The story has continued to be the weather as we moved smoothly from Hot Nevada and Arizona in Majestic Utah on Day 3. Even as I pen this post at 6 in the evening in southern Utah, it is still in the 90’s, and we reached triple digits today. A quick rainstorm cooled the temperature from 102 to 79, but the temperature has crept back up to the low 90’s, which makes riding a real challenge.
On Sunday, we lounged around Overton, Nevada for a bit, as the temperature slouched toward 120 again. We then determined to avoid the beast known as the heat and to ride and to climb at a higher elevation and a lower temperature. That took us to Cedar City, Utah, home to a wonderful Shakespeare festival that my wife and I attended 15 years previous. We saw the play, Comedy of Errors, whose title might aptly described this present day trip to date: the oppressive heat in Nevada curtailed our riding, and as soon as we arrived in Cedar City, we were frustrated by thunderstorms and lightening. Undeterred, initially, Carl Petterson, our intrepid 18 year old who will return to the west coast to attend Cal Poly in the autumn, mounted his steel steed and started riding up the mountains in Utah at the foot of Mt. Zion National Park. Not having ridden since early morning Saturday, Carl took to the climb as the proverbial duck takes to water. He pushed up the first five miles in fewer than thirty minutes before the lightening strikes shut down his riding. As we waited out the storm, we prepared Greg Daniels for his riding. Greg and Carl traded riding until early in the morning, when Dan then joined them.
Through the night these three rode up many steep climbs and charged down several exhilarating descents until Mark Hollingsworth jumped on his bicycle at 2:30 am, Mountain Daylight Time. He rode strong and quickly for 90 minutes before I took over at 4 am for a brutal climb. Mark had averaged almost 20 miles an hour over his mainly flat service, but I was only able to complete about 14 miles on my severely steep climb. I started well, on a tremendous descent that allowed me to ride on Utah 12 at 40 miles per hour until I encountered some serious gravel on the road that demanded that I pump my brakes the whole time down. I was going so fast at one point that I lost my right contact lens—it just blew out of my eye! Then, the heinous climb came.
Never in my life have I attempted a climb like this one, as I rose from just under 6,000 feet to just over 8,000 feet in a little over four miles. It was pitch black, which shielded from me the magnitude of the ascent and covered by me a multitude of sins! The darkness never gave me a complete view of what I was accomplishing, which was good, for had I seen the ascent, which kept rising for close to four miles, I might have quit. The darkness also allowed me to focus on the task at hand, which was to press the team forward (and upward). I was sucking in gallons of air for each step I took on my pedals as the Prius followed behind me, supporting me, encouraging me, and providing light on the dark road. I finally stopped after 85 minutes because I ran out of water, but I made the climb. The darkness hide from me the stupendous beauty of the Ride, as I rode in some of the most naturally spectacular canyons and missed some of the most breathtaking vistas that America has to offer. I hated to miss the views, but I fear that had I seen them, I might have taken my eyes of the road and my mind might have wandered away from the task. I later learned that part of my Ride covered a section of Utah 12 that drops away precipitously on both sides—glad I didn’t see that! The darkness also made it difficult to see the lovely flora and native fauna that darted before the bicycle on my way up: deer, jack rabbits, mice, and even a scorpion at one point—that’s what I saw, and who knows what lurked in the bushes.
Mark spelled me and enjoyed a tremendous downhill before Dan Orr took over and light filled the sky completely. We then took turns over the next two and half hours. We were spent as we climbed another 1600 feet and hit a summit of 9600. The morning brought along daylight, heat, and cows aplenty along the side of the road, which was overrun with cows; not only did I have to avoid the cows who perched on the side of the road like crows, but also their patties that they left behind during their casual and frequent crossings.
I have been mainly resting today, even swimming in Lake Powell for a spell and taking in the beautiful vistas, in preparation for the Rockies, which begin in earnest tonight. We are moving from Utah to the Colorado boarder thanks to the good work of Greg Daniels, Kelly O’Connell, and Steve Sedgwick, who joined us last night around 9 from Las Vegas with Isaac Hollingsworth. With two more pairs of legs, we hope to make it up and over the Rockies before enjoying the advertised flat land of Kansas. But, as we learned today, Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough to keep us from our task.