Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Day 11 - Wendover, NV to Salt Lake City, UT
Outpacing the Storms Today was going to be a long, challenging day. We awoke at 4:45 a.m. and went down to the cafe in the casino. Only one thing was more frightening than the 25 of us parading through the casino in cycling gear... the dozen or so people at the poker table at 5 in the morning. After a hearty breakfast, we loaded our luggage and hit the road. It was cool and in the low 60s with scattered clouds overhead and darker clouds to the south. We prayed the rain would stay at bay.
A block from our hotel, we crossed our second state line and entered Utah. The Promised Land. We once again got on I-80E and immediately employed our double paceline strategy from yesterday. We were on the straightest highway I've ever seen. Look at a map of Western Utah. I-80 is arrow straight. And it's flat. But the headwind from the southeast was blowing hard in our faces. Those of us on the south side of our double paceline were working hard. The relief was found on the north side. About every half mile, Chuck, a phys. ed. teacher from Miami and former Athletic Director, would call out "Rotate!" The only thing missing was his coach's whistle.
When we reached the Bonneville Salt Flats, we pulled out at a rest stop where a viewing platform gave us an incredible view of the vast expanse of white sandy flats. The mountains in the distance were aglow from the rising sun. It was altogether beautiful and eerie. We hit the road again and pressed on. The wind wasn't the only thing offering resistance. I had a flat. The front tire was greeted by a tiny wire and deflated quickly. Sean, our mechanic, was quick to replace the tube and we were off again.
We reached our first SAG stop at mile 42.5. All of us were glad to make it here. Rains had already come through so a makeshift tarp was set up next to the van. Fortunately, we were all still dry. We took our time here and enjoyed PBJ sandwiches and all the other stuff we needed. We packed our jersey pockets full of food and started pacing again. Our speeds were between 16 and 21 mph depending on the wind. Basically, we were going full force all the time. By the end of the day, it wouldn't be the distance that wore me out, it would be speed and focus for more than 7 hours.
Several times during the day, we would be outpacing a severe thunderstorm. Once, we all stopped, put on our raingear, and just barely skirted the advancing storm. There but by the grace of God... The scenery was changing from salt flats to brown and green hills to water to rocks and mountains. At mile 91, we reached our second SAG stop. I was nearing exhaustion, but still had a little more juice in me. I refueled and noticed another advancing storm coming toward us. We divided into two groups of single file pacelines to avoid the increasing debris on the Interstate shoulder. I switched to the slower of the two groups and enjoyed the slight relief. I also had a second flat in the latter part of the day. Rear tire this time.
Soon, we were coming closer to Salt Lake City. Gerard, Leigh, and I were now pedaling alone. We decided to stop for a caffeine fix about 15 miles from the city. Ahh... just what I needed. I opted for a Starbucks bottled Frappucino and could have drank four of them. Now, I was catching my second wind. Or perhaps this was my third or fourth wind.
We neared the city, passing the Great Salt Lake. We stopped for two other riders so Gerard could help replace a flat. While waiting, we spotted a fox walking through the brush in the wetland bordering the Salt Lake. We were now on a frontage street and appreciating the break from so much Interstate traffic. Just ten more miles... we entered the airport hotel strip and a few blocks more, a couple of right turns, and the hotel was in sight.
I was whipped. I've cycled far greater distances and certainly had more climbing than today. But, the constant paceline chasing and constant focus on the riders in front and behind as well as keeping a constant eye out for debris, just wore me down. I'm so grateful for the rest day tomorrow. Our evening included a hotel hosted happy hour where we burned off any remaining energy, then our route rap for Friday's 65 mile ride to Provo. We also said farewell to five riders who leave us today.
Sleep should come easily tonight! No blog entry tomorrow. I'm taking the day off! See you in Provo, UT on Friday.
For more photos from today's epic blast across northern Utah, visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2/100145
For more about the Ride for Impact, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org. Again, if you've enjoyed reading about my first 11 days of this incredible journey, would you please visit this site and learn why I'm doing this and how you can be a supporter? I'd appreciate your contribution.
Cumulative Miles: 878.0
Elev Gain: 1077 ft.
Max Elev: 4656 ft.
Avg Climb: 1%
Max Climb: 4%