Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Utah Part 6: The Cycling Tour

This is my last post from our Utah trip and then it will be back to the humidity of the Mid-Atlantic and our garden. The original purpose of the trip was a week-long cycling tour in southern Utah, ~440 miles and 30,000 feet of climbing. We signed up before Christmas and had been training all winter, through all of the snow and cold this year. Although we were prepared, it didn't quite go as planned for any of the three of us.
We started in Zion National Park with a shakedown ride. The three of us were on rented bicycles, so the ride served the purpose of testing out the fit. It was a nice ride. The only vehicles allowed in the inner canyon are the shuttle buses, so there really isn't much traffic at all. The slightly weird thing, although not a big deal once we got used to it, is that bicycles are required to pull over and stop when a bus passes.
Day 2 started out with a nice, long climb up and out of the east side of the park. We rode the up to the tunnel, where we were shuttled to the other side. Then came the long ride with the eventual goal of reaching Bryce Canyon National Park. All said and done, it was supposed to be 89 miles and 6,000 feet of climbing. The day began well and we felt good going into the first break. Then we turned north on US Highway 89 and headed straight into the wind. By the time we reached the lunch stop, Michael indicated that he wasn't feeling great. He wanted to continue and we made it 10 more miles before he decided he wasn't feeling well enough to ride. We rode in the van for the next 25 miles to the next rest stop. At that point, he seemed to be doing a bit better, so I decided to ride the last 17 into Bryce.
When I took off, I was by myself and it snow flurries fell intermittently. I was riding a bike path that followed the highway through Red Canyon and it was just stunningly beautiful. There were a few snowy patches across the path that added some excitement, but overall, I was having a great time. Then the path ended and the snow picked up.
I passed a group of four or five pronghorn antelope along the side of the road.
And then, just like that, I was biking in a blizzard with just a windshirt for a jacket, along a highway. This went on for a bit and I decided I wanted a ride from the van. I waited a little while until I got too cold and then decided to keep pedaling. When the van passed, there was some miscommunication and they kept going, so I rode all the way into Bryce. It didn't turn out too badly. A few miles later, the sun came out again and it was a bit warmer. Still, I was pretty happy to see the sign for the lodge.

In the meantime, Michael was doing worse. The next day, he opted to just ride in the van. We crossed our fingers and hoped it was just food poisoning (i.e. not contagious).
We started day 3 with a short hike at Bryce, mostly to let it warm up a bit before we started riding (it was 19 degrees when I went to breakfast).
Below the rim at Bryce Canyon.
The first 10 miles or so of the ride were a beautiful, winding descent. This is looking back up towards Bryce Canyon.
This was the view near Canonville, Utah. Day 3's route took us to Escalante, Utah and was a nice, pretty ride.
Day 4 started out so well. Michael was riding again. There was a nice, gentle climb for several miles before an epic descent. There are cyclists on the road in this picture (click to enlarge).
We biked through the Escalante River Canyon and then climbed out of it. This is the view from the top. Some of the grades on that ascent were close to 16%.
This was the rest stop at the summit. When we pulled in, I was starting to go downhill. I had been climbing really strong to that point, but I was starting to lose energy. At this stop, I should have been ravenous, but I had to force myself to eat a bit. Then, when we took off, I didn't have much energy to put into the climbs. By the time we reached Boulder, Utah, I was done. I wound up in the van for the rest of the day and had a very bad night in the hotel.
I'm sure Capitol Reef National Park is beautiful, but this view from our hotel room is most of what I saw of it. I rode in the van on days 5 and 6. I didn't have the strength to ride. Michael also rode in the van on day 6 because he overdid it a bit on day 5. I did get some good pictures, though.
Michael leading a paceline on day 5 on the way to Lake Powell.
The Henry Mountains on the way to Lake Powell.
Sunset near Lake Powell.
Sphaeralcea ambigua (Globemallow) along the Burr Trail on Day 6.
Finally, on day 7, I was able to ride a bit again. Back in Bryce Canyon National Park, we rode the only road through the park, stopping at overlooks and sightseeing along the way. Cycling is such a great way to see the parks.
Horseback riders on one of the trails below the rim at Bryce Canyon.
Another view of Bryce Canyon. We only rode about 15 miles, which was enough, given the altitude and recent illness. Overall, the riding that Michael and I were able to do was great. It is just too bad we weren't healthy for the whole week. There were a myriad of ways it could have been worse, though, so on the whole, it was still a pretty good week.

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