Day 63 – Panguitch to Cedar City UT

Ok THAT was hard. Maybe not the most climbing that I’ve done in a day, but once again I felt the lack of O2 up around 10,000 feet. Just seems to sap all the energy out of me. Or perhaps I didn’t get enough calories and water. I felt kinda “bonked” getting in this afternoon. In any case, that’s probably the highest pass I have left on my trip. But I jump ahead.

Last night we had a rousing political discussion in the campground. I met Shannon and Stacey who are geology researchers staying in the campground working in the surronding area. It seems to be a treasure trove for geologists and archeologists (who are apparently way different socially – who knew?). Stan (local chef), Jeff (self described as “sudying alchohol” – not a typo) and mystery guy joined. Before I got there they’d already grilled a bunch of steaks, rolls, potatoes. So I helped them finish them off and stuck around for the beer and discussion course. I’d just had dinner but it wasn’t much and I’m a bottomless pit for food these days.

They had lots of questions about my ride and I told them I was raising money for climate change action. So that set off a discussion of facts vs. hoaxes,  Milankovitch cycles, blue vs. red and of course that’s a short distance from POTUS and Hillary etc. It was spirited and I owe it partly to the beer that the discussion sort of meandered all over the place. But what was really great about the whole discussion was that people were respectful, we talked about issues, differed in opinions, had our assumptions challenged and nobody walked away mad. The great thing about a live conversation is that people will never treat each other as awful in person as they will online, on Facebook, forums, etc. Even Hillary and the Donald ended their October debate with a handshake after debating face to face. So I left that discussion hopeful, and with a renewed interest in live discussions of political issues as an antidote for news outlets sniping at candidates and each other and driving us all further apart, isolating us beyond the isolation that our devices and online addictions already do.

The discussion also went into healthcare which frankly I’ve been too fortunate to have any real first-hand issues with the ACA or previous models. It was sobering to hear from more than one person around the table who either don’t have healthcare or have it but have no real access. E.g. Stan’s caught in the catch 22 of making too much money to get discounted coverage, but can’t actually afford what’s offered him. And Stacey’s daughter was covered by Medicare but was required to find a provider in her locality – which there wasn’t any. Big crack for her daughter to fall into. As I said, sobering to come face to face with these failings. The table was pretty split though as to what to do about it. Personally I’d be happy to pay Scandinavian tax rates if we got Scandinavian (or Canadian) level of care.

Stacey. I really enjoyed talking with her. She’s spirited, well informed and fascinated by her field. When she’s done this summer Stacey’s going to have a USGS map with her name on it as the primary author. Go Stacey! (Oh she does have hands btw – my bad)

I just couldn’t seem to get out of town this morning. Slow breakfast, wet tent, etc etc. I was still on the road by 8:45 but if felt like noon. I wanted to get a jump on the pass, and avoid the heat of the day. Perhaps I could let go of this obsession with being on the road early but when I’m late out, I just feel sort of behind all day. I’m a born early riser I suppose.

Fascinated by bones and staying vigilant so no one finds my skull drying by the road.
I was so hoping he would be real.

There was a big fire in the area that started June 17 and burned for a few weeks. It’s known as the “Brian Head” fire, for the small town and ski resort near the fire start. It had a huge impact on Panguitch, causing lots of cancellations and lost income for local hotels, campgrounds, restaurants. Apparently the news media made things worse by protraying it as much worse in Panguitch than it really was.

I pedaled through the edge of the burn zone today and saw first-hand some of the impact.

Approaching the burn area. You can see that firefighters must have made a stand here to save these homes. Lots of banners around here thanking them for their help.
Some trees were completely burned, others survived. Interesting to see such varied impact in different areas.

In areas near the fire zone, it was still hard to breath completely normally. I can only imagine what firefighters have to endure in terms of inhaling smoke because weeks after this fire is out, I could still feel an impact. The charred smell permeated everything and I realized how spoiled I’ve been lately on high quality, O2 rich, pine and cedar scented air.

There’s beauty in all this destruction. Nearby, new shoots were coming up out of the ashes.
Strange standing in the middle of so many, still-standing, burned trees.
Ok I paid a high price for following this sign. Seems the Western Express route and “Route 70” diverge here. I didn’t realize until it had cost me 500 feet of climbing and 45 minutes. Deep breaths; its all about the journey, right? Ok, extra bonus journey today. You can see burned trees to the right, and untouched ones to the left. I saw places where firefighters had felled trees to try and keep the fire from jumping the road but it did in places anyway.
Stacey studies stuff like this. This is all igneous rock from very old eruptions around here. She’s studying the layers of rock here to investigate a massive landslide (the biggest above ground) that happened here. This was a landslide something like 10 x 20 miles caused by a volcanic uplift. Utah btw is overdue for a big quake and is poorly equipped to handle one when it comes.
Your afternoon monsoon begins to kick up. It rained for awhile and got pretty chilly. So much for getting out early to beat the heat. I ended up with almost all my layers on and I think it dropped below 60. That’s pretty chilly if you’re wet with a 30 mph breeze from a descent.
Brook near the top of the pass. Not far from here a herd of sheep were grazing and being kept in order by a couple of border collies. Not exactly the image that comes to mind when you think Southern Utah, eh?

I’m convinced that there are a few areas of southern Utah are going to see some serious growth ounce they’re “discovered.” Sun Valley Idaho has nothing on Torrey except an overpriced airport  it’s already full of rich folks. You heard it here first. Torrey, Utah.

By the stream.
And by the roadside
My route took me through Cedar Breaks Nat’l Monument. The formations are similar to Bryce Canyon, but less extensive. I dropped down through the canyon below this on the fast descent to Cedar City. The canyon is in the upper left, and that’s Cedar City in the valley below.
I’ve grown pretty attached to this guy. Sorry babe – another bike we can’t sell.

I didn’t remember that Cedar City was so nice. It has a thriving downtown, a great coffee bar, is home to Southern Utah U., a Tony award-winning Shakespeare Festival (featuring a replica of the Globe Theatre), a contemporary arts museum and I’m sure more (I’ve just been here a few hours). I suppose it gets crazy hot here but not as bad as St. George at a lower elevation.


Your daily gas guzzler, Dakers.
Hey the old theatre is for sale. Your chance for a new start in Cedar City!
The Southern Utah Museum Of Art.

I spent some intensive planning time in the last couple of days and I’ve got all my stops planned out for the remaining 750 miles. I had to think it through because Nevada has some areas where there are no services for 70 or 80 miles. So I want to avoid getting stuck with a decision to do 40 miles or 110 miles some day.

My plan  puts me home on Aug. 12 sometime in the afternoon, likely coming in from Sac or Davis. If anybody wants to join me for any part of that, you’re welcome to come along for the ride – I’d love the company.