I haven't been writing for a few days mainly because I have been very tired after the day’s ride. The ride from Hite to Blanding really knocked me out. Ever since then, I have been feeling a little off and haven't been able to move as fast. I took a rest day at Monticello, and that helped quite a bit. I was then able to work my way to Dolores where I got my bike completely checked out.
The shop is called Lizard Head Cyclery and the owner, Nicholas. He really knows his stuff! He went through every detail of my bike and found a number of things in dangerously damaged condition! Here's a list of everything we found:
Then was a long climb to Lizard Head Pass. I wasn't feeling very good so I initially thought I'd do the 30 miles or so to Rico and stop there, and do the other 15 miles the next day. When I got to Rico and had a nice Chicken curry and rice brunch. At that point, I felt energetic enough to go all the way to the top. The only problem was that the two cities after this (Telluride and Placerville) were very expensive towns and I wasn’t going to be able to get a room for less than 200$!
The fact that it was nearing 4th of July didn't help. Many campgrounds around there were getting full! So I decided to camp at Matterhorn Campground which was just after the pass.
I met the grandpa and grandson duo on my way! They were doing fantastically well! I told them about the campground too and they also thought it was a good idea.
When I got to the camp, there were no hosts around. It just had a notice board that said to pick any site that was free and pay the host when they come around. So I went in, found a free site and started unpacking my tent. Before I could pitch it, it started raining. So I hurried and pitched tent, put on the rain fly, and put my soaking wet bags inside. The tent floor was going to be a wet mess. Ugh!
Once all this is done, someone comes up to me and tells me that the site was reserved! I ask him if he knows where I am allowed to pitch and he says he's got no idea, he wasn't the park ranger. So there I am, standing in the rain. Now I have to pack my tent(already wet) in the rain and find another place to pitch it again! Frustrating to the core!
Before I packed, I scouted around for a place to pitch. Pretty much every site had been taken and the few that were still empty were reserved! And the park ranger was nowhere to be seen!
I decided to just pack the tent anyway and see what I could do. So I packed up and was about to re-mount everything on my bike when I saw Gary and Christian! They had made it to the camp and had found a spot that was reserved only from the next day! So I joined them and re-pitched my tent. The rain had stopped, but my tent was still quite wet inside and out.
If there's one thing I hate about camping, it's camping in the rain. I've had nightmares of trying to sleep in soggy clothes in a wet tent. And here, I was doing exactly that. But, by now I was even somewhat okay with it! Thankfully the camp had a shower so I was able to clean up and put on some fresh clothes before sleeping.
It rained all night and all the way until 8:00 AM next morning! Surprisingly though, I got pretty good sleep. I had a warm shirt and jacket on and my sleeping bag on top of that, so I didn't feel cold.
As soon as the rain stopped, I got out, got ready, packed up my tent and changed to my cycling clothes. Once I was on my bike, it didn't feel very bad at all! It was just like any other day.
I am finally at Montrose now, which is a big city with all the creature comforts. It's nice to be back in civilization.
Day 21 - Blanding
Remember how I made the distinction between workdays and reward days? Today was definitely a work day!
I knew today was going to be very hard. I started at 6:00 AM. The air and ground was warm even at that time! I was sweating within the first few miles. I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through the day, considering I was sweating even while riding at 5 mph and had at least 76 miles to go!
I didn't have internet so couldn't get the accurate height profile for the day, but I knew there was a long steady climb. I assumed it was 15-20 miles, but even after 35 miles, I was still going up slow and steady! There was a detour at 39 miles to the Natural Bridges Visitor Center. I was debating all morning on whether I should take it, but there at the 35 mile mark, with just 1.5 bottles and my emergency spare water bottle, I decided not to risk running out of water and took the detour. It was a long 4.5 mile road until the visitor center, but looking back, I might not have made it without it. I got a lot of water and got some rest from the scorching afternoon sun. At about 1:30 PM, I got back on my bike for the second leg - 40 miles.
As soon as I got on, it was clear my body had taken a beating from the long, hot climb of the morning. 5 more miles and I finally reached the edge of the hill. Then it was an intense 5-10% grade downhill for 10 miles continuously! Once at the bottom, there was a wicked uphill and then a down on the other side.
At this point, my legs were really feeling the stress. I was overheating a lot and most of my body hurt. But I had just 20 miles left, so I pushed on. The first 10 miles was as expected - hot and slow, but I was getting closer. The last 10 miles though, was some of the most intense few hours! There were 2 insanely steep climbs. In the situation I was in, I wasn't ready at all for such climbs! They were about 0.5 to 1 mile each and I was taking breaks every 0.25 miles just to slow my heart rate down a bit.
There were multiple times I felt like just giving up and walking my bike up, but I didn't, and that makes me happy looking back.
So 6600 ft and 88 miles later, I can confidently say I hit a new "hardest day". I have been hitting too many of those lately!
There are some days that are work days, and some days that are reward days, Today was a reward day.
I had 47 miles to do and only 600 ft to climb! Most of the ride was downhill and a bit of flat. The best part though was the scenery! Utah really has such a marked difference from Nevada. There were beautiful canyons along the way and I was cruising through at a nice comfortable 20 mph, feeling the wind on my face.
In the afternoon it started getting pretty hot and there were small uphill sections towards the end, but I still made it by 12:30 PM or so even with a late start (at 8:00 AM)!
Tomorrow I have a choice between a steep, scenic route and a flat, boring route. Still not sure which one I'll take.
Today was fairly light. I chose to go the scenic, hillier route which meant 50 miles of relatively flat roads today and 76 miles of a lot of climbing tomorrow (if I choose the scenic route) or 100+ miles (If I choose the flat one).
I left a little late at 7:00 AM, but by 10:30 AM I had done 30 miles relatively easily. The last few miles, especially the last 10, were a whole different story. There was a steep climb up the canyon from up there. I could see Lake Powell - a tiny lake waaay below which looked almost dry. Now all I had to do was get to the other side. That was easier said than done. The road went up and down the cliffside and with the intense heat and humidity, it really felt like I was riding through hell. The bright lava-red road also aggravated the situation.
A few more ups and downs and I had to cross a bridge. There was a steep descent, then the bridge, then a horrible ascent. I was over the canyon on the other side. Then 1 mile off route to Hite Marina Campground. The camp is super basic, but has a gorgeous view of the surrounding mountains and lake. The lady at the grocery store let me hang around until closing time at 5:00 PM, by which time I stuffed myself with food and drinks.
At the campsite, I met another tourer who is doing the WE. He's from the Bay Area and we had a great time talking all the way until sunset.
I was a bit skeptical about camping here but it's turning out to be quite fun. Now onto the harder leg tomorrow!
Day 18 - Torrey, UT ( 981 miles )
Today, I improved my record of height climbed. I did 6000 ft! It was certainly a lot of climbing, but the views on the way made it somewhat worth it. I first descended right into a canyon. It was amazing to see the red sandstone all around as I gripped down into the canyon. Then of course was the steep, hard climb out of the canyon. It was really steep and the humidity of this place made me sweat a lot! I got out of the canyon and got to Boulder. I thought it was going to be a small town or something, but all I saw were a few motels and grocery stores spread over a mile or so. Turns out that is Boulder! I initially went past them looking for the town, but then had to backtrack and get some lunch. After that was the big climb of the day. It was hot and I was sweating like crazy! I found a stream midway and washed my hands and face. That was really refreshing!
As I climbed, it started to get cloudy and the higher altitude reduced the temperature too. So it wasn't too bad a climb, still very steep though. Then a very slow up and down descent and I got to Torrey.
Highway 12 is considered to be a "scenic route" and has many viewpoints with little notes about each place along the way. It is fascinating to read the history of this place - how native Americans lived here for 11,000 years, how while people found, explored and eventually settled down here, and how roads and other basic infrastructure was constructed.
Today was quite weird. It had a bit of everything. I started a little late - around 7:00 AM. The first few miles were standard road with shoulder. Then came a beautiful little trail called Red Canyon Trail that spanned 10 miles and took me all the way to the top of the first climb for the day. It was perfectly paved, had trees all around and presented great views of the hills and mountains. The weather was good too. A few clouds took the sting off the sunlight.
I was feeling really good at the top, so I decided to take a small detour. I went 6 miles south to Bryce Canyon. It was amazing to see one entire side of a cliff with those red rock formations. There were a lot of people biking and riding horses and stuff, but no time for that! I got back on track about 2 hours later, headed to Tropic and got some lunch. It was really hot when I was ready to leave again. But about an hour in, it got really cloudy and started to drizzle! That came with heavy winds.
The sudden change in weather and winds threw me off balance a bit, and a huge truck passing through made things worse. I got thrown off the road and fell flat! Luckily, I wasn't hurt - just a few bruises on the thigh. What was more alarming was my front wheel was completely misaligned with the handlebar! I tried not to panic, took out my multi-tool and set the wheel straight. With a stinging thigh, rain, bent bike and everything, it was like a scene from a movie!
Anyways, I fixed the alignment, the bell broke off completely, my handlebar was bent, the handlebar is also damaged but functionally, the bike was good. So all in all, both me and my bike got away with just some minor injuries. Phew! That was lucky!
I limped back on my bike, made sure everything was okay to ride, and did the 30 miles left. I got completely drenched and even dried up on the way and rode up an impossibly steep climb as well!
So like I said, a little bit of everything today! Tomorrow is a long climb. Hopefully, I would have recovered from the shock of the fall!
Wow it's been two weeks since I got on the road. Looking back it's weird how many different experiences I've had as I travelled. There was the first few days of urban landscapes and trails. Then the mighty Sierra mountains. The dusty Carson City area. The deserts of Nevada (Great Basin). The rainy day at Austin. Then just barren earth with range, basin, range, basin... and now the hot, rocky Utah. I've heard that Utah is even more beautiful. Today's ride was harder than expected. I didn't feel 100% when I got on my bike in the morning, and it was pretty much a struggle all day. The winds were pretty high and started quite early, so I was battling it all day. I don't think I went past 12 mph for any extended period of time. Yesterday's ride clearly tired me out more than a night's sleep could fix.
I eventually got to my Warmshowers stay though after a frustratingly long ride through the city. This place is amazing! Joe, my host, gave me an entire bedroom and access to the kitchen, fridge, everything! He suggested I take a day of rest since there's a huge 10,000 ft mountain coming up. I think that's what I'll do. Plus, that will let me get my bike checked up tomorrow and maybe finally send those extra things back to my uncle's place. I am also looking forward to sleeping in a little. Haven't woken up after 6:00 AM in two weeks now!
Day 13 - Milford, UT ( 713 miles )
Today was my longest day yet - 84 miles with more than 3000 ft climb. Honestly though, it was a lot more brutal than that. I thought wind would be the biggest problem, but it actually helped a bit since I had a light tailwind on the climbs. The heat was what really got me. Since I crossed over to Utah, the timezone changed. Though I thought that I started at 6:30 AM, it was really 7:30 AM! By 11:00 AM, the sun was bright and shining and I was really feeling the heat. There is absolutely no shade in this stretch so I was under the sun pretty much the whole way. I carried 4L of water, thinking that carrying my max capacity of 5L would make my backpack heavy and slow me down. Big mistake!
The extra liter of water was definitely worth having because 50 miles in, I was running out of water. I had probably half a liter and my emergency 600 ml bottle left, where as I had 30 miles to go. I ended up having to flag a car down and getting a bottle from them! They were really nice about it and gave me the entire bottle!
I met a bunch of other riders while camping in Baker last night and we had a great time chatting during dinner. I met two of them again today. The two others are a grandpa and and grandson! I saw them on my ride here, but didn't see them since. Hopefully they got here okay.
So a few tough days over the past week. I hear that Utah offers much of the same - winds, cloudbursts and heat. But it is supposed to be prettier, let's see!
Day 11 - Ely, NV ( 567 miles )
One of the reasons I decided to do this ride is to change myself, push my limits. And today, I certainly hit that goal! I knew it was going to be a tough day - 78 miles and 4200 ft climb. So mentally, I was prepared for it. What I wasn't prepared for was the heavy headwinds I had over the last 10 miles. Things went smoothly until I got up to my fourth and final pass for the day. The last 10 miles were all downhill, so I felt pretty good. But as I descended, the wind was so strong, I had to pedal to even keep a 15mph pace! Down the mountain! The situation just kept getting worse as I got closer to Ely. When you expect a nice clean downhill but instead have to fight to keep moving forward with 10 miles to go, it can be incredibly demoralizing. But after a lot of effort and breaks, I finally made it to Ely at 3:30 PM, 2 hours later than I had hoped. I've always heard bike tourers complain about headwinds, but today was the first time I actually felt their pain.
Anyways, I still managed to complete the day. I met a bunch of cyclists on the way. They seemed to be racing. They had a support car and everything. Can't say I didn't envy them : no luggage, a big big group and a support car! I tried to keep pace with them but it was a futile effort.
Tomorrow is a lighter day - less miles, less climbs. Hopefully won't have too much wind!
Day 10 - Eureka, NV (486 miles)
Guess what? I ended up taking my first rest day today. I had planned to push to Ely today and take my rest day there, but I didn't have a great night camping, last night. It was really cold (about 5 Degree C) but my sleeping bag is designed for much warmer temperatures. So I was tossing and turning until about 3:00 AM when it finally struck me that I can wear my jacket. After that I felt much better and slept well until about 5. Once I woke up and started preparing for my ride, I knew I wasn't feeling fully up to it. So I decided to check into a motel, take a shower, do my laundry and rest up. This next section isn't to be taken lightly, so I am glad I took the day off and was able to get some rest.
It's also pretty apparent that I am not comfortable camping in random parks. I feel very icky if I haven't showered and it's a bit of a pain finding a proper restroom and source of drinking water. The biggest problem is that I don't feel well rested the next day. Most other people who tour don't seem to find camping much of a problem at all! Not sure what I'm missing. Maybe it's just that you have to be ok with being a little dirty?
Since I was here all day, I got a chance to learn a little about Eureka. It's got quite a fascinating history. Most buildings here look old and are unoccupied. That's because they were built in the 19th century during the mining boom and once the mines were done, everyone left, leaving the place exactly as it was. There's an obvious influence of the mining culture all through the town.
Now I feel well rested and ready to tackle the long section tomorrow!
Day 9 - Eureka, NV (486 miles)
On paper, today was a long and hard day. The actual experience was a little better than I had imagined it would be. There were two fairly hard climbs at the very beginning that I overcame pretty comfortably. Then a gradual downhill until the next pass about midway through the ride. And then a long 40 miles stretch which was slightly downhill throughout. Surprisingly, that ended up being one of the harder bits. Probably because it was very monotonous for my hands and butt, and my legs were already tired from the climbs. Anyways, it passed and I got to Eureka.
The weather was fantastic throughout - a light cool breeze with a little bit of sunlight. I even had a tail wind for a while in the long, flat stretch. I was feeling pretty good when I got to Eureka and got some pizza for lunch. I decided to set up my tent for the night and push to Ely tomorrow (I had originally planned a rest day here but now I think I'll do it at Ely). Most towns en route the Western Express and TransAm route know that cyclists stop by so they let us camp in the parks for free. I set up my tent in a nice little park here. I met a Dutch couple going the other way. This is their second US cross country trip apart from their many tours in Europe. Pretty hardcore! The only issue with camping is the lack of facilities for shower, camping and internet. I found a random open WiFi signal that I used to check out tomorrow's ride and pushed shower and laundry to tomorrow. Now for a good night's sleep and then one of the longest biking days of my life - 78 miles and 4000 ft!