fried rice that was my favorite meal of the entire trip.
Day 4 Bike
Breakfast by this point had become a welcome morning ritual. We all chose our seats at the table with new friends and shared stories from the previous two days. I think by this point in the trip you could say that all of us that were there to experience the e-bike tour had really become friends and this is how we all felt about Merrick, Will, and Ian too. After some great grub and a few cups of coffee, we transported out for our last ride together.
Our final ride was a beautiful one with terrain that felt surprisingly different than any of the previous two days that we had ridden through. We passed a beautiful winery, as well as a horse riding tour that looked like it could have easily been a caravan of cowboys heading out into the mountains as we cycled by. This last day’s ride was as beautiful as the others and offered the kind of natural beauty which truly takes your breath away. It was like riding through a postcard.
At this point in the tour, we all knew the routine pretty well. Bike, stop frequently to laugh, take pictures and of course, eat snacks as we savored the last few hours of adventure we had together.
Our day ending early of course as we had to load up our bags and head back to Salt Lake City to catch our flights. Merrick had planned ahead and ordered some very delicious sandwiches from a local deli to eat along the way. Our goodbyes were brief as we thanked Will and Ian for an awesome few days and before we knew it we were all sitting in the airport waiting to go home our separate ways. Luckily we were all flying on Southwest Airlines so we had time the ability to all hang out together for a few more hours before our flights took off and our Escape Adventure was complete.
I am a believer that in every single Adventure that I have had the privilege of taking in my life that I leave a better person. The winter was long this year and four days in the sunshine was a welcomed event that’s for sure.
I went into this trip with really very few expectations of what it might be. I was a little nervous about the physical demands, what was expected of us, and really if I was going to see anything in Moab that I hadn’t already seen in my multiple previous trips there. What I found was that Escape Adventures really went the extra mile to ease all those worries with the e-bikes, that what was expected of us as members of the tour was to relax and enjoy ourselves, and also that it was dumb of me to even consider thinking that I had seen all Moab had to offer when the reality is I could go back a thousand more times an still just be scratching the surface.
Escape Adventures sponsored this tour but didn’t require us to write anything but what we truly thought about the experience. I was blown away by their commitment to us as passengers on their tour and I can confidently say that we were not treated any differently by the guides than any normal person would be treated if they were taking the tour as well.
I was incredibly impressed by our guides and the absolute best service that they provided to us all. Everyone was looked after and cared for with a great amount of pride. I often caught them talking amongst each other about how lucky they felt to work in such an awesome place and it completely showed in their commitment to their work. We were in very good hands the entire time.
The most incredible thing happened out in that desert during those four days. Six seemingly different media personalities came together from different backgrounds and different parts of the world along with three guides from even different backgrounds than our own and we all found some common ground. When you strip away the Instagram likes or the number of monthly blog visitors or YouTube views all of us get and hang our hats on, what we really found is that we are the same person. We love to experience new things, in places that are new to us. We love sharing our experiences with other people by telling stories with pictures or videos or words. We are part of a community of travelers that put experiences like this above other seemingly less important things in life. In our time in the desert, we became a tiny little tribe in only a few days. We ate together and played together like kids exploring a new part of the world for the first time and in the process made friendships that will last well beyond just those four days together. We are travelers, bloggers, photographers, and storytellers but most important of all I would like to think we are Friend Collectors. And for that, I will always be grateful.