Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 47: The climb of climbs

Day #47) July 29, 2011. Tremonton, UT to Snowville, UT: 41 miles in 3:54 hrs.

Good thing I did this day as a “lay up”, because it would have been a total butt kicker had I tried to make Burly, ID today.

Last even I decided to go to this little Mexican restaurant up the street and give it a go. And it was just an amazing surprise – in a very good way. There were a couple folks in this little “gas station turned Mexican restaurant, and they were all speaking spanish. I took that as a very good sign. So they were out of chicken, so I ordered two beef burritos for 4 bucks each. Now she gave me some red salsa and some green salsa, and I asked which was the hotter of the two. She indicated that the green was hotter, so I asked for some extra green salsa. Got back to the motel room, ripped the bag open and it was just crazy how big these things were. I mean we’re talking as think as your wrist. And first bite was the confirmation that I had hit a homerun. Man, these burritos were just great. Somehow the strips of beef were grilled (no ground beef here) such that they were just a bit on the crisp side in places – made for some delicious food. Inside was some kind of white cheese, lettuce, refried beans and various spices. I had to wait about 2 hours before I ate the second one.

Ok, so today was supposed to be the easy day. And time-wise it was, checking in at just under 4 hours. But intensity-wise, wow, I had a climb today that will go down in the books.

Go up at 4:30 am and then just enjoyed some morning java as I watched the local news and weather out of SLC. Ate 3 big blueberry muffins from the lounge area for the complimentary breakfast, and then packed. Got on the road at 6:45 am, a bit on the late side, but what with my estimation of 35-40 miles for the day I was in no hurry. Now yesterday I’d seen this monster looking climb like miles off in the distance to the west, and I presumed that this climb was the very same Rt 102 that I was on in the city of Tremonton. So seeing that yesterday and figuring that it was going to be in my future, that made it much easier to take when I found out that it was indeed part of my route. Anyway, I pedaled off to the west on 102 passing under I-15 and then a mile or so later over the top of I-84. And the closer I got to that climb the bigger it became.

Probably took like 5-6 miles before I actually got to the base of this thing. And by that time Rt 102 had deviated off to the S and this pup just continued straight west as a small county road. I think it was listed as 11200 N St. So I shifted to the little cookie right from the get-go, and then noted the time on my cyclo computer so I could see how long this insane thing would last. Now like I said, I had to shift into the little cookie right away, so that gives you an indication of how steep this thing was. Now the first 10 min was a fairly easy spin in the second easiest gear I had. Then the thing got steeper and I had to hit the easiest gear I had – the pie plate in the back.

Then I had to start standing with out of the saddle pedaling just to get up across the switchbacks. I mean I went from like 4 mph spinning in the saddle to about 3 mph out of the saddle on the first switchback. Back in the saddle after the switchback and then into the second switchback, this one really crazy steep, and I was soon doing just 2.7 or so mph. I mean it was so steep that I couldn’t have climbed it in the saddle. Just no way! Now this thing because a challenge, and I was key to take it on, just to see if I could keep the bike upright and not have to walk. Never done in on any of my cross-country trips, and I was determined to not do it today. So this second switchback took me a good 10 min of out of the saddle climbing to get up and over such that I could sit down and pedal when it eased up a bit. By then I was 30 min into the climb, with what looked like the mother of all inclinations at the very top, this notch in the mountainside where the road cuts through. And this thing was no switchback, rather it was just a straight shot up for a half mile or so.

I spun in the saddle as long as I could into that thing and then had to go out of the saddle again. And this was just crazy. The whole time I was under 3 mph just churning away out of the saddle. There were several cars that went by in the opposite direction, and in one car these two chicks gave me the thumbs up, and in several of the other cars the people just looked at me like I was crazy. I summated in 44 min and I have to say that this was one of the toughest climbs that I’ve ever done in a cross-country ride. It was just about as gnarly as Sunwapta Pass in the Canadian Rockies, but just not as long. At the top I was just amazed at how high up I’d climbed. Now I’m not talking big altitude here, but just the severity of the pitch, and its length, that’s what was so staggering.

Took some shots at the top and then descended, and I’ll tell ya what, I really had to dbl brake with those disk brakes on the back side of this monster. It was frighteningly steep, and what’s more there were cattle crossing rungs in the descent every 400 yrds or so, so I didn’t want to biff it on one of those things. I mean I was really braking on the steep section at the start. Once the graded settled out a bit I let it rip and descended for several miles down the the jcn with Rt 83 N. And there at the bottom of this monster descent, at the 83 jcn was this expansive complex that turned out to be one of the places (or the place) where the space shuttle’s external booster rockets were made. It looked more like a giant chemical plant.

Went N on 83 and it was just flat, flat, flat for a good 4 miles. I mean what a desolate place this was – the facility, a farm or two up on 83 and then nothing but this high foothills as far as the eye can see. The final two miles on 83 was a false flat up to I-84. Now as I’d mentioned a few blogs ago, I had found that if I could only ride on about 25 miles of I-84 I could bridge Rt 102 in Tremonton and Rt 30 in Snowville. If I couldn’t ride on 84 then I’d have to spend 200-300 additional miles going WAY out of the way to get to Burly, ID. I mean it was just a matter of those 25 miles to save me 3 days of riding. So I’d called the UT Highway Patrol office in SLC a few days back and left a detailed message with one of the higher up officers inquiring about this stretch of interstate to bike on. I was gone when he returned my call, but he left a message saying that I could indeed ride on the interstate on the berm on that particular stretch. Tell you what, that totally made my life so much easier. Honestly, you can’t imagine all the studying of maps I had done to see what the alternatives were if I could not ride on that stretch of interstate.

So anyway, I got to I-84, rode up the onramp west and began my interstate ride – which was a false flat climb for about 6 miles up another mountain. Now this was a joy to do compared to the monster I’d done earlier. I was in the middle cookie and just spun along on the far right side of the berm, going over this minor rumble strips that were situated every 100 feet or so. They were a minor inconvenience compared to 3 days of additional riding had I not been given permission to ride the “state”. Traffic zooming by at like 75 mph – no big deal. This climb took a good hour plus to finally get up and then I was greeted with about a 4 mile descent, followed by another false flat climb, this one probably like 7+ miles long, followed by another descent down into Snowville.

So I have to say that today was no easy ride by any means, but I was so happy to have saved myself hundreds of miles of additional riding that I was on cloud nine anyway. Now Snowville is about 2x bigger than good old Maybell, CO. Just a Flying J gasmart, 2 small diners, a campground and this motel – Outsider’s Inn. Stopped in at the Flying J and grabbed a 44 oz fountain coke for a buck, then rode 200 ft down the road the inn. This place is small – single floor, 8 rooms and no one anywhere to be found. Then I read the signage on the door – pick an envelope out of the plastic bin next to the door. That envelope has inside it: a room key, and sign-in card. The rooms are open so you can pick a room based on the several numbered envelopes with the numbered keys inside. Once you pick the room, you keep a key, fill out the card (credit card no. or cash) – and then put the envelope in the drop box on the door. It’s like picking a camping site on the honor system for God’s sake. Amazing! A couple of the rooms had been used the night before as the beds were disheveled and the key was left on the dresser. So I found a room, #5 and was filling out the card when the proprietor arrived to clean the rooms from last night.

I complimented her on the “honors motel” and then took care of payment. Now this little place is bare bones basic, with just a TV with 3 channels, no wifi (but my air card is a go with limited speed so I may not be able to download pictures) two beds, a dresser, a bed table and a beater chair. But it totally serves it’s purpose for me, making it such that I can split up a totally long ride. Showered washed kit and then hoofed it 2 min away to Molly’s Diner. Nice little retro place that’s probably really popular with the truckers. Got the lunch special – Chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, veggies, lunch roll, and chicken noodle soup. Homerun! Great meal. I was just packed, and the chicken noodle soup was a bowl, not some dinky cup.

Went to the park across the street and sat on a picnic bench in the shade of a shelter just taking in the vastness and the desolation of this place. Just amazing how desolate it is here. By then the temp had to be 90, and all around me were these barren, heat bleached foothills. I just sat there for 15 min wondering what the hell it takes to live in a lonely place like this. To me this place is just God forsaken, and to the locals this is home! Crazy isn’t it? Came back here and took advantage of the early day by doing bike maintenance. Fixed my front disk/rotor alignment and cleaned and lubed my drivetrain. Been working for several hour since then.

Think I’ll go to the Flying J and grab a few beers for this eve. Dinner – well let’s see….pizza at the Flying J or one of the two diners. Then time to veg with my whopping three TV channels. This ought to be some kind of Friday night! I think I’ll be surfing the net for the evening on my computer, racking up ggb on my aircard, instead of watching garbage on FOX, CBS or ABC.

Tomorrow – Idaho, yes! Two more states and I get this thing in the bag. All the best……..Pete

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