Saturday, June 20, 2009
Day 14 - Provo, UT to Price, UT
"It might be raining, but at least we have a headwind!" Today, I re-learned the importance of making the most of every opportunity. So many times, the quality of life is really dependent upon your outlook. When I set out to take on this Cross Country Challenge, I was determined to have a positive attitude and enjoy every moment. Today, that outlook paid off. As I reflected upon the day, I realized prior to this ride I was complaining and negative about some particular aspects of my life--not all of it, but a portion. But for the last two weeks, I've realized that by not complaining and keeping a positive attitude has made this ride exceptionally fun, even on the most difficult days. Today could have been a dreadful day, and unfortunately for some riders, it was. But, I had a blast!
Our day began riding south out of Provo under threatening skies. We had a very early start: breakfast at 5:00 a.m. and load at 5:45 a.m. This was to get us out and on the road before weekend drivers began challenging us on roads that would have minimal shoulder and a lot of construction. Our route out of town was pleasant enough riding past some rural homes, train yards, and businesses. But as we got onto Hwy 6/89, we noticed the terrible headwind. Just south of Mapleton, UT is a wind farm with about a dozen towering wind turbines. Our headwind must have been 40 or 50 miles per hour. I've never cycled in that kind of wind before. You had to put your head down, get your hands in the drops, and just power through it. It appeared as if the wind turbines were giant fans blasting us with air. Eventually we passed them and begin a steady, but easy climb up Hwy. 6.
If the headwind wasn't enough to deal with, construction was the biggest issue. Hwy. 6 is under a significant roadwork project adding two lanes to make it wider. In a variety of places, we were lifting our bikes over K-rails and jersey barriers or riding behind orange construction barrels. In many places, the road shoulder was minimal and most of it had rumble strips. (Cycling over rumble strips is at best painful, at worst disastrous.) But this is where the attitude adjustment comes into play.
We were riding through the most scenic parts of Utah I had seen since we entered the state a few days ago. Our course took us through the "Red Narrows", a section of Hwy. 6 that has steep red canyon walls and sweeping vistas. The climbing was fairly easy at 3 to 5 percent, but lengthy.
At a pullout, we saw one of the support vans and decided to stop. Michelle and Judy offered us some food and water. We lingered for awhile chatting. A few of us used the nearby non-existent restroom facilities (just behind a jersey barrier and out of sight.) Leigh came back to the van and commented that a mummified sheep was just beyond the barrier on the hillside. Well, gotta check that out! As you can see from the photo, this was the king of all roadkill. I thought back to being 12 years old and wanting a bison skull with horns to hang on my wall. If I had seen this pile of bones, I'd probably have taken the skull home. Gross, but hey, I was 12.
We left the mini-SAG stop and continued climbing. The sun was warming us up as we climbed through green rolling mountain sides and red or gray cliffs. A Union Pacific train came by pulling at least 200 empty cars. Later, I saw a second train going down the way we came loaded with coal. These were coal trains and we were entering coal country.
We had another section of construction where we had to bike along a dirt section of uncompleted roadway expansion. Our ride leaders suggested we would have to walk our bikes, but riding along the dirt was really no trouble. It was a cyclocross moment.
The official SAG stop was soon in sight and we pulled in. We were at the front of the group. More water, food, a chance to visit and make new friends. In fact, I made friends with a ground squirrel that was scurrying around. I suppose I could have shared some of my biker food, but really... how many miles did the squirrel do today? I deserved it more.
We left the squirrels, SAG stop, and finished our climb up to Soldier Summit. Elevation: 7,447 ft. The climbing was never too intense and the weather at the top was cooler, but not cold.
We stopped for a few photos and to talk with ride leader Gerard who was parked there. Gerard pointed out the dark clouds moving in from the south, so we moved on. We weren't more than a half mile on our descent when the deluge began. I put on my rain gear, but had nothing for my legs or feet and promptly got a good soaking.
The rains poured down on us while we tried to safely descend amidst the traffic, rumble strips, and splashing water. The rain started to sting. I decided to embrace it. This was fun! I wasn't going to melt, so just ride through it and enjoy the scenery. The rain eventually passed and we worked through another construction section.
At 52 miles into the ride, there was a store on the left that Gerard suggested we stop in and check out. The proprietor was a an old-timer who would share stories with us. I decided it was worth a stop. I'm beginning to get the gist of this ride... look for opportunities to experience America, not just ride through it. This was such an opportunity. Inside the old storefront was Dennis Finch, 78. Lived here in Colton, UT all his life. There used to be 200 families living here. Now it's just him and his wife. He's just running the store to stay active (he told me so about three times in our conversation.) His granddad (or was it great-granddad?) knew Butch Cassidy. Showed me the photo of the two of them. This storefront used to be over there by the tracks. They moved it in 1934. Here's the photos of the old town. Those buildings are all gone now. This is the only one. He's just running the store to stay active. I sipped black coffee while he regaled me with photos and stories, pointed out the elk and deer heads mounted to the wall. He shot one with a bow and arrow. One was shot back in the 1890s. He gets paid $0.50 a cubic yard for the road crew to dump the rocks they're clearing out to expand the roadway. He met a lady from Australia last year who stopped into his store. He's just running the store to stay active. If you drive over Hwy. 6 in Utah, stop in and say hi to Dennis. It's entirely worth the visit.
I left Hilltop Country Store and continued descending down Hwy. 6. I was now in Price Canyon and the scenery was outstanding. The high cliff walls, the railroad tracks, the Price River flowing by... I felt as if I was biking through a model railroad set. It was fantastic. I slowed down and soaked it all in. I stopped over the river and took more photos. I took my time riding through it looking left, looking right, and enjoying every moment. A few other riders went by and I felt like I had found something no one else was seeing. Maybe it took two weeks to really catch this, but the bike is the vehicle for the experience, not the experience itself. Gotta take your time and see what you're riding through!
I passed a coal processing plant, descended further down the canyon, and entered the little town of Helper, UT. Helper is named for the "helper" engines added to the trains to make the steep (2.4% grade) 15 mile climb up Price Canyon to the town of Soldier Summit. I stopped and rode through the historical Main Street. Brick storefronts, hotels, and restaurants appeared like time had stopped. It could be 1952 or 1897. I dropped in the The Western Mining and Railroad Museum and chatted with an old timer there. He's lived in Helper for 35 years. He knows Dennis Finch, too. He invited me to look around as long as I like and I would have, but I sensed rain was on my tail.
I left Helper and got back on Hwy. 6. The rains caught me and the deluge dumped once again. It was a fast ride into Price. I think I hit 30 mph as I raced the rains downhill into town. I saw the hotel, but also sensed my hunger. I turned left and rode into the Burger King first then went to the hotel. I heard lots of mumbling and grumbling when I arrived. But, I had just had an amazing day. So what if there's construction, a headwind, and rain? I'm riding my bike across America. This is a blast!
Tomorrow, we have a short ride of 67 miles to Green River. What I'm really looking forward to is an afternoon visit to Arches National Park near Moab, UT. It's too far to ride, so we'll take our two vans and shuttle riders there after we pull in to the hotel. I've never been to Arches and had hoped we'd have a chance to see it. Looks like it will be another great day! It's Father Day tomorrow. I'll miss my family, but I'll be thinking about them when I ride!
For more photos of today's ride including an afternoon visit to the Prehistoric Museum in Price (dinosaurs and mammoths!), visit http://gallery.me.com/eternaldesign2#100170
For more about the Ride for Impact and a chance to sponsor me, visit http://www.rideforimpact.org
Cumulative Miles: 1024
Cumulative Flat Tires: 3
Elev Gain: 3546 ft.
Max Elev: 7527 ft.
Avg Climb: 2%
Max Climb: 8%