April 13, 2012

Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado Tour Log

A short, three day bike tour in the Flaming Gorge/Dinosaur National Monument region

See my photo album from the trip.
April 8
Utah/Colorado Border
Distance: 37.4 miles; Moving time: 4:10; Stopped time: 2hrs; Moving average: 9 mph; Overall average: 6 mph; Total Assent: ; Ending elevation: 5720 ft

Last night was chilly - down to 20 - and my bag was pushed to the limit. I regretted not bringing my down sleepies along. It was one of the few times I've actually needed them. I'll make due though. 

I drove into Dutch John and left my car, packed up and started at 9:30. I followed US 191 north for 9 miles until I reached a country road heading toward Colorado. It was gravel most of the rest of the way, with five miles of pavement in the middle. I re-watered on the Green River around 2:30pm and stayed until 4:15. I used my Sawyer water filter and was very pleased with it's performance. I carried 6 liters with me from there, though I ended up camping along one of the few creeks I've seen. A few miles before camp I saw a herd of at least 200 mule deer. I'd never seen so many at once. It surpassed even my sighting of red deer in Scotland.

My speaker wire has stopped working so my trip will be less musical and there is much less to occupy my mind. Also my iPod doesn't charge properly from my hub so I've used my AAs to charge it. Hopefully my battery charger will work fine or this will be one of only a few entries. It's dirty everywhere and I regret not having a real tent. I'm always looking for something novel and ideal, but it never seems to work out. Maybe I should just buy a regular tent. I've rapped my feet and hope to stay warmer tonight. It's only 8:30 but it's almost dark already. I think I'll have a lot of early nights this trip. My intention is to get back to Dutch John by Saturday night. We'll see. The pass over the Uintas will be interesting. My legs are shot. Even though I'm in decent shape, it's not the kind of 'in shape' that prepares one to bike all day. My back is tired too. A combination of camping pad, leaning on the bike and bending over all the time. I'll try to eliminate at least the last one. Time to get comfortable. I've listened to some Emma and I think I'll listen to some more before bed. It sounds more relaxing than reading Foucault.

April 9
Little Snake River

Distance: 46.6 miles; Moving time: 5 hrs; Stopped time 2:37; Moving average: 9.2mph; Overall Average: 6.1 mph; Total Assent: 3218; Max elevation: 6668; Final elevation: 6080

I woke up at 7am and was riding by 9:30. I decided to go running shorts only to darken up some of the glare I've been hiding under my shirt and pants. I've used up a lot of my sunscreen already, but since rain is predicted later in the week, I might as well use it now. Most of the terrain was pretty forgettable. This isn't the pretties route I could have chosen. The whole day seemed to be a series of uphills and shorter down hills with a persistent wind. While it was paved the whole way, my progress was considerably slowed by a strong and steady head and cross wind that lasted all day. At one point I had to stop peddling because the wind was blowing me across the road. The traffic was just as light as yesterday. I may have seen two pickups before noon. The afternoon was a little busier, maybe 15.  A little before noon I saw a heard of around forty deer. Two of them had at least one antler still. It was a first for me, this late in the year. I filled up my water on the Little Snake River. It will last tonight and I'll fill up again on the Yampa tomorrow. I think after that it may be very dry. My filter's still going strong. I'm crossing my fingers. I made camp a little earlier than I expected because of a storm. I was primarily worried about lightning as I went higher and higher, so I pulled off into some junipers to make camp. During dinner I stretched to combat my soreness. Actually I had stopped repeatedly throughout the day to stretch. It didn't seems to help much. I was pretty shot at the end of the day again and the saddle soreness is killing. I let out an audible groan each time I sit back down to ride. My backpacking has taught me enough to expect that day two and maybe day three are the hardest. Because of this, I'm optimistic.

There's been some wind tonight and a little rain. I've learned that it's better to be over prepared than it is to hope for the best. I buckled down pretty good. The ground is soft but I've piled rocks on all 10 of the lash points. The worst I anticipate is a little blow-in and a little misting from the tarp, but I'm not really worried. My bag is supposed to have a waterproof shell so even a little damp shouldn't effect its performance. I'm near a road, but the traffic is light. It may wake me up though. I think I'll go with earplugs tonight. That will help with the weather too. I still have a little to eat. I had a lot today. I could really feel the calorie demand. I'll probably get back fatter than before. Regardless, I need energy to move. Touring is more difficult than I anticipated. I know I should do some more French tonight or maybe some philosophy, but I think I'll listen to a little Emma instead.

April 10

This was a long day. It began well enough with a 7am rising, a cold breakfast, and a start at 9am. The first 13 miles were a breeze. It was cool and the slight wind didn't affect me. My muscles were getting used to riding and so was my back side. Things were going well, until I reached Maybell.

I went into a normal general store for water and got some groceries. While inside it started to rain a little and blow from the west. I had to get going and that meant riding straight into the wind. It was rough. The wind was very strong and the highway kept going up and down. Going up hill I was nearly brought to a standstill from the wind. Often I had to stop and push. Going downhill was depressing: the wind kept me in my low gears even then. After only four miles from Maybell I stopped. I tried to hitch a ride, but there were very few pickups and no one stopped. I almost gave up for the day when, after two hours of sitting in the wind getting depressed, I had an epiphany of sorts. I just decided to go. I threw on some Nightwish and started pedaling. I went very slowly, but steadily. I decided that I just had to go, that no one was going to get me out of my situation but myself. I just had to keep going. At that moment, so simple and yet so critical, everything changed. The fact is, the determination that seemed to fill me from nowhere bled into my entire future outlook. As I rode ever so slowly into the wind and up hill after hill, I saw that moment and that dilemma in the context of my entire life. The motivational catch phrase "this is the first day of the rest of my life" actually made sense at that moment. "If you quit now you'll quit every day for the rest of your life." The sentiment has many forms, but they all became true in that moment. I had to ride up that hill right then not to get over a single hill but to reach the first of a thousand goals that can make me the person I want to be. It's difficult to explain, but that moment made a failed trip into a success.

I kept riding for two hours, until the wind picked up, the temperatures plummeted, and it began snowing very hard. I was once again pushing my bike up a hill, and this time I was soaked, getting very, very cold and considering calling it a day - not because I was defeated, but because I had become concerned for my own safety. At that moment, a semi pulled over. I hadn't even tried hitching a ride from a semi because I didn't think they would even consider stopping. Well Sully did and he strapped me bike to his trailer and drove me 100 miles to Vernal. What's more, after turning on the radio and finding that the pass I was to cross next was fore-casted to get up to 2 feet of snow over the next 3 days, he offered to drive me across on his own time, in his own car, that very night to my car. When we got to my car it already had 2 inches of snow and the driving was terrible. I could have never anticipated such generosity from a stranger. I would have been stranded in Utah and missed the beginning of work next week.

And so my trip came to a very surprising, very abrupt end. I was back in Jackson at 2am that night, when as late as 4pm I had expected to get home on Sunday, 2-3 days later. I can't say I really enjoyed my trip. That area is not very interesting and fairly windy for a bike tour. The time of year was too volatile. My tent idea was an utter failure. Still, I wouldn't give it up. That moment on the side of the road, when I decided I had to keep going, that I had to get to the end myself: well even though it didn't turn out that way, even though someone else got me to the end, I realized that I had to try to make it myself for another person to come along to help. Had I ended my day at mile 17 I wouldn't have found myself wet, dangerously cold, and pushing my bike up hill. Had I not found myself in that situation, Sully wouldn't have picked me up and I would have been stranded an entire mountain range away from my car. I had to decide to finish it myself in order to find the help I needed to actually finish. I couldn't have done it myself, but I had to try or I never would have made it. It's one of the most profound and poignant life lessons I've learned.