After parting ways with C, I spent the best part of two weeks hanging out with my friend Jamie. We started in St George, went up to her mum’s place in Cedar City and then a week in Salt Lake City. It was easily the longest time I had had off the bike since the trip began on the 11th of May and it was great. I used it to relax, work out gear, hang out with people in Salt Lake and engage in a little bit of tourism. I tried out the hammock that Mike had lent to me and decided that it couldn’t really function as a replacement for my tent, I decided to dump a bunch of gear to lighten the load (which I’ll probably cover in a later blog post) and, most importantly, I had a great time.
November the 1st was be the start of part two. I had parted ways with C and was now heading out by myself to the countless amazing experiences that lay ahead. The day saw me starting in Cedar City, at Jamie’s mum’s place. My bike had been sat there since the 20th and Sue & Dennis had let me stay an extra day to let me tie up some loose ends.
I got up at 7, intending to leave by 8, and found Dennis had already left. Sue usually leaves later, but come 7:30 she was also heading out and I was alone in the house. That didn’t prove the motivator I needed to head out. Having not packed my laptop away I did some more planning and sent out a couple of emails based on an idea I had had that morning. During the plan’s conception, there had been a list made of things around the world that had to be seen, done, tried or experienced. The only one on the Atlantic coast had been a Krispy Kreme run but siince it took place in February had eluded me. There were a couple north of the contiguous US, which had been nowhere near my route. However, C & I had managed to see the Aurora Borealis in Vancouver so half of one had been completed. For whatever reason, Arizona has a few tasks on it and so I’m eager to try to do the ones that I can. There are two in Phoenix and one at the Grand Canyon, both on my route, but then there’s also one just outside of Flagstaff & Sedona which hadn’t been. I was planning to take the ACA Grand Canyon Connector route which leads from Cedar City down to Phoenix via Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. There’s one small problem though, it doesn’t pass through Flagstaff & Sedona and so visiting Half Moon Picnic Area wouldn’t be possible… unless I changed the route.
Using ridewithgps I looked at how I could adjust my planned route and found that it would be possible, but it would make for a couple of long days. From the South Rim to Prescott via the Grand Canyon Connector is about 125 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing, which is the equivalent of a couple of reasonably normal days. Taking a detour through Flagstaff would make that more like 170 miles and 9,000 feet of climbing. I’m still undecided, but I feel that I should at least be open to the option. The problem is that that thinking then lead me to looking at ways that I could get to Raleigh, North Carolina in February for the Krispy Kreme Challenge, a 4 mile run which has a break at the half-way stage to eat a dozen donuts. As my visa doesn’t expire until mid April, I’m also not ruling that one out.
I ended up leaving at around 8:30 and was glad to have the jacket I had posted up to Jamie back when I was in Florida. At 7am weather.com said it had was 32f (0c) and while it had warmed up a little there was still a chill in the air. Although I’m allowed to ride on the Interstate in Utah, I followed the ACA route and took the frontage road which ran very close by. Although I could hear the hum of I-15, few cars were on the same road as me and by 10am I had started to warm up.
A little later, after being forced to go on I-15 when the road dead ended in private property with no trespassing signs, I saw a sign for Kolob Canyons, a part of the northwest corner of Zion. While it hadn’t been on my route, the visitor’s centre was just off the exit so I went over to investigate. I learnt that there was a 5 mile climb with about 1100 feet of elevation gain to a spectacular overlook point and so I made my mind up to go up. I asked if it was possible to store my bags somewhere and while the guy at the main desk seemed eager, his senior shot the idea down straight away. Slightly annoyed by that lack of flexibility, I headed up the climb and 1/4 of a mile up the road pulled over at a viewpoint, took my dry bag & front panniers off and stored them in the bushes off to the side of the road. As the road got steeper, but my speed didn’t really drop I was very happy with my decision to lighten my load. The ride up was stunning, the reds of the rock were just phenomenal next to the clear blue skies. At the top, I put my bike to one side and went on a mile round trip walk to a viewpoint where I could apparently see the Grand Canyon although I’m not completely certain which bit it was as it was about 60 miles away.
I flew down the hill and got back on I-15, eager to make up for lost time and with the wind at my back was going down the shoulder at 40 mph. It definitely makes a big difference when things are only going 30 mph faster rather than 60. 15 miles later I pulled off I-15, saw my first sign for the Grand Canyon and wound my way along the roads towards Zion. The ride continued to be beautiful, the only problem being that the wind which had pushed me down I-15 ended up blowing in my face and at my side. When it was a headwind, I pedalled and barely moved. When it was a side-wind it almost blew me off the road a couple of times. Thankfully the road wound around enough that the wind ended up at my back and I had a glorious end to the day getting blown up short inclines on the way to Keith’s house, just a few miles before Zion.
Viewpoint from Kolob