Friday, June 26, 2009
Welcome to Utah!
The ride from Ely to Baker had its challenges. We encountered three peaks, and while the slope was gradual, 7+ miles of climbing even a medium grade is very tiring. Luckily the road mostly coasted into Baker, our last town in Nevada.
Baker is located five miles from the Utah border, smack in the middle of the Great Basin National Park. Overlooking the town is the massive Wheeler Peak. Standing at over 13,000 feet the mountain was the most impressive peak we've seen so far. Baker rests at 5,000 feet, but we heard there was some great hiking up near the peak. So after hopping off our bikes and into the car, we drove up to around 10,000 feet and went on a 3 mile hike.
The route we chose took us up to a grove of bristlecone pines, the oldest living beings on the planet. These trees can live up to 5,000 years old and are incredibly resilient in adverse conditions. The info tour described them as "grotesquely beautiful" and the description was certainly appropriate; these pines looked like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe poem.
We drove back down the mountain to Baker and set up camp. A meal and a couple of card games later, we turned in for the night. The next morning we rose early and broke camp. We had a busy day ahead of us! Before setting out for Milford, UT (and a time zone change!) we went over to the Lehman Caves for the 8:30, hour long tour. The Lehman Caves are a series of massive limestone structures buried in the hillside just outside of Baker. We all agreed that our favorite part of the trip was when the artificial lights were extinguished and the group was left in complete darkness. Then a candle was lit to show how the caves were viewed at the turn of the 19th century. Believe me, it was eerie. I was sad to have the lights turned back on.
The ride to Milford was tough. The part of Utah which our route took us through was barren. Some locals in Milford would later describe it as a "wasteland". A stiff headwind didn't help our efforts. Over the past two weeks I've realized that although a headwind does zap your energy, it is the loss of will that is most difficult to overcome. We broke up the ride into three segments and were happy to finally reach Milford.
Having no place to stay in Milford, we wandered around town looking for a church. We'd heard from other bikers that churches are generally welcoming to cross-country fundraisers, so we hoped to find one that would allow us to curl up in a corner for a night. What we got was even better.
At the entrance to town we spotted a steeple and headed in its direction. The door to the church was open and we filed on into the dark hallways trying to find someone. Eventually we found a group of three or so people, introduced ourselves, and made our request. Turns out we ended up addressing the Bishop Larry Barnes! The bishop was extremely accommodating and directed us to the lone hotel in town. His niece, Janet Russell, was the general manager there and would surely put us up for the evening. Ecstatic, we thanked him repeatedly and headed to the hotel.
Sure enough, Ms. Russell put us up for the evening and even put breakfast on the house for us the next morning! This is another extraordinary example of the generosity that people have shown us on this trip. Our sincere and heart felt thanks go out to both Bishop Barnes and Janet Russell for their kind support of our trip!
In the morning, after our breakfast and thanking Ms. Russell, we started out for Cedar City, UT. This was our last day before getting a rest day and with a distance on 56 miles, it shouldn't be too bad of a ride we thought. How wrong we were. The entire day we were blasted with headwinds of up to 30 mph, some rain, and general fatigue from a long week of biking. Getting a flat tire 25 miles outside of town wasn't a pleasant experience either. Needless to say, we were thrilled to finally reach town.
After a quick tune up and a few purchases at Cedar Cycles we met up with Theresa Reddy, our host for the next day and a half. We contacted Theresa through couchsurfing.com, a very cool site if you aren't familiar with it. Theresa is wonderful and we had a great time hanging out with her lat night. Today we slept in for the first time in a while and then got to doing some errands. Laundry was high on the list and I am pleased to say it is currently in the dryer (this is a major accomplishment for us). The car is also clean and Dave and Lauren are out gathering up supplies for the next couple of weeks. We'll probably grab lunch at some point and see a movie later tonight.
Tomorrow we set out for Panguitch, UT. It's a short ride (58 miles), but we hit a BIG mountain. The highest we've climbed so far was just over 8,500 but tomorrow we get all the way up to 10,500! The climb starts right as we leave Cedar City, but after getting it out of the way we should be able to zoom on down into Panguitch. Should be a fun day! Over the next 10 days we have 2 rests days: four biking days, one rest day, four more biking days, and another rest day. We're going to spend those rest days in some gorgeous national parks and we are all looking forward to some fun hiking, swimming, and kayaking!
As always, thanks for reading and I will keep updating as our access to the Internet allows. Thanks!
Answer to the last Trivia Question: Mama Katele. Mama Katele was the outspoken AIDS activist in a refugee camp inZambia that so influenced the founders of Face AIDS. Just after their return to the US, the three students received word that Mama Katele had passed away.They channelled their grief and outrage into the formation of Face AIDS and we try to continue their work today! (10 points to Matty Pru!)
Today's Trivia Question: What is the state emblem of Utah? (10 points)
BONUS QUESTION: What is the state fossil of Utah? (5 points)
Posted by Austin Carroll Keeley at 11:35 AM