Day 41: Hanksville to Boulder Mt.
Today was another day of incredible riding through the otherworldly Utah scenery. We started out in middle of nowhere Hanksville and rode through the Capitol Reef National Park.
The park got its name from the huge domes of white stone that are common formations throughout the area.
Riding in a group of five tended to make for slow going, and I knew that the afternoon storms would be coming, so I went ahead of the group and we decided to meet up in Torrey, UT about 45 miles into the ride.
I rode through the impressive canyons of the park, sure that I would beat the storms. As I got within 10 miles of Torrey, sure enough the sky grew dark and cloudy and it started to rain.
Just outside of Torrey I pulled into a Mexican restaurant as the ritual of rain and lightning began. When it stopped storming, I quickly rushed over to Torrey, as another storm rolled through.
I was glad I made it before the storms, but I waited three hours before the rest of the group arrived. They had to wait out the storm in the visitor center of the park, without any cell phone service to coordinate meeting back up.
Frustrated with the interruption of these violent storms, we pushed on to our campsite, about 3000 feet up in elevation on Boulder Mountain. My legs were good to go, since I hadn’t really been able to do much
riding during the day, so the climb wasn’t terrible.
As we climbed, the terrain changed dramatically from barren red rock canyons, to an alpine wilderness. On top, we had to put on almost all our layers to keep warm as we ate our dinner of powdered mashed potatoes and macaroni (good thing I brought a multi-vitamin). I crossed my fingers for better weather the next day.
Day 42: Boulder Mt. to Escalante
In the morning we had another 1000 ft of climbing to go before a long downhill into the town of Boulder, UT. Although the climbing went by quickly, and while I was hoping for a roller coaster ten mile downhill, the mountain also doubled as a cow pasture, and every two or three miles, I had to dodge cows in the road, who seemed totally confused and tended to walk the wrong way when the saw me coming.
At the bottom of the hill, I saw Marc’s bike at a restaurant and we sat and waited for the last rider, Rose.
We waited for an half hour or so, not concerned yet, because she tended to stop for picture breaks a lot. After an hour, an incredibly early 10 am shower came through. We felt bad for Rose, probably coming down the mountain still.
Just as the rain stopped, she rolled in, with a great story to tell. Apparently, her chain had gotten caught up in the derailleur as she was trying to navigate through a sea of cows, and she ended up colliding with one.
She kept her balance but had to pull over to fix her chain, as the cows stared and moo-ed indignantly.
After breakfast, we moved on, riding down a road called the Hogsback, with steep drop offs on both sides, no shoulders, no guardrails, and 14% downhill grades. This was the roller coaster I had been waiting for.
While riding through Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument, we managed to dodge the afternoon storms, which we could see in the distance at the tops of hills.
We rolled into Escalante, UT, where Rose fixed her bike, and we camped by a reservoir.
Day 43: Escalante to Red Canyon
Today I rolled out of the campsite before the others, since I liked riding in the early morning a lot better, and the group tended to leave around 8.
I had another 2000 ft climb out of Escalante, over to the next valley.
The terrain was again totally different than before. I rode through a green mountain valley that reminded me of the Appalachians. Once at the top, however, the terrain turned into a bare rock face canyon, that apparently houses tons of still-unearthed dinosaur fossils.
I dropped back into the canyon, with walls of yellow, white, orange, and red layers, and stopped to wait for the rest of the team in Tropic, UT.
Marc rolled up, and said that the others would be a while, so we ate lunch and headed up to Bryce Canyon National Park. We pulled into Ruby’s Inn, the unofficial entrance to the park, and ditched our bikes for a shuttle.
We picked a short 2 mile hike that dropped into the canyon. The canyon looked completely different than any other, with tall spires of weathered orange and red rock lining the walls down into the valley.
We hiked down and back up, and were impressed. On drying that struck me as strange was that we barely heard any English being spoken. Almost all the tourists there were either French or German.
Jason, who is a Utah native, said that a lot of Europeans have a fascination with cowboys and come here to get the full experience.
After eating dinner in an overpriced fast food joint, we went for a night ride to a campground in the Red Canyon.
It was a full moon, and as we rode downhill, we could see the landscape bathed in the moonlight.
Days 44 and 45: traveling to Reno
We spent the morning riding to Panguitch, UT, a small western town.
This was where I would say goodbye to Team Alabamboo. Because of my time constraint, my choices were to either ride quickly alone through the hot desolate Nevada desert or to take a train. I decided to take a
If I had the time, I would have preferred to ride through Nevada with the group, but I didn’t, so a train was necessary. Jason’s friend Melissa had been riding with us for the past few days, and was
headed back home to Salt Lake City, so I got a ride with her.
Once in SLC, I would take the Amtrak California Zephyr line to Reno, Nevada. It sounded great in theory, but when I got to SLC at 6PM for my 11:30PM train, I found out it would be delayed until at least 4AM
because of bad weather in the Plains.
I spent the evening riding around downtown SLC and then taking my bike apart so it would fit in the required bike box. I didn’t have the right wrench needed to take the pedals off the bike, and had to call up my new friend Melissa to see if she had one.
Luckily, her friend lived downtown and had a full set of wrenches. He rode down to the train station at almost midnight on his moped and we took the pedals off. At the same time I found out that the train was delayed another three hours.
I took out my sleeping bag and managed to get about three hours of sleep under a bench outside the station. The train came at around seven and I was off through the Nevada desert to Reno.
Despite feeling guilty for “cheating” by taking a train, the ride was great. I had my options of the lounge car, the dining car, or my seat in coach. All the cars were multilevel. I felt like I was on the Hogwarts Express.
After a ten hour ride I was dumped out in Reno, Nevada. Because the train was so delayed, it was now 4:00 PM, and I still had to make it to my lodgings for the night on Lake Tahoe. My friend Nick was living
there during the summer while working for a nonprofit that maintains the Tahoe Rim Trail, a trail over the mountains that circle the huge alpine lake.
Between me and the lake was a thirty mile ride and 3500 feet of climbing to get over Mt. Rose. I didn’t want to stay in Reno, so I decided to push on to Nick’s apartment.
Because I had to reassemble my bike and load up all my gear, I didn’t get on the road
until 5:30. As I started up the mountain, the sun began to dip lower and lower on the horizon. By the time I was halfway up, it was sunset. I was going to have to finish climbing this mountain in the dark.
I turned my bike’s lights on, and rode on. The mountain was over 9,000 feet above sea level, and towards the top snow still laid on the ground.
Once the sun was gone, the temperature dropped and I put on more and more layers. I was sweating because of the exertion, and when I reached the summit I was freezing.
Cars whizzed past me, and I could only imagine what they were saying about the crazy guy biking up Mt
Rose in the dark. The long downhill was brutally cold because of the added windchill, and I could barely see with my dinky little light.
After what seemed like forever, I made it to Incline Village, and Nick’s place. I was glad to have put that behind me, and I began the defrosting process with a hot shower and lots of food. After a
certifiably miserable ride, I was glad to be in famous Lake Tahoe, and I felt like I had put the hardest part of the trip behind me. Now I could relax.