Getting up and out early today was a great idea. I’m convinced that there are two parts of every day that shouldn’t be missed; sunrise and sunset. Not sure if I can always get up at 5:00 but it felt great today and I’m glad I did or I’d still be pedaling. There was a lot of climbing today and I did a lot of little side stops and quite a bit of waiting at construction flaggers. So I was appreciative of the extra time. Now the trick will be if I can get to sleep early too because the other thing I’ve learned on this trip is that I do a lot better when I’m well rested. I know, I know, this is not earth shattering news but I’m a very stubborn learner and unless I experience something directly, it just doesn’t stick the same way. Are you experienced? Or have you ever been experienced? Well, I have. (there’s your morning earworm…)
I kept having one thought as I pedaled out of Torrey today – “perfect.” The sun’s coming up and turning the sky orange – “perfect.” The buck is eating someone’s lawn – “perfect”. Now the sun’s hitting the canyon rocks – “perfect.” Something about the cool pre-dawn air, the quiet, the empty town – it all just seemed perfect. Hard not to try and hold onto that but I know that grasping at a feeling doesn’t help keep it around. Best to just ride the wave while I can.
I immediately started climbing just outside of Torrey and that continued for the next 4 hours. That sounds rough but it was mostly fairly gradual and for those big climbs you just have to settle into the grandpa gear and spin and wait until you get to the top. I’ve reached a point now where, after my legs get warmed up I don’t really feel tired until I stop and start again. Then once warmed up, I can pedal as long as I need as long as I don’t tax my legs too much by trying to go too fast or stand in the pedals too long. So it’s more a matter of patience than endurance.
Endurance sounds like enduring pain, which it isn’t. I was thinking about that this morning too and how often we confuse inconvenience or discomfort with actual pain or suffering. Seems like folks these days have a very low tolerance for discomfort – something I continually reminded of on this trip when I pull into a scenic overlook and people leave the car running so that it doesn’t warm up – at all – while they are out of it. Having pedaled there in the open air I’m often not really that hot but you get used to the comfy cool air and then you can even bear to wait for it to cool down again after you step outside. Sorry if this comes off as a rant or me feeling superior – that’s not how I mean it. It just seems like we’ve gotten pretty soft and it comes with a cost to our own health and that of the planet.
As I climbed the vegetation started to become more lush, taller, wetter. The junipers, cedars and sage once more gave way to aspens and lodgepole pines. Before I knew it, once again seems I’m on another planet. 9:00 AM yesterday was desert and rock, scrubrush and sage. 9:00AM today is green meadows, deer, pines and chipmunks. Not believing that I was back in aspen country again (the last I saw was Colorado I think) I stopped to stroll into a grove. I immediately heard a deep thump, thump, thump in the peat around the rocks and trees that meant I’d missed seeing a deer – and a heavy one judging by the tone.
By 10:15 I was at the summit – 9600 feet and looking forward to a descent.
The next 10 miles to Boulder were a breeze and I took some fine movies on the descent that will have to wait until later. The videos just take too much bandwidth – like a whole day to upload. In Boulder I enjoyed a late breakfast burrito from a food truck no less, with feta, spinach, sweet potatoes, and habanero salsa. Ah I’m back in civilization – I can tell because while good and healthy, my burrito and coffee were $14. Oh well, don’t skimp on your food, right?
From Boulder to Escalante is one of the most amazing roads that I’ve been on this whole trip. I have a video of that too – and I imagine the few photos I took don’t do it justice. But after climbing a bit, Hwy 12 runs along a high narrow ridge between two canyons. Riding there felt precarious with no guard rails and literally death on either side if you somehow ran off the road. I stopped and chatted with a couple of Swiss guys, or perhaps I’d guess a Swiss couple. They were flying a drone out over the canyon and filming from it. Now generally I think that drones are the only reason for keeping a shotgun around the house (not that I do, I just couldn’t blame one) but watching this thing buzz off across the valley until you couldn’t see it was – well it struck me as hilarious. When you tell it to go in a straight line it does exactly that – to comic perfection. Maybe that doesn’t translate but it was a hoot to watch.
From the ridge I could see today’s monsoon approaching as I dropped down into the canyon. “14% grade next 4 miles” woohoo! I had competing desires – it was so fun bombing down this newly paved beautiful curvy road – but also I wanted to soak in the scenery. But it was getting late and I decided to bomb now and enjoy the scenery on the climb out, which took quite a while.
When I was about half way out of the canyon I got waylayed by another construction zone – this one about 3 miles long and uphill. They let me go at my own pace and as I started out, the rain started to dump for real. I’m getting pretty used to that and actually it was kind of nice. It was 3:00 in the afternoon in southern Utah and I’m cool. That’s a gift to be accepted gratefully.
It rained the rest of my way in, downhill again for the last 10 miles or so but I bet on it clearing and got a tent site anyway. So far my bets paying off and the sun is out, drying the spot where I’ll pitch camp tonight.