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s.guirguis Author

The Nine

It’s unlikely that if you have ever driven by 9th and 9th on a Thursday night you haven’t noticed an assortment of bicycles. Similar to what you’d see at a dog park, you will find bikes and their owners from every spectrum of the community. Heavy duty mountain bikes, racing bikes with colorful LEDs, even vintage Wheelies that look like they belong more in an art museum than in a bike stand lining the area starting at 9 p.m. every Thursday.

The 999, more commonly known as “The Nine,” is an all inclusive bike ride that traverses the moonlit streets of Salt Lake City.  It welcomes people from every skill level, to the point that they follow a “no-drop” rule, which means they go no faster than the slowest biker. Like many of my college friends, I look forward to Thursday nights when bicycles reclaim the roads and my commute to school becomes a kind of playground, forcing automobile traffic to yield.

The Nine gather in mid-January on the corner of 9th and 9th just before 9 p.m. Photo by Conner Ashton.

“I bet it was just two guys drinking on their porch one summer night who came up with the idea, or some biker junkie with piercings that started the ride,”  some participants theorize. The truth behind the story is that it started with a man named Naresh Kumar. Kumar is 33, handsome, tall, slender, with dark brown hair in a bun and warm brown eyes. He has a degree in bioengineering and chuckles when I tell him how some people believe “The Nine” started. Five years later, Kumar is happy there is still a mystery behind the origin story of the nine because he started the event with the intent of making it leaderless, where the people riding were in control.

The cruiser ride in Boulder, CO inspired Kumar to try to start something similar in SLC. Kumar didn’t have much riding experience before he started The Nine. In fact, he remembers that he had to go to his mom’s house and dig through the garage to find the rusty bike that he’d used as a teenager. Kumar and his good friend Skylar then began to meet every Thursday on the corner of 9th and 9th at 9 p.m. and the two would set off. Slowly the word spread and the two-man team grew into what it is today, with nearly 200 people some nights.

Some of the bikes gathered before The Nine sets out. Photo by Conner Ashton.

Originally called “An Evening in the City with Naresh,” the popularity of the location and time quickly caught on and the name 999 stuck. In the winter months the numbers of bikers wane, but there are still people who are willing to brave the weather all 52 weeks of the year.

Each person creates their own meaning as to why they ride The Nine, using it as a way to socialize, exercise, or even to protest our current air pollution. T.R., suited up in a retro purple and green ski onesie to brave the 32 degree weather, leans on his bike and says, “this is my time. My wife knows that Thursday nights is when I get to socialize and get out the funk of routines.”

Kumar hopes to create an environment that brings people of all ages together; a place without the daily distractions of phones and media that often keep us less connected, and hopes that this event is one way to make our community more welcoming. Kumar compares the ride to having a child: you set guidelines, hope that people listen to them, and cross your fingers that the original idea doesn’t stray too far from the core values. So far, that’s what has happened. Despite there being an emphasis on making the event leaderless, there are “administrators,” which are some of the original members that model bike etiquette and help up a rider who might have taken a spill on the TRAX lines.

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

Photos by Conner Ashton, c.ashton@wasatchmag.com.

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The Stuff People Say

Outdoor Adventures at the University of Utah is the largest collegiate rental shop in the nation, according to its website. With all that gear, and all those students wanting to try it out, you are guaranteed a crazy story or two.

“By the way … there’s a book.”

I had gone into Outdoor Adventures expecting to interview the employees about gear rental options, but that one sentence caught my ear. I was hooked; like a dog sensing food nearby, I couldn’t resist the temptation.

Matt Klassen, one of the attendant employees, explained he usually begins gear rental interactions by asking students what they want to use the requested gear for. Time after time that simple answer has prompted responses that have left employees’ jaws hanging.

These stories began spreading through employee gossip. The usual, “Hey, you won’t believe what I heard the other day.” It wasn’t long before the collection of stories to tell grew big enough to warrant a little more attention. No one could point to who came up with the idea of making a book, but it caught on, and soon one page turned into a second page turned into a book.

Matt handed me the 11 by 4.5-inch book with the enjoyable title, “The Sh** People Say.” He laughed nervously as he did so, saying, “Here are some of the wild stories your fellow classmates have legitimately told us.”

 

1. A student asks to rent a wetsuit, saying, “I’m going pumpkin rowing” as part of the annual Daybreak Pumpkin Regatta. For the Regatta, she explains, people grow huge pumpkins, hollow them out, sit inside them, and paddle in the lake. She backs her story up with a photo of herself last year in a large pumpkin wearing a hippie costume.

 

2. A student selects a duckie for rental and says, “I need to save my duck. She’s stranded in the middle of a pond, but she’s playing with other ducks. My drunk friend released her the other night.”

 

3. After being directed to a tent rental, a student remarks, “I’m worried about setting up this four-person tent. It’s going to be really difficult.” The OA employee asks, “Are you going to have another person with you?” to which the student responds, “Well, yeah. Three other people. It would be really weird if I rented a four-person tent for myself.”

4. A student walks into Outdoor Adventures. Their first question is, “Can we rent a raft to slide down a mountain?” (OA regretfully did not rent out a raft for this activity.)

 

5. A student rents out a piece of equipment and before leaving, asks, “Can I UPS my rental back to your dropbox?” Apparently, the only problem here was the fact that, as the OA employee responded, OA “[does not] have a drop box.”

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

 

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Skipping School for Skiing

Ski run at Alta Ski Resort. Photo by Samira Guirguis.

“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream/The earth, and every common sight/To me did seem/Appareled in celestial light/The glory and the freshness of a dream.”

These words by William Wordsworth describe the moments I look forward to. Moments when the pull of snow on the mountain tempts me into skiing down runs filled with fresh powder, or moments when I survey the world from the top of a red, rocky cliff I traversed by digging my hands into its cracks and crevices. These moments in nature capture what it truly means to be present, alive, and at the same time, these moments continually force me to fight against the concept of time or obligations like school or work. The need to feel free and to experience living on my own is why I chose to forgo college for the spring semester at the University of Utah and decided to live and work the winter at Alta’s Rustler Lodge in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Ski communities harbor the nomadic people of our world — the ones who have not paved a steady path for themselves, choosing to live out of cars or tents, working odd jobs in different states in order to embrace nature through skiing or rock climbing. It’s hard not to pass judgment when the entirety of your life can be packed into a beat-up Toyota, but this was the norm for the employees at Rustler Lodge. While some in society might see these people as vagrants, it was difficult for me not to be enamored by their carefree lifestyle and the exciting stories they told in the evenings in the employee dining room. These were the people I would spend every skiing and working moment with for an entire season.

I loved the feeling of my beacon pressed against my side, cheeks rosy from the cold, nose numb. Each trip like a mini expedition filled with risks and careful decisions; a dumb choice could trigger an avalanche, thus ending a person’s life. But working at Rustler Lodge provided more than endless skiing. I got my first steady paycheck and mastered working in the kitchen of a busy resort restaurant. I learned how to live on my own and negotiate the drama created by tight quarters. When the snow melted, signaling the end of the season and work at Alta, everyone began to pack for their next adventure. Some wanted me to come with them. “School isn’t the only way to get an education,” I recall one guy saying who is currently hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, / But I have promises to keep/ And miles to go before I sleep,/And miles to go before I sleep,” words from Robert Frost. I loved my winter in the mountains, and as I sit at my computer typing an article for Wasatch Magazine, it is obvious that I chose to return to the apparent normalcy of schedules and deadlines rather than live a carefree lifestyle in nature. I want to be a journalist, which means I will have a goal that requires me to go to school and master certain skills that will enable me to be a successful reporter. In the future, I know I will experience the world by taking the path less traveled, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have a semester off. Or if you’re scared you might get behind in school, you can always take spring off and go back for the summer semester. We live in a state where we have easy access to world class ski areas that offer live-in positions like Rustler Lodge.

Rustler Lodge, Alta Peruvian, Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter, Snowbird, Solitude, and Deer Valley is a short list of resorts, which offer a range of jobs from working as ski instructors to cooking in busy restaurants. Take advantage of the fact that we have access to these canyons and make the most of it. November is when you should start applying for these jobs, and the fall colors of Little Cottonwood Canyon make the drive to apply.

s.guiguirs@wasatchmag.com

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A Different Outdoor Adventure

I’ve always loved the feeling of going fast, whether it be repelling quickly down a 180 foot crevasse or driving down a desolate stretch of desert highway. Now, as we enter into the peak of climbing season, I’ve started to combine my passion for climbing with motorcycle riding.

There’s nothing like sitting on an engine, gripping your handlebars, wind whipping against your body, and ground passing beneath your feet. Motorcycle riding is an environment of the senses, and if you’re into nature, hiking, or any sort of outdoorsy activity, motorcycles are a great way to extend this lifestyle.

It’s pretty cool to hop onto a machine that demands every ounce of your attention. You become more aware of your surroundings, the smells in the air, and the outdoor temperature. There is no other way to put it; riding is full of fun and adrenaline.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of motorcycle you have. Whether you ride a vintage cafe racer or an Enduro bike, keep pushing yourself and think of new ways that you can enjoy the hobbies and sports you love.

My preference is an Enduro 650 CC bike, which gives you the option to ride on highways or take on some challenging dirt roads. REI is the perfect store to purchase any compact, light-weight gear you might need to strap on your bike. I prefer Enduristan Monsoon 3 for saddle bags, a tank bag, and dehydrated food when I go on long adventures. It’s true that we live in a time where comfort is often our first priority — with a bike, you don’t get that luxury. You only have room for the essentials. But don’t worry, you can still have that perfect trip. Just avoid packing everything you think you might need, and instead plan to pick things up along the way or restock things you do have as they get low.

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

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Home is Where You Park It

Camping should be done outdoors. My mother taught me that lesson when I was six years old, loading her three kids with backpacks, having us hike in Point Reyes National Park, trudging through redwood forests, and breathing in salty shores. That’s why whenever someone suggested a car camping trip, I’d stick my nose high and say, “That is not camping.”

Camping is when you’ve made peanut butter and banana sandwiches for the fifth time, and the sound of birds wake you up in the morning — not the hum of RVs. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. This summer, my friends are swapping tents for camper shells and plywood. With a little ingenuity, cheap travel to remote locations is possible by car, and it’s almost as good as the old tent and backpack style.

It’s inspiring what people are doing to their cars with such little material and space. These simple upgrades allow you to stay outdoors longer, and it allows you to travel farther in ways backpackers cannot. With a properly equipped car or truck, you can spend weeks exploring the hundreds of climbing routes in Moab, like the infamous roadside climb Wall Street, rather than only days with a backpack. Even better, you can save your campsite money by parking on BLM land. It’s there for public use, and you can even use the Green River as a place to rinse off. Behind the Rocks is a popular spot my friends and I use. You can try it yourself if you don’t mind traveling down a dirt road for thirty minutes (latitude 38.4360 longitude -109.5034).

Photo credit Samira Guirguis.

Your 20s are a time when you have little responsibility, and perhaps even a time when you have more freedom. Why not plan a long road trip, and drive through Utah’s National Parks? Travel to see the “Mighty Five,” enjoy the distinctive, yet seemingly delicate formations of Arches National Park, bask in the sandcastle-like spires of Bryce Canyon, and experience the undulating landscape of Canyon Lands. All you need is a car and some supplies.

Don’t get tied down in a job you don’t love or wait for a partner to do these trips, just go. One buddy of mine went as far as buying a van from a retirement home, which he now lives out of, for the freedom of travel it provides without restrictions of jobs or partners. He even kept the “Senior Friendship Center” writing on the van.

You, too, can create a living space in the back of your car so you can climb wherever and whenever, or you can load your car up with music equipment so you can jam out with your friends with epic views like the San Rafael Swell. Take that chance, live off the grid, find yourself, discover the world, and find your own “van destiny.”

 

Here’s one way to get your car sufficiently ready for such a trip with a camper shell bed:

-Depending on the dimensions of your bed, two sheets of 4×8 3/4” thick cabinet grade plywood (about $50)

-A box of 1.25” wood screws

-A box of 2” wood screws

-Four hinges (about $8, later unused)

-6’5×6’5 roll of carpet (about $16)

-Wood glue

-Staples

–Total: About $80 after tax

Ultimately, all you need is just a few supporter beams and a thick piece of plywood to make it work in any truck, so get creative.

Although Toyota Tacomas in particular work great for this kind of thing, along with most trucks, this doesn’t mean you still can’t turn your car into a sleeper car. Subarus work just fine, too. All you need to do is take out your back seats, and voilà. Also, don’t forget to utilize all the storage space you will have underneath your bed platform. For my 2003 Subaru Outback, I used three plywood supporter beams that were 36” wide and 65” long to make my platform. Always check your car’s dimensions first though, because every car year/make/model is a little different.

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

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Take Your Running to the Hills

Concrete grids and treadmills may rule the winter months, but it’s spring and it’s time to hit the trails. Fresh air in your lungs, ups and downs, winding paths, and scenic views atop mountains — these are the moments runners live for. Convenience and flat terrain attract runners to the roads, but nothing compares to an escape to fields of pine boughs and wildflowers in Salt Lake’s foothills.

Joey Campanelli, a local trail runner, lives for those sights. The first time I saw him, I was skiing down a run at Alta. I saw a flash of florescent pink and turned to identify the shorts over leopard leggings running up the ski slope. Soon, I saw his big, goofy grin. Campenelli wasn’t going to let snow deny him his passion for trail running. He used it as a tool to train harder. In his books, trail running is the only way to run. The freedom, the peace and quiet, and the beauty are hard to beat.

“The trails take you to the most amazing places,” he said. “You also meet a lot of cool people if you do it enough.”

It’s easy to lose touch with the natural beauty of the world when you’re accustomed to staring at a sunrise in Yosemite National Park on a computer monitor. Escape the chaos of city life and burn off the stress and strains of the day by running in the hills.

Trail running offers a mix of challenges: one moment you’re running uphill with your heart pounding and the next you have time to relax after you crest the peak and jog along a stream. But this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, variation means a wide range of muscles get exercise. You can also be distracted by the beautiful scenery and stimulated by what’s around the next bend.

Strap on some running shoes and hit the trail. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail along the Salt Lake foothills and Pipeline Trail in Millcreek Canyon are great for beginners. *Warning* Trail running can be highly addictive and make you want to sign up for a race — so here’s a list for you:

 

April 29, Amasa Trail Runs, 15.5M, 9.5M, 6.5M, Moab, Utah

June 3, Vigor Solitude Trail Series Races, 13.1M, 8M, 5M, 3M, Cottonwood Heights, Utah

June 10, Park City Trail series 5K, Park City, Utah

June 17, Wasatch Steeplechase 17M, Salt Lake City, Utah

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Carolyn Webber

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How to: Make Coffee When Camping

Imagine that you’re deep in the Wasatch Mountains, hiking up to Mount Timpanogos 20 miles away from your favorite coffee shop or your fancy espresso machine at home. Scary thought, right? When you’re planning for a weeklong backpacking or camping trip, excessive gear is tossed out left and right, but for everyone’s sake and sanity, keep the coffee. Follow these steps to beat any “cowboy coffee” or Starbucks instant packs when on the trail.

Snow Peak’s French Press, the best camping French press in my opinion, is so lightweight, it’s always worth bringing along. I store all my coffee supplies for the trail inside and use it as a pot, since it can be placed directly on coals. The only drawbacks are that it doesn’t make a lot of coffee and it’s a little pricey — $55.99, to be exact.

To use it, just follow these three simple steps:

  1. Boil water
  2. Add grounds (my favorite is Cuarenteno from Jack Mormon Coffee Co.)
  3. Sit for three minutes and filter.
  4. To clean, rinse out grounds with a little water

Another alternative is liquid coffee concentrate, the perfect solution to serve high volumes of hot coffee quickly. Plus, the concentrate can be used to make iced coffee by diluting with two parts cold water and ice.

  1. Place two cups of ground coffee in a pitcher and cover with six cups of water at room temperature. Cover with a tea towel and let sit a minimum of 12 hours, 24 if you want it to be stronger. When camping, prep ahead and let it sit overnight.
  2. Strain coffee concentrate with a coffee filter.
  3. Dilute the concentrate with two parts boiling water. I tend to do a ratio of one part concentrate to two parts water, but over time you can experiment to see what tastes best to you.
  4. Depending on how long your trip is, grab some cream from the 7-11 before heading up the canyon or buy some Milkman instant low fat dehydrated milk from Amazon or REI.

You never need to give up a cup of coffee, even when you are out in Utah’s wilderness surrounded by red rocks or pine boughs and the crunch of snow. You can awaken to the sounds of unzipping bags and tents and the smell of a smoking campfire with the knowledge that delicious hot coffee awaits. You and your friends will be even happier with caffeine pumping through your blood.

s.guirguis@wasatchmag.com

Photo by Sam Guiguis

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