Friday, July 26, 2013

Burning Trees, Tires and Generous People

Day 23, July 23, Torrey to Hanksville, 54 miles, 1800 feet ascent

Stayed in hotel in Torrey. As I was leaving, I inspected my tires, because I had been noticing some pattern appearing in the middle of the rear tire. Turns out , they were threats, staring to show. OK, need new tire, very soon, maybe now. Would have been smart to inspect this sooner. Nearest bicycle store is a scant 256 miles away (really). No problem, FedEx it. Turns out they do not ship overnight everywhere. A lot less so, where nobody lives. Nearest Post Office (in travel direction) was 186 miles away in Blanding. 
After a few phone calls and back and forth, I decided to try my luck, aided by the smart move to switch the much better tire from the front to the rear. Off I went, now rather fearful to go more than 25 mph downhill, in case the tire blows. 
On this day, for the first time, somebody stopped next to me, while riding and offered me a cold bottle of water. French tourists never the less. I am now no longer in favor of bombing France.
I pitched my tent in the desert, just in time before it started raining....again. It was still very hot outside. The tent was like a sauna. I did not sleep much.

Day 24, July 24, Hanksville to Colorado River, 60 miles, 3200 feet ascent 

As I was leaving, I noticed, that I could no longer clip into my pedals. I had broken the piece of plastic on my shoe that clicks in. Not good. What was good, is that there is "Cycle Ride". They raise money for some cancer by having people ride across the country supported by a Mercedes Station Wagon with food and drink and stuff. I did not even see them. I was having lunch and they stopped to see if I was OK. I had the presence of mind to say: I am good, but do you have some spare clips for Look pedals. They did. $40.- Problem was the only ATM for the last 100 miles was broken when I rode money.
So the guy spends 45 minutes unscrewing his from his shoes and installs the new ones, giving me his used ones, which where fine. We did not have the right tools which is why it took so long. What sweet people.
I continued through a spectacular canyon and then reached the Colorado River. I knew that it would emotionally significant, but I can not tell you why. When I glimpsed the river, I started crying and right after, laughing. It was great. It felt like such an achievement. When I crossed the bridge I realized, that the river was far below. I needed to touch the water. So I climbed down and did. Almost got stuck in the muck, very scary. Had my dinner at the by now closed Ute National Recreation Area. Was grateful, that the bathrooms were open, my only chance at fresh water, Without I could not continue. 
The next town was 76 miles away, no water anywhere, and very hot. To reduce heat exhaustion on the 10% climb out of the river valley I rode the first 4 miles that evening, loaded down with 19 pounds of water.
I camped in the desert in an remote and stunning valley, with my tire still in place, to my surprise.
It was very windy and I was almost asleep, when I heard a gunshot. Now there is no hunting in the area. I could not see anybody. It did not help my sleep.

Day 25, July 25, Colorado River to Blanding, 72 miles, 6200 feet ascent

My biggest ride so far. I used up all my water 15 miles before town. Did not matter as you will read soon.
Beautiful countryside. The pass tops out at 7100 feet. As I neared the top, two different cars stopped to offer me water and talk to me. A young man riding the other direction joined me for a few miles so we could talk. It was so helpful.
As I got to the top, it started hailing and raining....again. Got very wet again. Then I started to see smoke a few miles away. Lightening had struck a tree, about 100 feet from the road. No flames, but lots of smoke. The tree was about 15 feet tall. I jumped off, grabbed both water bottles and doused the tree. I found a creek nearby and began running back and forth for about 1/2 hour sliding in the still falling rain. I thought I was done, the rain stopped, when I saw a flame shooting up higher on the tree. I climbed the tree and poured water from the top and that did it. I arrived in Blanding very tired, but with an intact though very worn tire. I stopped at the first gas station, rewarded myself with a big bag of potato chips and a big beer and then checked into a hotel for two days.

Day 26, July 26, Blanding

Day of rest, and fix my tire problem. I met a very open and friendly German family. They agreed to give me a ride to Moab, some 70 miles away where the nearest bicycle store was. They spent 20 minutes rearranging their car, so I could fit. They were extraordinary nice people, and I will stay in touch. Danke schön.
I found my tires, had lunch and got three rides to take me home, never waiting more than 10 minutes, all very friendly people. I must say, I greased the skids by bringing along my front wheel, so they knew I was broken down on my bicycle. It really was touched by how many people have helped me the last few days. I am grateful.

Total distance so far: 1,198 miles
Total ascent so far: 76,600 feet

Monday, July 22, 2013

Food, Drink and Humming Bird

Day 17, July 17, Milford to Cedar City, 56 miles, 2700 feet ascent

The greatest surprise to me so far, is how little appetite I have. I am probably consuming 3-5k calories but land up eating less than when I am at home. Food quality and choice have definitely something to do with it, but still. I know I have lost weight. As part of adding calories I thought of consuming more drinks with calories. So I guzzled 1.5 liter Sunny D before I left. I did not feel good that day, so much for drinks that contain no juice. When I arrived I drank 1.5 liter of soy milk. That worked better.
Anyway the ride was boring and I arrived very tired and hot. Time for a Motel. Had a horrible dinner and went to bed.
Let me add my second biggest surprise of the trip so far. I did not know how much I would dislike drinking water that is from lukewarm to so hot that every time I take a sip, I instinctively look for a teabag. 

Day 18, July 18, Cedar City to Lake Panguitch,  53 miles, 7000 feet ascent

I spent until noon getting supplies, this being the last town for about 450 miles of any significant size.
Proofed to be hard to find things. I bought a rain jacket (finally), a new book (needed), had my bicycle adjusted and got some food.
A hard climb up to 10500 feet. I found Cedar Point National Park on top, which was stunningly beautiful.
I could not stop looking and by I was ready to go down it was almost dark and getting cold fast. I put on all clothing I have with me and yes, my new rain jacket over all of it. I do have a head light and tail light.
Coming down the mountain 2000 feet was scary in the dark because the roads in Utah have horribly rough surfaces. I also remembered the story of someone I met a year ago who has twice in his life hit a deer, both time with broken bones (his). I kept looking left and right all the time and saw over a dozen deer. Their eyes light up white in the dark. At the bottom of the run, me going about 25 mph, with my hands on the brakes the whole time, 2 deer jumped out in front of me. I missed the second by maybe 5 feet. Being ready payed off.
Checked into a campground for the first time on this trip. It was pitch black, no moon, no street lights, hard to find anything.

Day 19, July 19, Lake Panguitch  to Bryce Canyon City 36 miles, 2700 feet ascent

The ride was uneventful and I stopped when I found a good campground for my day off.

Day 20, July 20

Day of rest.
You though, there would be nothing to report. Not so fast! In fact, I had the most amazing nature experience of my life.
I was sitting on my chair, reading a book. A humming bird came up to me. Flew directly towards my face, stopped 2 inches from me and then pecked my left cheek. 2 Million years of evolution kicked in, and I closed my eyes, not knowing what the little fellow would do next. What he did next was to fly above me and start piking my hair, like I was a flower. Maybe 4-5 times, and flew away.
You have do understand, that the hummingbird is my favorite animal. I will never forget those two minutes.

Day 21, July 21, Bryce Canyon City to the Escalante River and SR12, 75 miles, 3700 feet ascent

Beautiful ride, in incredible scenery. I arrived at the river at 7:00 PM, looking for a place to camp.
Turns out, the river is in a low, very narrow valley with vertical rock wall on the sides. All private property along the river. As I come to a bridge in my quest to find a camping spot, there stands a woman, who points some Indian ruins out to me. She told me, she was one of the property owners and that there is no where to camp. A few minutes later she offered her back yard to me. Five minutes after that, she invites me into her beautiful home, even though she had never done such thing before in her life. I will not post more about her property on a public blog, other that it is a few miles from the river and that it was beyond stunning.
Margy, you are a beautiful and graceful woman.  Your generosity will stay with me. Thank you.

Day 22, July 22, Escalante River to Torrey, 52 miles, 6500 feet ascent

Very steep at times. Climbed 1000 feet in a little over 2 miles to start. Saw some of the most stunning views of my life. Quite tired when I arrived. Am staying in Motel, so I can write this Blog. My tablet, which stopped charging a few weeks ago and is now with Astrid, should be fixed soon, making this easier.
Life is good. 

Total distance so far: 964
Total ascent so far: 62,200


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Professors, Snakes and The Church of Later Day Saints

Day 12, July 12, Eureka to 30 miles before Ely, 48 miles, 3200 feet ascent

A fairly uneventful ride. Hot, but beautiful scenery. Astrid came to meet me for one last weekend, since after this, driving would be too far, and of course the point was for me to be alone. Still enjoyed her support and company very much. She picked me up 30 miles outside of Ely and dropped me off again at the same spot after. I bought a new (bigger) bicycle saddle in town, and have been congratulated by my rear end every morning since. People here love big pick-up trucks. They really do, and guns. Have not seen a recreational bicyclist since I left.

Day 13, July 13

Day of rest Spent a comfortable day in Ely.

Day 14, July 14, 30 miles before Ely to 30 miles after Ely, 60 miles, 4200 ascent

Shortly after starting, I caught up with a professor of economics from UC Berkely, who is 68 years old and is on his way (and still is) to of course where else.....Chicago. Yes he was on a bicycle. Maybe 5'5 with legs that would make Arnold proud. The poor guy endured 3 hours of questions about the world and economic issues and was treated to some of Dietmar's theories. What was I supposed to do? He is friends with Micheal Pollan and Robert Reich. I want to be his friend so bad. He stayed behind in Ely as I continued.
He asked for my E-mail address, but did not offer his. I was crushed.
My trip was cut short by rain. This time I looked around and build my shelter before it started.
Yes that means I slept in the desert.

Day 15, July 15, Outside of Baker to 27 miles past Baker, 72 miles 3500 feet ascent

Ok, this one you have to read.
I got started by climbing a mountain. I am almost on top and it starts to rain. I seek shelter under a few trees. Within 10 minutes a certain professor comes up the mountain. By starting at 6:30 in the morning, he caught up with me. We agreed to ride together until Baker when our routes diverged. I was easier on him this time. The rain let up and on we went. I got rained on twice more that day, but not too heavy.
I miss the professor. By the way, his next day was 91 miles with lots of climbing. I wish him well.
I enter Utah!
Here comes the fun part. So I have been wondering, why I have not seen any snakes. I had noticed 3 fresh road kills that day and thought hmmm interesting. This being a hot day, I decided to rest one more time before making camp in the desert. Which means I am sitting on the ground for a few minutes. Always scanning the ground for "unfriendlies" (I made up that word). After I get back on the bike and ride 5 feet, I am startled, in fact almost fell of my bike, by a hiss and a rattle, 18 inches from my right foot. Yes it was. Only 15" long and already in retreat. I stopped but could not find her anymore. On we go for about 10 feet when I notice daddy, a fully grown Big Basin Rattler, laying parallel to the street again 18" from my foot. Now daddy did not move until I got off to take pictures. He was not pleased with my decision. I stayed three striking distances away.
Now remember I sat 15 feet from these guys....I am still thinking about that.
Alright, enough excitement for the day. I created a distance of about 5 miles between me and my new friends. How fast do snakes travel? I though about that...really. I stopped on a bald swath of earth as to give nobody a chance to hide. I build a safe house (formally known as tent) with one eye to the ground, the whole time. I ate my dinner the same way and rushed in. Safe at last.
It is now dark, and my eyes, which is typical for me when I try to sleep, are closed. All of a sudden I see a flash of light. I open my eyes, look outside, keeping my head above striking height of snakes, nothing.
This repeats itself a dozen times and I am a little freaked out by now. I have to add, there are clear skies above me. I finally calm my mind, which tried to tell me the Mormons have found out a non believer has entered their state and are coming with pitch forks and yes FLASHLIGHTS.
It is now 11:00 PM and I am tired. You have to understand, that the nearest settlement (200 people) is 27 miles away. I am in nowhere. Back to me almost sleeping. I close my eyes and hear freaking foot steps. Very loud, right next to my tent. We are talking 10 feet maybe. OK, I am now really freaked out. I am in my tent, which means I can not see out. Next thing I did, was to take my knife out. I WILL GO DOWN FIGHTING! The steps are all around me. Thank heavens, in the end, one of the wild horses that came to graze on the grass that lines the road makes the sound only horses make.
I carefully unzipped my tent and looked out.
I see their shadows all around me. At that same time the light finally gave up it's secret. There was a thunderstorm on Mount Wheeler, Nevada's highest mountain 60 miles away.
I went from freak to awe in one second. The horses stayed for an hour.
It is a night, I will not forget.

Day 16, July 16, 27 miles past Baker to Milford, 55 miles, 3400 feet ascent

I am almost to the top of my last of three passes, when rain catches me again, really good. I am soaked and cold. I finally shelter under a big tree and wait it out. Half an hour later I change into my only other dry shirt, since the rest of the ride is a 1200 foot descent and it would be very cold when wet. I ride 10 minutes and it rains again, a lot. So wet I rode. One beautiful thing  happened. As I came flying down the mountain, chased by my trailer, three desert foxes tried to cross the road. I rode right into the middle of them. One went right, two went left. I stopped and watched them look for each other. They where gorgeous.
I came into Milford, wet and exhausted, in part from not sleeping much the night before, and found a nice hotel with hot tub. Life is good. My odometer stopped working from the rain.
I just corrected this blog....and some of my spelling mistakes, OK, this is not my talent. My odometer started working again and all data, except yesterdays is there. I corrected the mileage and ascents. It is a good reminder how inaccurate our memories are. I had underestimated one ascent bu 2000 feet. I guess part of is my strong need to not oversell what I do.
I will try to add pictures soon. Did not work when I tried it at home. Definitely not my talent.
Of to Cedar City Utah.

Dietmar's Index:

Road kills seen since I left in descending order of quantity:

Rabbits (remember the saying: Why did the rabbit cross the road?)
Birds (really)

UC professors on bicycles per 1000 miles so far

Lessons learned:

Mormons do not own flashlights
Desert foxes are incredibly graceful runners
There are wild horses in Utah/Nevada

Total distance so far: 692
Total ascent so far: 39,600

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Airplanes and Frostnip

Day 9, Fallon to Middle Station, 55 miles, 1300 feet accent

Hot and dry. Met several people crossing the country the other direction. Jonah, on foot from Vermont I think, who sang me a song, which earned him a hug. Lucky man, did not ask me to sing. Beautiful young man. Three other cyclist followed, Mercedes a smart future Chemist and others, all 30 years younger. They warned me of rattle snakes near Eureka, two of which paid their respects late in the evening in their campsite. I slept in the desert that night and promptly dreamed of a snake in my tent.....thanks guys. Found a good place to camp off the road.

Day 10, Middle Station to Austin, 60 miles, 4100 feet accent

Rode an alternative route on beautiful Highway 722. I stopped and listened to birds in a deep creek bed as a Navy Jet flew a few hundred feet above and greeted me by dipping his (her) wings.....very cool indeed. Made it to Austin after a grueling climb into the city. I suggested for the town to be moved to lower ground, they thought I was kidding.
Slept in a Motel. Town population: 196

Day 11, Austin to Eureka, 70 miles 3300 feet accent

My longest ride so far. Beautiful scenery. Nevada has more agriculture than I knew.
Much of the day was cloudy, which I enjoyed after so much heat. I saw thunderstorms all around me. Unfortunately at about 5PM with 30 miles to go they converged onto the valley I was in. I did not see it coming since my rear view eyes were shut. The temperature dropped from 75 to 55 and the biggest raindrops I have ever seen started falling. I had to make a difficult decision. Make an already wet camp or try to ride through the storm.
I was worried about lightening too, since I was the tallest object. Since I was already wet and spending the night would have been miserable, I decided to give it all I got , and some, and run. The wind was blowing in my direction so I rode 20-26 miles per hour for 30 mile in light to very heavy rain. After 20 miles my hands were tingling. I thought it was nerves from tightening my shoulders. When I made it into the hotel, there was a puddle where I stood in the lobby. I told the receptionist, that I wanted a room, some hot chocolate and my mommy. She replied: I have a room, the hot chocolate is behind you (it was) and I am sorry about your mom not being here. Once in the room I started shaking. Hot shower I thought. I realized, that I could not feel my fingers and my hands felt like they were hooked up to a battery. My fingertips had turned white. I had the first stage of frostbite called frost nip. Maybe I am stubborn.
All this in Nevada in July.

Total distance so far: 505 miles
Total ascent so far: 28,500 feet

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mountains and Desert

Day 4, July 4, Jackson to somewhere on the mountain, 33 miles, 5500 feet ascent.

Astrid dropped me off at the "tire" tree at about 10:00 AM. I rode the 6 miles to Jackson and then had a gourmet lunch 8 miles further up the road with Astrid.
I asked to fill up my water bottles in a bar. The waitress refused to take my tip of a Dollar until she made sure I had enough to eat. The first of many kind people.
I found a nice tiny meadow where I spent my first night alone in the forest.

Dietmar's Index:

Time it takes in minutes to use up the calories of a freeze dried dinner (for two) going uphill on a bicycle?

Day 5, July 5, Meadow to Carson Pass, 37 miles, 6100 feet ascent.

Towards the end above 8000 feet and after climbing 11600 feet in 2 days, I was tired. Very.
I rode down the other side far enough to where the night would not be so cold to about 7300 feet.
It still was. On the way up, I stopped at Silver Lake and swam in it's cool waters, awesome.
A woman on the beach offered me some of the family's watermelon. Camped in the forest with 1.875 million mosquitoes.

Lesson learned:
People love water.
Insects share that love.

Day 6, July 6, Meadow to Carson City, 40 miles, 400 feet ascent.

I stopped riding at noon, when I met Astrid. Rested in the comfort of a hotel that night. Did I say I love beds? I really do.

Day 7, July 7, Carson City to ditch, 44 miles, 1200 feet ascent.

I left at noon after, yes you guessed it, lunch with Astrid. I stopped when I found a ditch with a few shrubs to shield me. Camping in the desert is quite different from the forest. At least there were no mosquitoes.

Day 8, July 8, Ditch to Fallon, 21 miles, 500 feet ascent.

During much of the rides on this journey, I had a pain in my left shoulder, Something that happened on many longer bicycle rides before. I thought it was a muscle I only use riding (looking up all the time) and that it would get better, once used more. It got worse. I decided to get help before I ride into the main desert with no big towns for many hundreds of miles.
Astrid helped me find a Chiropractor in town, I arrived at 10:00 AM.
Dr, Laura Harmon treated me, refused payment, placed me on a spare bed and told me to rest my shoulder for the afternoon. This not being enough kindness, offered me a room in her house for the night, ....before telling her husband, and made me a delicious dinner. As you readers may guess, this was of course insufficient hospitality, so she bought me a bag of supplies for the road, and lunch to go.
There are a lot of beautiful people in this world. I just met another one.
I am humbled by her (their) love.
It is 10:00 AM and I am heading into the desert. I keep you posted.

Total distance so far: 320 miles
Total ascent so far: 19,800 feet