|On June 1-7, 2002, it was my great pleasure to be one of 90-something
participants in Adventure Cycling's
Utah with Ride Director Tom Radley.
The Ride: Wow! is the only word that comes close to telling how great every aspect of this ride was. The catered meals, the campsites, the routes, the ride staff and all the support they provided, and of course Utah itself, were all far more wonderful than I had expected or hoped for.
The "official" information states that the SAG vehicles are for emergency use (medical or equipment failure), so I was a bit concerned when I signed up for this "challenging" ride. I was relieved to hear the unofficial promise at the orientation on Saturday, that any rider would be picked up anytime he/she needed or wanted
The ride began with the mandatory Orientation Meeting on Saturday evening, June 1. I was not the only solo traveller in the group. PJ from Austin TX, Carol from Los Angeles, and Bevin from San Diego are three lovely ladies I made friends with even before the meeting began. For someone as shy as me to make new friends that quickly should give you an idea what a great group this was. Tom, our ride director and hero for the week, introduced himself and the complete ride staff, answered all our questions and relieved all of our concerns. During the week the entire staff earned our love and gratitude. Again, the word comes to mind, "Wow!"
Similar to BRAG, each day begins at one's leisure, with packing up tents
and gear and leaving it with the luggage truck volunteers. All of
our meals were included in the $600 ride fee, and were provided by a caterer
who followed us from camp to camp. She and her two helpers did a
superb job, offering variety, quality and quantity for breakfast, lunch
and dinner to satisfy the crowd of hungry cyclists. I was really
impressed at how good it all tasted, and the many choices offered.
|On Sunday morning we left St. George and enjoyed smooth roads with good shoulders over rolling terrain, all the way to Springdale, a total of 43 miles and 2097' of climbing. There was one official reststop about half-way, with water, Gatorade, granola bars, bananas, apples, oranges, bagels, peanut butter and cream cheese for refueling. We reached the Zion Canyon National Park Campground in time for lunch. After setting up our tents and relaxing a bit, PJ, Carol, Mark and I took a shuttle bus ride into Zion. The driver stopped at designated places|
|in the park for visitors to get off and sightsee. The buses run about evey 7-8 minutes so it was a great way to see the park. It is the 1st national park to disallow private vehicles in the park. Before the shuttle sysytem was initiated, on a peak day, there would be over 4000 vehicles in the park vying for 400 legal parking spaces-quite a mess I imagine. Now the park is serene, the animals have returned and visitors get to enjoy the park that much more. I hope they do this at all the national parks. Our destination was a trail that goes to "the Narrows," where you hike in the Virgin River in Zion Canyon. If you hike far enough, the canyon walls are close enough that you can touch both walls with your hands (I bet you've seen pictures of it). However, we only had enough time and energy to hike up river about 1 mile. The river was so low that in many places we hiked on dry ground, and even the deepest places were only knee deep. Many hikers have drowned in the Narrows due to flash floods. The cool water felt wonderful on my aching knees, and this was probably my favorite of many excursions of the trip.||
Monday began with a ride through Zion N.P., including the switchbacks in the map below. The straight part just before the Canyon Overlook is actually a 1-mile tunnel that we were not allowed to cycle through, so we were shuttled in vans, and our bikes in U-Hauls through the tunnel. While waiting for my bike, I took the 2.2-mile roundtrip hike to see the Canyon Overlook. The picture doesn't do the view justice, but you get the idea-it was well worth the hike! The rest of the 62 miles just got tougher! The climbs that followed were long and not nearly as easy to enjoy. Even the last leg, 10 miles of mostly down hill, were into a headwind that made me long for the early morning climbing. Thank God for the company of Sarah from San Francisco which I enjoyed the last 20 miles. We prayed for rain to cool us off but it remained over the mountains and not on us. We climbed a total of 4500' to our camp at Hatch. At 7000' elevation, we were forewarned that the temperature would drop below freezing at night, and it did! I spent the night in a hotel room at the campsite, which made it really hard to join my fellow campers for breakfast in the frosty morning.
Picture taken at the Canyon Overlook shown in map.
|morning Wednesday. PJ, Carol and I stuck together and did a 3 mile hike down through the hoodoos to the canyon floor and back out. Hoodoos are the tall rock formations that remain after countless years of errosion all around them. Back at camp we enjoyed a great dinner and were in our tents early for bed. PJ had talked one of the staff members, Will, into an early rise on Wednesday mornng to take us to Sunrise Point in the van before sunrise. We hiked down in the canyon a bit in the cool morning air to witness the magic just as the sun light comes over the canyon wall, providing a 2-3 minute show of ooohs and ahhhs as the venue comes alive with glorious contrasts of red, gold and deep shadows.|
|My throw away camera hardly does it justice but click here for a peek.
We still made it
back to camp in time for breakfast and packing up our gear. Some folks rode there bikes into the park, while many others, including PJ, Carol and I, took advantage of Tom's limited offer to shuttle bikes and riders the 18 miles to the far end of the park. This was almost all uphill, so the 18 mile ride back to camp was screaming downhills most of the way. We were encouraged, against our natural instinct to fly past the many lookouts along the way, to stop and enjoy the sites of this beautiful park. We took the advice and stopped at all the lookouts except one. It's hard to imagine any views more beautiful that the ones we stopped at, but several people said we missed the best one!
Thursday morning began with more downhill which, while enjoyable, was not a welcome sight since every foot we descended had to be made up on the 6-8% grades we would climb to reach the peak at 10,600'. On the steeper sections, I would set goals of riding to a certain snow plow marker on the side of the road, then stop for a breather before continuing on to the next goal. Mile after mile my speedometer stayed in the 3.5 to 5 mph range but after 5 hours in the saddle, I reached the peak at 38 miles out. The next 20 miles were almost completely downhill. I reached Max Sp of 42 mph but could have easily went faster. I used my brakes intermittently because of crazy crosswinds that made bike control a real challenge. On a previous Cycle Utah event, a rider was reportedly picked up by the wind and thrown across the center line! That, and 2 encounters within 30 minutes that put me face to face with oncoming cars passing in my lane, kept the adrenalin flowing the rest of the way to Cedar City. Camp was at a KOA on Main Street. It was very nice except for being on a noisy street.
Friday should have been the easiest day of all from looking at the elevation graph, but alas, the homeward leg back to St. George involved traveling parallel to I-15 most of the 58 miles, and actually riding on I-15 for 7 miles. I felt strong and the miles passed quickly, which was a good thing because the temperature had climbed to 105 F by the time I rolled into the Temple View Campground where our journey had begun. Wow!
I flew United Airlines from Atlanta, to Las Vegas, McCarran International Airport on Wednesday, May 29. I had learned form Abe Glaser that the Park 'n Fly lots on Camp Creek Parkway near the Atlanta Airport cost less than parking at the Airport, plus offered the supreme convenience of dropping you off curbside at whichever airline you will be flying on. When carrying a bike case and large duffel bag, not having to pull them any further than absolutely necessary was the right thing to do! The United flights required a transfer in Chicago on the way to Vegas, and in Denver on the way back to Atlanta. I understand that Delta offers flights from Atlanta to St. George UT, but still involves transfers. I had never been to Las Vegas, so I chose to take that route and go a couple of days early. Upon arrival in Las Vegas, right outside the baggage claim area, they have airport shuttles that will take you to any hotel on the strip for $4.75. That is the option I chose over taxis because most taxis will not hold my bike case unless they tie the trunk lid down, plus it was a substantial cost savings and I got to see more of the city on the way to your hotel.
|Accomodations: I had booked a 2-night stay at the Luxor, shown here. It is the 2nd largest hotel in the US. The weekday rate was only $69 but is double that on Friday-Saturday. I didn't play in the casino, but they have a lot of restaurants, shows, and other fun attractions that I really|
|enjoyed. I particularly enjoyed the 3-D IMAX movies and The Blue Man Group, the latter being one of the funniest and most amazing shows I have seen, but take ear plugs because it is very loud! I also walked the strip to other famous casinos/hotels such as NY, NY, MGM Grand, Bellagio, etc...|
New Diamodback Interval road bike: At $499, you can't go wrong with this buy. It has a 7005 compact geometry aluminum frame, Shimano Sora Triple drivetrain, with 52/42/30T crank and 12x25T 8-spd cassette. I changed the 30T granny gear to a 28T to give me an inch-gear range of 30.2 to 117". This pales in comparison to the Mega Range of my Tour Easy (19.1 to 127") but is identical to the gearing on new Trek & Cannondale road bikes with Ultegra Triple groupos. The Diamondback has some very nice features for the price, including the threadless Ahead set. The bike weighs in at 23 # withouth pedals. The Avenir saddle is the perfect blend of weight vs comfort. Even my "recumbent butt" faired well. The brakes are a brand I have not heard of (Tektro), and are part of the reason I was afraid to exceed 42 mph on the screaming downhill to Cedar City. Twice on the 20-mile downhill run, I opted to stop the bike to rest my hands and enjoy the scenery (more good advice from Ride Director Tom Radley). From 38 mph to a stop, while descending, seemed to take forever. I did not measure it, but estimate it took over 1000' to stop the bike under those conditions (if you hold the brakes too long, you can heat up the bicycle wheel, increasing your tire pressure to the point of a blowout). I have no recent experience to compare this to, but beleive the Shimano RSX brakes on my Raleigh worked better. I guess if you want to stop fast on screaming downhills, caliper brakes of any brand may not be the answer? This bike is very comfortable and would be even more so if the Cr Mo fork were upgraded to a carbon fork. I think the frame and other components are worth the upgrade.
What would I do Different? Next time I would leave the bike case in the attic and ship my bike to a bike shop in St. George. Even though I like my new Diamondback, I think I would ship my Tour Easy for this ride. Also, if there is nothing I wanted to see or do in Vegas, I would fly Delta from Atlanta or Savannah to St. George which, itself, is a nice town to visit. If flying from Atlanta, I'd definitely do the Park 'n Fly thing again.