Southern Utah Tour

| October 5, 2010 7:57 pm

by Byan Shaner

As I lay there on the gravel, the last few minutes gradually came back to me. I had turned my bike into a parking area to take a picture of this beautiful mountain at Capitol Reef. The gravel was much deeper than I had expected. Rather than just stopping, I had tried to turn around and had hit my head pretty hard when I went down; and that mountain wasn’t quite as beautiful when viewed from this strange angle.  Then I thought maybe it would be a good idea to get up and do an inventory of the damage. I knew my head hurt on the left side where my helmet hit the ground; also my left hip was complaining a bit, but there didn’t seem to be any blood. My arm seemed OK, so I guess my head and my hip took most of the force.  And most importantly, the bike was fine. I had just started the bonus ride by myself down into Capitol Reef and really wanted to see the rest.  How bad was my head?  I suppose there could be some internal damage, but there was not a soul in sight and it was several miles uphill back to the motel.  So I decided to continue on and see how I felt.  After a few miles, my headache was practically forgotten as more and more beautiful vistas opened up.  Two years of cycling without a fall and now I’d met the pavement twice in the last two weeks.  Let’s hope these things don’t come in threes.

The good news is that this fairly minor fall was the only one any of the eight of us had on Planet Ultra’s Southern Utah Tour.  In fact our group only had one flat tire the entire 500+ miles, and that was during the last twenty miles of the last day, and it happened to our co-leader Brian.

Sunset at Capitol Reef

Capitol Reef was absolutely spectacular but only the last 38 miles of an entire 99 mile 8000+’ day of beautiful sights.  This was the fourth day of our tour, and we had started in Escalante after recovering from a cold descent through the rain the previous day.  Some of us stopped at the Kiva Kafe for breakfast.  Besides great views, the Kiva Kafe has a small house on the edge of the canyon that you can rent:  worth looking into.  After breakfast we climbed up to the hogs back where you have great views in all directions.  Our other co-leader, Deb mentioned that this place can be a bit scary for the HooDoo 500 riders.  They get here in the dark and both sides of the road seem to fall away into nothingness (which they sort of do).  But for me, despite my carelessness at Capitol Reef, this fourth day was the peek experience of an entire week of beauty.

Lunch Stop on the way to Bryce

My first day from St. George to Carmel Junction could have been better.  I wasn’t paying attention to the verbal instructions about our lunch stop and went roaring by it by three miles.  I was a bit perturbed because the route sheet seemed to have the mileage wrong, but when I finally found the lunch stop, my roommate, John said “Don’t complain to Deb or she’ll charge you extra for your bonus miles”.  Although probably meant as a joke, that was great advice, and I didn’t complain.

I had visited Zion with my wife, Ellen, three years ago on a car trip, but seeing it again from a bike was great.  After Zion we met for smoothies (an experience to be repeated many times during the week) and loaded the van with bikes and riders so that we could continue our ride on the other side of the non bikable tunnel.  My garmin (which I left on the bike) kept careful track of our 19 miles in the van, and with all the traffic, our average speed stayed about the same as it had been up to Zion.  Once we found a safe place on the other side of the tunnel, Carmel Junction was only 20 more miles.  There was very little enthusiasm for getting back on our bikes, but I was feeling pretty good and wanted the full experience, so I said I’d ride the last part if anyone else wanted to.  And gradually, just about everyone got back on their bikes.  All was going well until we got about five miles from our destination, and all of a sudden I started to feel weak and incredibly hungry.  I stopped and ate the two bars I still had with me and downed some Endurolyte capsules, and after a few minutes I started to feel better.  My roomie, John, after hearing my story, said that I had “bonked”.  I’m just glad I still had food with me.  So the end of the first day showed 87 miles although 19 of those my bike was without benefit of a rider.  So the first day totals were 68 miles with 3768’ of climbing.

Day two (60 miles, 3700’) was designed to give us time in the afternoon to go hiking in Bryce.  The first 24 miles were uphill with a headwind, but the grade was not bad and I drafted behind Deb most of the way.  I offered to pull, but she didn’t want me to get worn out with five more days of riding ahead of us.  So I arrived at our lunch stop (see picture above) in good shape.  After lunch we hopped on a spectacular bike trail that took us within a few miles of Bryce.

On the way, I saw the place Ellen and I had stayed two years before, and feeling nostalgic I stopped to take a picture.  I remembered that the place had an excellent restaurant, and that’s where our group ended up eating that night.  I absolutely stuffed myself and enjoyed every bite; especially the homemade pie.  (Riding is all about the food, right?)

Bryce Canyon Pines Motel and Restaurant

But before dinner, I had time to take the shuttle to Sunset Point at Bryce and hike the Navajo Loop trail.  I got some great shots and felt very high which could have been due to endorphins or the fact that we were above 8000’ or both.

Navajo Loop Trail at Bryce Canyon

Day three started out with a bike tour of Bryce.  I went to every view point and took tons of pictures:  so many that I didn’t have time to make it all the way to the end of the road at Rainbow Point.

My old reliable Sequoia at Bryce Canyon

We were scheduled to head towards Escalante at noon, and by then clouds were gathering.  I had heard a lot about the wonderful 20 mile descent down into Escalante, but it was raining pretty hard by the time I got to that point, so my experience fell a bit short of wonderful.  In fact, it took half an hour in a hot shower to get some feeling back into my fingers and toes once we arrived.

The only thing I didn’t mention about day four from Escalante to Capitol Reef, was the rain that caught our faster riders (Brian, Deb and Brook) just after lunch, but was already past by the time the rest of us slowpokes showed up. Maybe there is a cycling godJ.

Day five to Panguitch was supposed to be 106 miles with only 3400’ of climbing.  But none of us made it that far.  The more experienced riders knew better, and the rest of us found out what it was like to fight the almost constant 30-40 mph headwind.  Only two of us were still riding after 25 miles, and I decided that I was going to quit when I got to mile 65 where the van was supposed to be.  I was just worn out and wanted to save something for Cedar Breaks the next day.  My rommie, John was driving the van and must have known what I was going through, because he stopped at mile 60 rather than 65.  It was like getting a wonderful Christmas present not having to ride that extra five windblown miles.  It was that bad.  However, Christine Nguyen, with whom I’d driven with to the tour, had only completed two centuries in her cycling career and wanted to do her third that day, and she fought the wind all the way to mile 98 (close enough).  We were all very impressed.

Day six to Cedar City started at 9:30am after a leisurely breakfast.  I was riding with Julie having a good talk when I finally realized at mile 20 that I wasn’t feeling very good.  I slowed down and took some Endurolytes.  Soon I felt better but the elevation was a challenge.  The total mileage was 57 with 5300’ elevation gain.  But it was the 10,500’ altitude at Cedar Breaks that was the issue, plus it was cold up there.  I used the hand dryer in the restroom (I had to press the button eight times) to get some feeling back in my fingers.  The descent down into Cedar City was just plain fun.  There wasn’t much traffic and the 5-6% grade was perfect.

Lynn, John, Julie and Christine at 10,500’

Cedar Breaks

The last day back to St. George was fast.  I felt great and there was only 2500’ of climbing over 85 miles.  We took our time going through Snow Canyon (where Brian had our only collective flat tire), and we found our way back to our starting point.  I’d completed just over 500 miles with 30,000 of climbing.  It’s true that Russ Stevens did virtually the same route when he completed the HooDoo 500 a week earlier in less than two days, but I got way more pictures 🙂 .

One Response to “Southern Utah Tour”

bctlc8899 wrote a comment on October 11, 2010

Wow Bryan I am so in awe of your trip that maybe the rest of the entire club will show up to do the Hoo Doo and the Southern Utah Tour in 2011. Thank you for bringing home a great experience to share with the rest of us homebodies…BRian

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