08.10.11 – Early Mornings to Salt Lake City

In order to get to Salt Lake City (SLC) where I planned to spend a couple days seeing friends and exploring the area, I rode for four days and 250 miles. At an average of 62 daily miles, most of it wasn’t long or strenuous. My first stop was in the small town of Green River, accessible only by interstate. Leaving on the northern road out of Moab, I climbed along a nice and unexpected bicycle path. I found another Wisconsin license plate (boy, do those people lose their plates a lot) and saw a van painted like the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine. Riding I-70 for almost 20 miles was quite nice. The large shoulder kept me far from the vehicles and with rumble strips I felt quite safe. The girls that Jeremy and I met in Moab were from Salt Lake City and they suggested I eat a burger at Ray’s in Green River. Stopping into the restaurant, I really wanted a healthy portion of chicken so didn’t get to enjoy the surely tasty burgers for which they’re famous. Since everything in towns like this close early on Sundays, I picked up some noodles at a gas station and then headed to the local high school to look for a spot to camp. I chose the baseball field dugout, which was a three-walled shelter and a roof just large enough to cover my tent. Before turning in for the night, I watched a lightning show in the distance that really showed how vast the land out there really is.

When stealth camping, it’s generally a good idea to get out around or before sunrise. The reasons for this are obvious and it’s actually quite easy to accomplish during touring because early starts are normal and there really isn’t much to do in the morning besides eat and break camp. My ride to Price would be a new test of my endurance. For my 67 mile trek, there were no places to get food or water. Despite this, I wasn’t too concerned. I had ridden through tough times before and unlike then, prepared for this day with water, snacks, and an early start. To my amazement, I arrived in Price at noon! Perhaps there was a tailwind I didn’t notice but it didn’t seem I was riding any faster. To celebrate, I stopped for a while at Pinnacle Brewery and had a nice big lunch. With so much day left, I decided to knock out another 20 miles and use some primitive BLM camping facilities in Price Canyon Recreation Area.

Perhaps I used more energy than I thought in getting to Price and perhaps the beer and burger didn’t help either, but the last 20 miles were absolutely miserable. The first 10 were slow and hot as I tried to get back into the rhythm of pedaling. The final 10 took me through Price Canyon, a narrow river canyon with a narrow road and even narrower shoulders. To make things worse, I was climbing into the wind on a dirty shoulder. As I pushed hard against the wind, I felt an acute pain just above and behind my left kneecap. So angry at this situation, I tried to ride through the pain. Impossible. The pain was so great that I couldn’t even use the easiest of my gears. I noticed that walking produced no pain, which was a bittersweet realization because with 5 miles to go and 1000+ft more of climbing, I knew I’d have to walk. At 2 miles an hour, I wouldn’t make it to my campsite for another 2.5 hours instead of within the hour. So much for watching the sun set! Additionally, I hadn’t brought much water because I was somewhat sure the campsite had spigot but with my new found misery, I began to doubt my certainty of water. Semis, trucks and cars whizzed past my heavy bike, broken body and negative attitude. I don’t think I’ve ever been so jealous of the motor vehicle. Most of the climbing was up the access road to the campground at the top of the canyon. With no natural or cycling-induced breeze, my clothes became soaked in sweat as I pushed the 80 pound bike up this switchbacked road.

Finally, I reached the top but was too tired to celebrate. Finding the water spigot brought a smile to my face and before filling my bottles, I chugged two bottles worth. I found a good site for my tent and attempted my first campfire of the entire trip. With great success, the fire started relatively easily but the difficult part was keeping it alive and well. After about a half hour of constant scrambling to find sticks, I realized that I simply wasn’t feeding it consistently enough. I bummed some Ibuprofen off of a maintenance worker passing through and I met another camper, Julie. On her way to school in Arizona for an exchange program, she decided to make an adventure of the journey from Montana. She brought me some dry firewood that made the fire 10 times stronger. I knew then that my mediocre fire was not completely my fault. Despite the bigger flames, my beans were only half-heated but I was too tired to care. Julie and I shared some nice conversation until the fire died and by then it was time for bed. I knew it would become a cold night and early morning so I put all of my morning clothes inside the sleeping bag. Helping to keep me warm, doing this also warmed my clothes, like wearing them right out of the dryer.

The morning was in fact quite cold and I had to wear all of my cold weather clothes to stay warm. With my knee feeling better, I made it out of the remainder of the canyon with a lot less struggle and rested at a nice gas station to collect myself and eat some breakfast. Luckily, Provo was pretty much downhill and I got my first views of the Wasatch mountains. It really is amazing how many different mountain ranges are out here and there always seems to be something that makes each one an exciting new sight. Perhaps what’s so amazing about these is their size and close proximity to town. Paul was my couchsurfing host for the evening and though it ended up that he couldn’t host me after all, hooked me up with a shower and I crashed at his friend’s place. Excited to get to Salt Lake City, I turned in early and got an equally early start on the next day.

My first stop was Heather’s place just south of SLC. On my way to Heather’s I ran in Jeremy who was out on his road bike. I asked him about SLC and he asked me about my ride. Somehow we discovered that we were both mechanical engineers interested in joining the cycling industry. BAM! New friend out of nowhere! At the current moment he does contract engineering, which he seems to love and is something I’d like to learn more about. In what seems to be all of his free time, he’s been working on a giant scorpion truck for Burning Man. Called the Black Empress, he and another engineering buddy took a utility truck and attached a giant tail and scorpion arms all controlled with hydraulics. He invited me to visit over the weekend and I promised I would. Jeremy suggested some back roads to getting to Heather’s area so I took the local advice.

Heather lives right at the base of the mountains so I had a few rolling hills to deal with. My knee started acting up again but I hoped it would go away after a couple days of rest. Heather graduated several years back and immediately moved out to SLC so we hadn’t seen each other for quite some time. We explored amazing views of the city on a nearby hillside and had a relaxing evening of spaghetti and Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson. I never noticed that he quotes The Police in professing his love for Julia Roberts. Awesome. Since Heather worked the next day in town, she graciously took my bags with her to work where I picked them up after riding unloaded to Dave’s house. Dave is another friend of mine under whom I worked in a lab at RIT. He’s currently out here working on his PhD at the University of Utah and lives in cooperative housing. They have literally converted every inch of their yard space into a garden, chicken pen, or beehive. It’s estimated that in a house of about 6 people, they acquire 30% of their fruits and vegetables from their yard. Suddenly, it seemed like the simple grass yard that surrounded most houses was huge waste of space. It’s here that I stayed the rest of my time in SLC.

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