Saturday, September 29, 2012

Montrose, CO to Salida, CO: Sickness, Stealth Camping, and Swords

...ready to be all caught up?

Me too.

Wonder how long it will last.


So I spent the night at Rob and Robyn's in Montrose, CO, and stayed up late to update my blog (which you had better all comment on! I want to know what you think, and also, once I get caught up I might do a Q&A if people want... and/or special requests, like photos of objects or verbs). One of the cool things about warmshowers is that people tend to be very "hands off." We did talk for quite a bit, but at any point you want, you can say, "alright, need to go update my blog!" and people are cool with that. Of course, I think that talking and sharing stories are what really make warmshowers special, but at some point, everybody needs alone time. So I guess this is turning a little big into another warmshowers plug... no, you don't have to "entertain" or "play host --" just be yourself and leave out clean towels. I have been fed every stay so far. Usually I have been cooked for, once I convinced my host to help me cook, and once I "helped myself." But meals aren't required -- just a place to stay. Even a yard is fine.

Okay, enough of a plug. Back to the story...

Rob said pancakes would be out at 7:15. I woke up right at 7:15, as it ends up, but said "5 more minutes..." and then woke up at 8:15. So I did miss out on goodbyes, as R/R left for work at 8, but I did get to sleep in. Anyways, pancakes were left in the microwave for me (thanks Rob!), which I had four of (the big fluffy ones, too). I called K/T, who said I should start without them, so I did. After lubing my chain, which was completely dry from the rain yesterday, I looked back to see where I'd come from:

They look so peaceful from far away.

It was pretty satisfying. I knew I still had one hard climb left (...), but I had done one already, and it was sunny, so maybe this one would be better.

I started a climb to about 8500' and halfway up had to stop to catch my breath. I had also been breathing heavily up the stairs to Rob's guest bed. At first I thought my body was simply expecting hard climbs all the time, but then I realized I hadn't had altitude sickness yet. I was sort of hoping that I had just bypassed that stage... apparently it can take a few days to set in. In any case, that was my hardest climb for the day, and it was done in two hours, so no big deal.

I stopped in Cimarron at a convenience store for lunch, where I bantered with the husband and wife cashiers. It was swell. Anyways, I hopped on for another climb, this one longer, but not as steep. And pretty rewarding to boot.

The views, the views... Colorado, you're spoiling me. And ruining Kansas.

From there it was all downhill to Gunnison, where I was planning on spending the night. I had contacted a warmshowers host who hadn't gotten back to me yet, so upon arriving, I turned on my phone and waited a bit for the data to process. Nothing. I had passed a few viable stealth camping locations headed into town, but didn't really want to go backwards, so I decided to "practice Kansas --" I called the parks district and asked if I could stay in the city park. That was illegal in CO, as it ends up, but Molly the receptionist directed me to some BLM land just outside of town, which worked great.

BLM = Bureau of Land Management = Government Land = Taxpayers Land = Camp there legally for free.

Except oh, the next morning it frosted.

But nothing froze shut so... it's k guys.

Since that night in Nevada when everything froze, I had learned to keep anything I didn't want frozen in my tent with me, so it wasn't too big a deal. The fly opened more like a door and less like a tent flap, which I found comical. I also had to lay it out to dry... sad. But anyways, a good night, and that morning a hot air balloon flew overhead. That's some kind of good sign or something, right? The "I'm alone" part of me worried it was a police balloon, but... well, I can hear you laughing already, so I'll just stop there.

I did have to search around a bit for donuts, but I found them eventually.

About 15 miles out of Gunnison, 5 miles before the impending highest-altitude-of-the-trip, I met North. He passed me and pulled over about 500 feet up. I assumed he needed to check something on his car, but he got out and held up some bottled water.


"Yes please!"

Okay, I didn't need water. I'm about 85% sure he knew that. It was good water. But mostly it was that good-vibe get-to-meet-people-ness I was going for. North was pretty cool. We philosophized for a bit, talking about the implications of offering water to a complete stranger, and accepting water from a complete stranger, and so on (Matt A., you would have really appreciated this guy). After about 15 minutes of bantering, we took each others' photos, and continued on our ways. It was swell.

Did I mention we did silly poses, too?

Who knows if we'll meet again? Either way, I'm grateful for you, buddy.

So after meeting North I continued on my way to Sargents, the city just before the 6% grade of my highest climb yet. I had lunch, including some food given to me by North and a cycle commuter named Carol earlier that day (thanks!). After some soaking in of the moment, there was nothing to do but start uphill.

I had to stop a few times to catch my breath due to the altitude, but I won't make it out to be a dramatic story. It was 8 miles of 6% grade... nothing I hadn't done before.

After about two hours, I reached the top. Presumably the pinnacle of my trip, not just physically, but emotionally. I was more than halfway done -- the hard half -- had all the big climbs out of the way (one left of about 2000', then the rest of my ride will be below 1500' or so), and was standing on the Continental Divide. Or, sitting (see below). I don't know if it was the pinnacle or not -- we'll see -- but it felt pretty good. And oh, the downhill afterwords... I could have coasted all the way to my next warmshower.

I pedaled a little bit. But really... the rest of the day was 90% downhill. I made it to Salida about 5:30, I think, and to my warmshowers host, Harry and Mira, shortly thereafter. It was uphill to their house. *sad face.*

But Harry and Mira were great! They were both very humble, had a great sense of humor, and had good taste in food -- for instance, Harry had a wine cooler underneath the staircase. Or, perhaps we resonated so well because they shared my Minnesotan roots, having moved to CO a few years ago from St. Paul -- small world, I guess. I didn't take any photos of them or their lovely home, but it stands to be one of the best warmshowers I've had to date. Thanks, you two.

That night while updating my blog I was Facebooked (is that a verb yet?) by a friend of mine from high school, Abbi D., whose blog I had followed last year and who was, apparently, living in town at the moment. She had actually been in Telluride the same night I had, and was hosted by Rob and Robyn in Montrose about a week before I guested. Small world... again. In any case, I decided some catching up was due, so here I am, in Abbi's house in Salida, CA. But wait, there's more!

Aside from exploring the city (where apparently my mom, her boyfriend, and one of my sisters have all been before me, including my sister having won 4th place in a worldwide kayaking competition on the Arkansas River), we stopped at the farmer's market. It was a nice market, but there were some even nicer events. For starters, I was given a wallet made from bicycle inner tube by someone who makes things from recycled bike parts. That was pretty cool. I haven't switched over to it yet, but will probably do so when I return to MN. My current wallet is about 12 years old.

Second, I found the best book in the entirety of the planet. It's called "Practical Encyclopedia of Crafts." It's 500 pages of small print on how to do everything from woodworking to molding plaster to candle-making to copper engraving... the list goes on. For those of you who don't know me that well, I am a DYI-er whenever possible. I would rather have something I made myself than something I bought, even if it requires extensive labor. I've made desks, bed frames, soil sifters, bikes, rings, plaques, and so on. So I am ecstatic about returning to MN and reading this book cover to cover.

Third, this happened:

The guy hiding behind the shield is me.

Yea.. the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) was at the farmer's market. Basically, they exist to re-enact the 17th century... and they had loaner gear you could use for free. I have some experience with fencing ("light" swordplay), so they were impressed given it was my first time as a "heavy" (using a broadsword and armor, that is)... but I still got owned. I jumped between three or four different people, all wearing various kinds of suits of armor (some of which had been made by the wearers themselves), each teaching me something new. Each schooled me. But they were patient, friendly, and in general, pretty awsome. I had a blast. And I'm totally going to hang out with the SCA in Minneapolis when I get back.

Thanks to Abbi for the photo.

So, I'm finally caught up, and I have two more warmshowers in a row lined up... so with any luck, I'll stay caught up, at least until Kansas. There are few warmshowers hosts there, and in any case, I need to stop spoiling myself... sleeping in a tent has its merits too. For real though.

In the mean time -- questions? About my bike, my stuff, the people I've met -- anything is fair game. Requests, either for photos or for things I should do? I'd love to hear from you if you're reading this.

'Till next time, from Salida, CO. K-dawg, out.

Lewis, CO to Montrose, CO: Cold with a Chance of Freezing

Okay, so when I last left off, I was taking a bath in a complete stranger's backyard. Did I mention that I had no idea any of that was going to happen when I woke up that morning? Yea... bicycle touring.

Anyways, the next morning after packing up my things, I was invited in for coffee. Linda (the woman of the household) was just leaving to take Ben (the son) to school. She regretted that we didn't get to talk more, and I did, too -- maybe some other time? You never know, I guess (warning: small world story coming up (but not one involving Linda)). Anyways, David (the male of the house) and I chatted a bit over coffee. He offered to sell me some wool socks, as the part of the ride coming up was apparently deathly cold, and I only had one pair (thanks, dad!). I said I couldn't offer him a fair price on my budget, since I was doing most of my clothing shopping at thrift stores. But it was nice of him to offer.

Before I left I thanked him again for having place to stay, and he said, "We love Jesus, so we try to live in his image." Honestly, I think that's great. I'm not particularly religious, but there is one thing I have learned about religion, which this trip is only affirming. It seems that all religions, and even most non-religions (atheism included), have one goal in mind: Love thy neighbor. It may come out in a less biblical sounding form, but I really think that -- whether it's god or God or your conscious or whatever wanting you to do it -- we should just care about and respect each other and offer help whenever we can, within reason. Maybe that's altruistic of me, but I think that the number one reason this trip is turning out so great is because of the kindness of others. And I don't just mean that they gave me physical objects, like food or even property to sleep on -- I just mean that they gave me company. And it has been swell. I don't rely on it, of course, but let's just say that so far, I haven't lost any faith in humanity.

Okay, enough of the cheesy. My two cents are spent.

So I left David/Linda/Ben's house (thanks again! I really do hope we meet again) and biked the ten miles into Dolores, where I assumed Ken and Tim (which I've started calling "K/T," if you haven't caught on in the last few posts) had gotten a motel for the night. It wasn't raining on the road, but it was doing the "I'm going to taunt you by raining on either side of the road" thing again, so I figured it would rain later that day. It was beautiful, yes, but still threatening.

Colorado is definitely contesting for the "most beautiful state" award.

I stopped by a hardware store looking for glove liners, as all I had were fingerless riding gloves and a pair of windproof-while-dry shell gloves (...), and yesterday the rain had gotten to my fingers a little bit. They didn't have anything that wasn't 80% or more cotton, so I said "Thanks, but no thanks." On my way out I noticed a bike shop across the street, which I thought was interesting, as it wasn't on my map. It was called "Lizardhead Cyclery" and had some cool art outside. Given the artistic demeanor of the place and my imminent need for an Underarmour top, I headed in.

The place was empty.

Okay, not empty, but when I asked for Underarmour, the guy said, "Nah, we just opened 6 months ago, so we really don't have much." They didn't have much, but the more I talked to him, the more I liked him. They had a few jerseys, a few bikes, and plenty of parts. So, had I been in the market for a derailleur or a chain, I would have been set. They also had some really cool recycled bike art, including a lamp made from a fork, some wind chimes made from derailleur cogs, and belts made from old tires. I was inspired, awed, and impressed.

So I know what I'm doing with my tires when they die.

As I started to head out the door, he said, "Are you touring?"


"Oh... you must really need Underarmour then."


So he sold me his. Yes, he was ex-military and had brought his army issue sand-colored Tactical Underamour to work that day and sold it to me for $25. Win. Everybody go like Lizardhead Cyclery on Facebook right now.

Did I mention AWESOME?

Anyways, after a rather abrasive stop at motel #1 ("Sorry, we can't tell you anything about any of our guests, not even if they were on bikes or waiting for you to find them"), I found K/T at motel #2, and we took off up the hill. It was about 35 miles to the top of Lizard Head Pass, I believe -- 10,222 feet, our second highest climb to date and our third highest of the trip. And of course, on the way up it started raining.

We stopped at a coffee hut for... well, K/T got coffee and sandwiches, I got a breakfast burrito. Mmm... I can never get enough of those on a cold, rainy day. We were freezing cold by the time we got there, roundabout mile 20 since leaving Dolores and mile 15 or so with rain and wind, so it was just about the best thing in the world to sit somewhere warm and eat something warm. Before leaving, K/T had contacted a warmshowers host, but they used this opportunity to set up a hotel, not wanting to be left in the rain should warmshowers not come through. Then we left, and then it started sleeting.

So we biked 15 more miles in sleet and wind.

And had the summit been any higher we would have needed snow tires.

But we made it. Well, by then of course, K/T were well ahead of me... so, I made it. I was okay being by myself by then, of course... this was day 35 or so, so my resolve was sound and not wind nor rain nor sleet nor cold could break it. I have now biked Lizard Head Pass.

Coming down the pass was fine. It was, as we bicycle tourists say -- always with quotations -- "All downhill" (that's code for "It wasn't all downhill, but we told ourselves that to make it easier"). About ten minutes down I realized I couldn't feel my toes... not good. So I pulled over, tore off my socks, and lo and behold... they were alive.

(I don't have any photos of this part, but I'm guessing nobody minds)

For some reason I had decided to wear my sport socks that morning, which are "magic synthetic" fiber: They work great for what they are made for... they are not made to handle four hours of sleet. My toes had frozen together.

Yes... frozen together. There was enough moisture between them and not enough heat that I had to pick my toes apart before drying them. But yea, they were still alive. In any case, I dried them off with a towel, put on wool socks (did I mention "thanks dad?") and continued on my way.

Then there was Telluride.

This also goes in the "most beautiful state award" pile.

Telluride was swell. It was all color with snow at the top and the houses were colorful too. The city itself is actually off route 3 miles, so I started on my way, figuring K/T would be somewhere around. I got 2.5 miles before seeing an interesting guy pass by on a ledge. He was wearing an old-fashioned trapper's cap, among other unique clothing items, and then he said,

"Are you Kyle?"


"Wait there!"

He came down and introduced himself as John, my warmshowers host for the night.

So, okay.

Apparently, about half an hour ago, Tim had been looking lost, so John offered him directions... only to find Tim was his warmshowers guest for the night. They somehow stumbled into Ken, who was at a bike shop getting a new jersey, shoes, and other items not in my budget. Ken and Tim confessed to reserving the room, but said John should keep an eye out for me, and lo and behold... he found me!

So we biked back out of town the 2.5 miles I had just come, and another quarter mile or so (uphill, but not as bad a hill as Winnie's house in Sausalito) to John's house. I met his wife, Suzanne, a DJ for the local radio show, and we had an experimental dinner. John and Suzanne get vegetables from a local farm, so they cook whatever they can with whatever they can -- this evening we had soup over bread with egg (all local, including the bread). The soup cooked the egg, so it was sort of an egg drop soup. It was (I thought) quite good, but of course, it wasn't enough. For the next two hours John and I played "Are you sure you want to keep feeding me?" before I was finally full. It was a good time. John then went off to bed, and Suzanne and I stayed up listening to music. The next morning I awoke to a note saying "Help yourself to whatever you like," which I did, leaving a thank-you note in return before heading out.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. It rained again, making Colorado 3/3 on rainy days. I made a pass at 8,300 feet or so, but that was, nowadays, nothing special (...). I didn't see Ken or Tim, but had received a text from them the previous night, so assumed all was well. John apparently had a warmshowers train with a guy named Rob in Montrose, CO, so I was all set up for that night (and any cyclists coming the other way who stayed with Rob were set up with John on their next night -- quite the system). Oh, there was one change I made that day...

Mmm... microclimates.

Okay, so not the best solution, because after a few hours water does seep into the socks, and I don't have to spell out what happens after that. But your toes do stay dry for quite a while, and when they do get wet, at least they stay warm! Water can't keep cycling through your shoes, taking the heat with them. Just, you know, be sure to remove the Toe-Dri (R) every 24 hours or so...

Anyways, the point is that I was warm and toasty all day that day, despite the pouring rain. Okay, for the first half my hands were cold, but I finally found some glove liners that were only 20% cotton at a grocery store for $1 -- score! Not perfect, but I haven't regretted them yet. Also, the coffee shop there gave me a free cookie. I don't know if they felt bad or thought I was cute, but it really did help with the rain. You know, that whole sugar-makes-you... waterproof... thing... *ahem* (quick! Everybody go like Cimarron Books and Coffee House on Facebook!).

So I could build up the whole "it rained a crap ton" thing but I'm not sure how to do it without writing a whole other paragraph. Plus I was all waterproofed up so it really didn't matter. I pretty much just felt badass.

Made it to Montrose just before 6. Texted K/T to no response, so went ahead and moved in with Rob and Robyn, my hosts for the night. They have apparently hosted more than 100 people between warmshowers and couchsurf, so we had quite the night sharing stories. Also, the week before they had hosted a tourist named Abigail D., who I know from high school... there's your "small world" story. Pizza for dinner, homemade apple crisp for dessert... you people really have to stop spoiling me; or, I need to stay in a tent more often...

That's all for now! I'm currently in Salida, CO, two days ahead of the blog, but it seems like I'll be taking a break day tomorrow, so maybe I'll get all caught up... for real! Probably not, if history is any indicator. But it's fun to fantasize.

Rob has his priorities straight.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hanksville, UT to Lewis, CO: Lakes, Rains, and Bathtubs

For those of you just catching up, there have been two posts today, this being the second -- scroll down and read the first... well, first. And for once I'll be posting about the same state I'm in! I do want to get to bed though, so I'll still be two days behind... but I'm catching up!

- - -

So we decided to take a half-break day, given we'd just ridden 96 miles. We went to breakfast at the place across the street -- I don't remember what it was called, but I do remember that our waitress was a gal named Sharley, and that she was swell ("Excuse me while I have a senior moment, boys"). We got a 10% discount for staying across the street, which was also pretty swell. Anyways, we updated our blogs, got pizza for lunch ($1.95/slice at the grocer -- deal hunting is becoming a skill of mine), and headed off about 2, after two more cyclists stopped by the bench we were on outside the motel to say hi.

Then we were back in desert land. It really wasn't fair. I mean, it was, because that's life... but we thought we were home free, and suddenly it was uphill into the wind both ways again. Oh, except that this time there were cliffs.

Tall cliffs, too.

So I guess it wasn't exactly like Nevada.

In any case, the longer we rode, the more surrounded by cliffs we became, until we were riding in a canyon again. Oh, and we also encountered a dust devil -- two that day, for a total of three for the entire trip. Something new for me (in NV I also saw my first tumbleweed... and we had a discussion about whether you could grow tumbleweed or if any plant was just called that once it broke off from its roots and started tumbling... anyone?).

You can tell we're in Nevada... er I mean, Utah, because this post is fairly event-less... so far I've talked about cliffs, dust devils, and tumbleweed.

Then we got to Lake Powell, where we had decided to spend the night, swimming included:

Nobody told us it could still be a lake if there were cliffs all around.

We got in at dark and putzed around until eventually finding a spot on the, er, "beach." This was the first state park we'd ever been in where collection of firewood was allowed, so we took advantage of it and built a fire. Ken and Tim had splurged on some whiskey, so went to a nearby RV to get some ice. The RV folks then invited me over to get my story, and also donated some calories -- er uh, marshmallows and chocolate -- to the cause. As it was dark, we didn't go swimming, but we did stay up until 12:30 AM around the campfire, drinking whiskey and eating smoked salmon and steak. Yea, we were roughin' it.

It looks rough to me.

The next morning we woke and searched for a place to go swimming, but anywhere there wasn't a cliff, it was muddy. Disappointed, we stopped at the general store for breakfast (sausage, egg and cheese croissant for $2.75? Okay! -- also, Tim bought some donut holes) and took off on a big hill. Did I say that right? It was a big hill. Not steep, just... long. The maps we use come in sections so you're only looking at 20-30 miles at a time, and I flipped the map section over a few times before finally reaching the top. But oh, what a top it was. And on the way we passed Bear's Ears.

I mean, there's a bear in there somewhere.

I thought it was a cool name for a formation.

Also, in the lower left hand corner of that photo -- see the truck? There were about 10 trucks on the road. They were Native Americans from a nearby preservation, and they were picking pine nuts. Apparently you can roast them just like sunflower seeds and eat them, or sell them, and they turn quite a profit. I just thought that was interesting.

So yea, another boring Nevada *ahem* Utah sort of day. There were many beautiful parts, but mostly it was just climbing... and climbing... and oh, I met someone from Japan! He had started in Canada, come down the Rockies, and was now cutting across to San Francisco. I thought it was an interesting route, but it made sense to him... in any case. It was also quite hot, and rained about a mile on either side of the road... but not on the road. I made camp about 4 miles outside of town, figuring Tim and Ken (who had gotten ahead of me earlier in the day, as usual) would get a motel in town.

- - -

The next day I awoke to more faraway rain, which would, later that day, become very close rain.

"But for now I'll just hang out far away and be pretty."

I rode the 4 miles into town and went grocery shopping. They also had breakfast by the pound, which I thought was a great invention, because they were selling raw bacon for $8/lb in the meat department, but you could get cooked bacon for $5/lb along with biscuits, gravy, eggs, etc... it was swell.

Eventually I found Ken and Tim's motel. I coerced the hostess into putting breakfast back out while I waited for K/T to appear (thanks!). So I got two breakfasts in one day, and all for $5. Anyways, we took off, stopping in Monticello, UT for lunch, before getting sprinkled on, and turning east for CO.

I'm not yawning, I'm just blinded by how colorful Colorado is.

We made it to another gas station and stopped for a snack (corn dogs at $0.76/piece -- I'm getting good at deal hunting) before turning around and seeing what the "sprinkle" had become:

It had become a sprinkle of doom.

So then we rode a little faster.

After another hour of riding with rain jackets on, we were surrounded. Ironically, the rain didn't catch up to us -- it actually cut across the road in front of us, and we rode into it. It wasn't too bad at first, but eventually K/T pulled over under a church porch and called it quits for a bit. Ken was monologuing about how he would sleep there if he had to. I told them they were being ridiculous and they should come join the fun. They refused, so I rode on.

About 6 or so I passed a dot on the map called "Lewis." I would say it was a city, except that there was no population marked. There was a convenience store on my map, and I was interested in some hot chocolate. When I didn't find it on the main route, I pulled on a side road and ambled a bit before turning around. I didn't make it 50 feet before a car behind me honked, pulled up, and said, "Are you okay?"

"Yea," I said, "I'm fine -- just looking for a place to stay." There was a reservoir about 2 miles down the road and I had still wanted my swim that morning, so I had been planning on staying there... albeit I didn't want a swim so much now that I had been rained on.

"Do you want to sleep in our pasture?"

Well, I wasn't about to turn down a place to sleep. So I followed them about a block down the road before they got out and pointed out their yard. I could sleep with the horses. I could sleep with the cows. Oh! -- I could sleep with the turkeys! I was about to opt for the turkeys when they offered the garden as well, which didn't have any *decorations* on the ground. I gladly accepted.

I was happy to have a place to stay and didn't ask about coming indoors. They did explain that they wanted to offer me a bath, but that the house was so small there was just a 3/4 bath inside. Then they explained that when they wanted a bath, they just filled up their backyard porcelain tub. Yup, they had a tub in their backyard. So they connected the hose to the hot water spigot (yes, they had hot and cold spigots for their hose), filled up the bath, and turned the other way.

So I finished that night with a hot bath, outdoors, in the rain, in the backyard of a complete stranger.

The photo is the snarky comment.

Welcome to Colorado.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Panguitch, UT to Hanksville, UT: Old Company, New Company

Special thanks to my current warmshowers host Rob for giving me a place to stay tonight! Posting from Montrose, CO.

So, where did I last leave off? Ah, yes... we had all separated. Ken with his broken wheel, and Tim with his German accent, and me on the hill.

So the next morning we got back together.


Okay, it wasn't quite that simple. Tim ended up riding until about 10:30 to Panguitch and getting a room. We discerned that he passed the hill where I was camped sometime after dark.
Ken sent Tim a text about 11 saying he'd be in at about 7 AM. Ken was riding 170 miles from where ever he got his wheel from after spending the previous night in a hotel with a spa. See, he couldn't get the wheel on Sunday, because in Utah, everything (except Subway) is closed on Sunday. He did knock on the door of some famous bicyclist who owned the shop in his town, but this person was away... so he saw him at the store on Monday, after spa-ing, before leaving. In any case, at about 11:30 PM, Ken was cycling along towards Panguitch with a 7 AM arrival time when a soccer mom drove by. You know those soccer moms... 

Shortly thereafter, Tim got another text reading "be there in half an hour."

So Tim and Ken slept in the same motel in Panguitch and I slept just outside of town. I got up early to go in for breakfast (which I almost never get to in time -- for some reason we sleep far enough out from cities we always arrive after 11, which for some reason is the designated no-more-breakfast-o'clock), and turned on my phone to find a text from Ken saying "We're in Panguitch!" So I called and told them where I was and voila! We were back together.

Long story.

In any case, we had a most excellent breakfast and then headed out to Bryce Canyon. About 20 miles of the route was on a bike path, which was pretty satisfying.

Anybody know the red dirt song?

We had already planned on taking a break day in Bryce Canyon, so we stopped at the grocery store just outside to stock up on food. We bought 16 hot dogs, all of which were eaten that night after being grilled over a campfire, and for breakfast we downed a package of 8 bear claws along with a dozen eggs.

Yes, a dozen eggs.

Oh, but we only got breakfast after getting up at 6:15 to watch the sun rise over the canyon.

This doesn't deserve a snarky comment.

Then I promptly went back to bed... before being awakened about 9:00 to cook breakfast. Being the designated chef has its drawbacks.

We spent the day doing, well, nothing, I guess. It was oh, so excellent. A little ironic being in such a beautiful place and not spending the day hiking around, but we didn't have it in us. Actually, Tim and Ken went for a 3 hour hike... I took a 3 hour nap.We also discovered the lunch buffet, which is another key word you look out for when cycle-touring -- "buffet." I had trouble moving shortly thereafter, my stomach was so full. Oh... then I took another nap. Er... let's call it a rest. Yes. A post-lunch rest. I didn't have dinner.

For breakfast the next morning (post break day) Ken and Tim had prepared a feast. They don't like to share food (when on an 8,000 calorie diet that can be a bit of a suicide move), so only after realizing they couldn't finish it all did they offer me some. It was, lo and behold, generic white bread rolls with cream cheese and jam. Oh, and we also dipped chips in cheese sauce. Yes... breakfast of champions. As Ken so deftly stated, "A bunch of people smoking pot couldn't come up with a better meal."

So true.

I mean, what?

So we took off from Bryce Canyon the day after doing nothing, and ran into these crazy people, which would be the first of many:

"Whoa! Another biker!"

I was as shocked as they were. We hadn't seen any other cyclists since... well, not since we ran into Tim, I believe. I could be wrong... maybe I should read my blog more often? Anyways, they sort of started a trend. These folks, Elsabeth and her husband (whose name I don't recall) were from Scotland. Next we met Johnny, who was from Sweden (and had a killer accent to boot), then Francisco, who was from Ohio, basically doing my route... but backwards. It was a pretty awesome day. Also, Johnny failed to mention that he had a broken collarbone. Francisco was the one who told us the story -- apparently Johnny fell off of a cliff and was in the hospital for four days... but couldn't be stopped. Oh, what? You want to see the epic Swedish Johnniness? Here he is.

Does that look broken to you?

In restrospect, the collarbone is just about the only bone you can break that doesn't affect your cycling performance.

Then we passed a ghosted drive-in movie theater.

And all the ghosts drove era-relevant cars.

It was pretty awesome.

Anyways, we stopped in town (Escalante) and searched for a while for something to eat. The food was all quite expensive, so eventually we settled on the grocery store... and then we changed our minds and settled on Nemo's. It was, apparently, "the place to be." The food was good and everyone in town -- all ten people, including employees -- were there. So now you know that if you ever go to Escalante, UT, you should buy your food at Nemo's.

Oh also, I bought new tent stakes, because I had lost (bent) four of the ten I started with. What's up with that? And that same night, I lost one of my new ones... is there some trick to using tent stakes that I'm not aware of (note from the future: I've still only lost just the one)?

We went down a killer hill,

Okay, killer for our brakes, but not for us.

and entered the jungle. It was wild. For that entire day we had been in the desert -- sand, sun, heat, no water all around. We went down that hill and into a canyon made by a creek called Calf Creek, and suddenly -- vegetation! Moisture! Water! It was awesome. There was a whole new world living just below the surface (so like, the opposite of what the little mermaid sings about). We liked it so much we decided to camp there -- also, the price helped.

Tim has no idea what $7 footlongs are.

It was $7 per campsite. So we payed $2.33 each. It was quite swell. The campsite was full but, thanks to OP laws (Own Power Laws -- see previous posts) we were still able to camp. And what made it most swell were some jokers named Jason and Maren. We spent the night shooting the shit and talking about cruise ships (Maren works as a waitress in Aspen, CO and was invited "on a sailboat" by one of her guests. Little did she know it was a cruise ship based out of Italy) and skiing and biking and such. It was a great night; thanks, you two.

Did I mention they also cooked us breakfast?

I use the term "cooked" loosely, of course -- *ahem.*

So we climbed back into the desert, spending some time on this road called "The Hogback," which is essentially cliffs on both sides with road in the middle (!), before entering Boulder. I was excited to see the place where all my college friends were from... except that this was Boulder, UT, not Boulder, CO. In any case, we stopped for lunch, and proceeded out of town and up another big climb (don't quite remember the elevation on this one though, so it must not have been that big). Once we started climbing, we were out of the desert again and into tree/creek land. We didn't have to carry much water as there were creeks everywhere... I may or may not have even used my filter. It's not couture, I know, but the water was running clear and fast and I didn't gorge myself.

In any case, we reached the top about 4, at which point I was informed Tim and Ken wanted a motel room for the night. They apparently hadn't had enough "decent" sleep (ha!), so we spent a few minutes calling around. The nearest available room, as it ends up, was in a town called Hanksville, 96 miles from where we had started that morning, and still about 70 miles from where we were. Yea, the hogback and that hill sort of owned us... 30 miles in 6 hours... not our best day. Ken and Tim wouldn't have any of it, so they made a reservation.

And we rode.

...and then the sun went down.

And then we rode some more.

I mentioned a thing about calories earlier in this post -- now would be a good time to mention it again, I think. See, the average American consumes 3800 calories each day. Yea, there are some cultures that use that whole 2000 calorie diet thing, but not America. Okay, most of the people reading this are probably at about 2200, except for the day you ate that entire pint of Ben and Jerry's. But anyways -- if you know me, you know I'm always eating. I have an extremely high metabolic rate, which means I need an inordinate number of calories just to stand up every day.

The average cyclists burns about 40 calories every mile. We're running on 1u1/2 times the weight, and the more energy you produce, the less efficient you are -- so let's say a touring cyclist needs 80 calories per mile. At 65 miles a day (my current average), that's 5200 calories just to ride. So figure 8,000 a day all together.

On a night you decide to ride 96 miles and only have Subway for dinner (which, as anybody who watched TV when Jared was famous knows, doesn't pack a lot of calories), you need a little something extra. And if you're me and you don't have something extra... you pass out.

Okay, I didn't pass out, but we did have to stop so I could down half a pound of cookies. Don't tell my girlfriend...

...and that's enough of that montage.

We made it to Hanksville, UT at 9:59 PM, averaging 15 mph from dinner until then. Yee-haw. Oh also, since the motel and the staying up late was Tim and Ken's idea, I slept on the floor for free.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Austin, NV to Panguitch, UT: Strawberries, High Jumps, and Long Climbs

After visiting Austin we saw the strawberry.

Oh yes. It's real.

(and almost as good as the signs that say "Falling Rock.")

Okay, we didn't see the strawberry... I assume that's a city of some kind. But I thought it was a great sign. So there's a photo of it.

To be completely honest the next day was like most days in Nevada. We climbed. We descended. We flatted (a new word I just made up which means "to go forward without change in elevation"). We drank water. Don't believe me?

This photo brought to you by the self-timer on my camera.

We also made a plan to arrive at Ely early in the morning for sort of a half-break day. So we made it to 20 or 30 miles outside of Ely that day, stealth camped, and then arrived in town about 11 or so. I was surprised they let us check in that early, but apparently it wasn't that big of a deal. In any case, we made camp... in a very unpacking-like fashion... and got to business. There were blogs to be updated. Tires to be patched. Donuts to be found.

(yes, there were donuts in Ely)

We also watched The A-Team, which I had never seen before. And I'll just leave that one hanging out there.

Anyways, the next day we took off, and then Ken's rim took off.

*rocket ship noise*

Okay, metaphorically speaking, anyways. What you see in the photo is something called a "spoke nipple." It holds the spoke onto the rim of the wheel. The other side of the spoke is attached to the hub of the wheel, which has the axle and keeps the wheel attached to the frame of the bike. In any case, you can see that the rim of the wheel has cracked where it's holding the spoke nipple in place. This is a common way for wheels to fail, often accompanying a broken spoke.

We decided, of course, that Ken's wheel hadn't really failed... that we could work with it and keep going. So I used my magic bike mechanic skills to magic away the problem, and we kept riding.

We rode into a field of wind turbines, and met Alex.

What a good photographer. You can see Alex... and the wind turbines.

Alex is the kind of guy I would have liked to have kept riding with, but alas, he was headed the other way. He had already put 7,000 miles on his bike, doing loop-de-loos from Texas, and was planning on doing 5,000 more on the way to San Francisco. Apparently he affords his trip by doing work along the way -- he was coming from a 2-day stint as a weed puller at a local grocery store, apparently. It seemed like a cool way to make a living... and see the world... at the same time.

In any case, we got past the field of wind turbines, and up the hill... and down the hill... and then I realized I was in front, by quite a bit. This doesn't happen often, as I'm the most out of shape of the three of us (whatever that means while on tour). I wanted to make the most of being ahead, but there was a turn coming up, and I'd already had to correct Tim and Ken on five wrong turns or so... so I waited in what little shade I could find.

This photo brought to you by boredom... and also the self-timer on my camera.

After a while I asked a car passing by if they'd seen any cyclists. They'd passed two, one of whom was hitchhiking, one of whom was waiting patiently for the hitchhiker. Then I saw a pickup with Ken's bike in the back. Then I asked another car and there was just one cyclist, and he was no longer waiting... then I found Tim.

So, the worst had happened. Ken's wheel had busted for good, and he had to take the hard way out. No more Ken.

Okay, just kidding. He joins us again later, with a new wheel. But first... Tim and I get to Utah!

"Life Elevated." Get it? Because I'm jumping? Haha... ha... okay, anyways.

Utah is the state of the snakes. We saw three in the first hour. No rattlesnakes, but there was one snake in particular that was quite large. They were all just hanging out in the middle of the road. As a cyclist you tend to zone out quite a bit, so we didn't really notice them until we were almost on them... but they were never coiled up or anything. Just hangin out. Up until then we had seen plenty of dead snakes... these were the first alive snakes we saw.

Anyways, we made it about 20 miles into Utah before making camp. And then...

You only think this is a picture of Nevada.

See, we were all excited to be done with "endless hills" and such... but Utah just had more of them. Yes, more endless hills... oh, and did I mention I almost ran out of water? I didn't run out completely, having bought a liter or so of Gatorade just before entering Utah, but this was one of our longest stretches without service -- 84 miles, I believe -- and we didn't have any unwilling volunteers to deliver water for us, as apparently this was a particularly desolate stretch of highway. In any case, Tim, being much faster than I, disappeared relatively quickly that morning.

I was having trouble with the wind.

You see, as a touring cyclist, there is one thing you come to enjoy quite a bit... and that is going down hills. It's sort of like a sacred right. And when wind comes and ruins that... you just get angry. Most hills you should easily be able to go at least 10 mph on, if not 16, or 20, or sometimes 30+ (I think my top speed thus far is 49). So when you spend three hours climbing 3,000 vertical feet, you expect some relief at the end. But no. Not in Utah. In Utah you have to pedal to go even 8 down a hill. It was painful... demoralizing... *ahem.*

Elsewhere, Ken struggles to get a wheel, because everything in Utah is closed on Sundays.

Back in Milford, UT, Kyle stops at a Subway, the only establishment open on a Sunday. Oh, and there were people there talking about gold.

And then I slept on top of a mountain.

I correctly ascertained that on the Cedar City side of the next pass, there wouldn't be any stealth camping. So I made it to the top and made camp, at about 8,000 feet, I believe. Thinking, foolishly, that I'd have an easy downhill in the morning...

You already know how that one ends (pro tip: it was windy).

Anyways, I made it to Cedar City about 10:30. I was fresh out of food, not having had a decent grocery story since Ely, so I stocked up on food and candy (candies are important!) and went to Little Caesar's for lunch. FYI, Little Caesar's is the best thing ever for touring cyclists. Basically you're like, "So listen, I need about 8,000 calories to make it through the day today... here's $5... think you can do that?" and Little Caesar's is like... "well, yea!"

So anyways, I stocked up, and -- 

10 pounds later...

-- wait, what?

I haven't talked a heck of a lot about weight yet, but now seems like a good time. See, as a touring cyclist, you are pretty much always worried about how much things weigh. I think I may have forgotten to mention, but (for first-timers anyways) there's a bit of a ritual as far as sending things home goes: You do it at least once. You realize you don't need three bars of soap, or two jackets, or shaving cream (...), and as soon as you dump all that stuff, pedaling is much easier.

(alternatively, you ride with some crazy guys from Bosnia, and when they see you using unnecessary things like can openers, they just throw them away for you... *ahem*)

I haven't mentioned this yet, but there's a bit hill out of Cedar City. Essentially, you have about 20 miles to do 5,000 vertical feet.

The sign in the back says "Turn Back Now."

So when I say "I stocked up," what I really mean is that "every penny I spent hurt me on the inside."

In any case, I left Cedar City at 12 (little did I know Tim was in a motel nearby...) and made it up the hill by 5. Immediately after leaving town, the view was great. It clearly wasn't desert... it was clearly... gorgeous.

Oh also, just below 10,000 vertical feet, this happened:

How many sheep does it take to... wait.

It's okay though. While I was biking up a hill, Ken was biking 130 miles, trying to get to Panguitch from wherever he had hitchhiked to. And Tim was behind me somewhere, having left Cedar City at about 2.

I made it to the top of the hill around 5, and then proceeded to go down. So far down. Okay, so Cedar City was at about 5,800. I had climbed to 10,800. And I had to descend to around 7,000, where I'd spend the next few days... er... day.

And also that night.

So time for bed here in Telluride, CO... but I'm catching up... I think... right? In any case, the next post will be about the great reuniting of myself with my bicycle buddies, a break day in Bryce Canyon, meeting more fellow cyclists than I can count on one hand, and much more, I'm sure.

Like pictures of lizards.

With love from Telluride.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nowhere, NV to Austin, NV: Free Water, Free Camping, Free Hand Waves

This will be a short post as today isn't a break day and it's been a busy morning. We're in Hanksville, UT and did 96 miles yesterday, getting in at 10 PM, so we're leaving late today after "sleeping in" until 9:30 AM... it's a long story which I'm sure I'll get to in a few posts/weeks. Enough chit-chat. Onward! Er... typeward?

Sadly, there weren't many donuts in Nevada.

Anyways... where did I last leave off? Ah, yes... Nowhere, NV. Okay, so there's not actually a city called Nowhere, but that's only because if there was, it would encompass all of Nevada. We were out of the boonies and into... the real boonies? Our map frequently stated "No Services Next X Miles" (where X was greater than or equal to 50 miles -- between 57 and 83, in these incidences). The first night we slept in the desert, some Apaches flew overhead. I'm sure they were doing drills or something but they flew within maybe 200 feet of us... the drill was probably called "screw with the crazy people camping in the middle of the desert." *ahem* in any case, we took off early the next morning, biked through a place called "B-17 Testing Zone," and then made it to a city called Middlegate.

It was in the middle of the gate between a good sense of humor, and... hm.

They had good food and apparently free camping, which we missed out on, and offered some advice on water:

"Oh, exactly three miles from the top of the hill, there's an abandoned building on the right, and 100 paces behind that building is a creek with great water."

(...and that's also where we hide the bodies).

So we didn't take much water, but we did get to use our filters for the first time. I mean, only after 2700 vertical feet or so.

Ken is in this photo somewhere.

We made it to nowhere again that night shortly after filtering water (climbing 2700 feet in the heat with a headwind was, needless to say, a little draining) -- about 6 PM, one of our earliest quits. This was the first night we camped almost completely visible from the road, but we didn't really have a choice:

I promise, mountain, I'm not doing anything illegal.

We counted that six cars passed us that night, and all that passed with enough light to see us immediately called the police. I mean, waved. They waved. Pretty enthusiastically. Oh, and we woke up to coyotes about 4 AM.

I'm going to premise the next day by saying I use my photos to help me remember what happened, and I have about four photos of that day. Also, photos take forever to upload, and it's getting to be go time, so... that's convenient? I'll just do one or two more.

Oh, THAT's where we are! -- special thanks to Ken's Droid.

After two hours and a countable number of cars (7, I believe) we made it to Austin, NV. Austin has a sign outside that says, "Austin: There's so much to to!" Apparently they have reputable mountain bike trails but everybody who rides them must die, as we didn't hear anything about them from the people who lived there, or see anybody else with bicycles. We stopped at the hole-in-the-wall hardware store which was stocked warehouse style, with stuff piled everywhere, to buy some alcohol for my stove. The owner said, "Ah! I think I have that!" and dug through the pile for about five seconds before pulling out a can of denatured alcohol. It was priced at $5.50 (everywhere else we found it, the price was $7.50) but he took a five and sent us on our way.

We had about 75 miles without service and it was already halfway through the day. Needing water to make it up three mountains and cook at night, we decided to hire some unwary travelers to carry water for us. We bought water at the only gas station in town (this water was much less affordable than the alcohol for whatever reason -- $2.63/gal) and handed it off to some willing volunteers. We didn't get their names, but we are incredibly grateful!

After finishing the hill-that-is-Austin (complete with more switchbacks), we met some more Germans on the downhill. They conversed with us for a bit in English before communicating with Tim at light speed... it reminded me of biking behind the Bosnians. Anyways, more hills, pace lines, Clif bars, headwinds, and hot weather later... Ken broke his second spoke. It was only about 6:30 but we took it as a sign and made camp in the Nevada tradition -- right in the middle of nowhere.

Did you hear something?

The highway was a bit busier that day, and nobody waved, but we're pretty sure it was the same deal as yesterday -- nobody cared. More coyotes. The only difference on this night was that it was FREEZING COLD. I was in my mummy-style sleeping bag with the draw string tight and was still a little cold. The next morning, we discovered that any water left outside our tent had turned to ice. Oh, Nevada.

Alright... it's go time! Lake Powell, here we come. Free swimming... heck yes.