Trip Log – Day 88 – Preston, ID to Pocatello, ID

Preston to PocatelloAugust 1, 2015 – Sunny, 95 degrees

Miles Today: 70

Miles to Date: 4,933

States to Date: 20

 IMG_3248Vickie Nelson and her friends at the Rocky Mountain Red Brick Inn got my day off to a good start – bacon and eggs, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, yogurt and delicious coffee. The difference between a B&B and a Super 8 is all about quality and presentation. Vicky placed her fresh cooked food in beautiful bowls. Since I was eating before the usual 8 a.m. time she let me sit in the kitchen where they were preparing things for the other guests. I liked it much better than sitting in the dining room.

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I was on the road by eight, pedaling north on a cool morning that wouldn’t stay that way for long. Idaho is big on historical markers and I enjoyed learning about how the area’s history; the Mormon settlers, the fur trappers, the Bear Creek Massacre where several hundred Shoshoni Indians were slaughtered, and the railroad expansion. The most fascinating area was Red Rock Pass – the easiest pass I have traversed to date. The gentle ridge defined the limit of the ancient Bonneville Sea, which used to cover the entire area to the south and has now shrunk to the Great Salt Lake.

I passed several small towns with elaborately carved metal welcome signs. By noon I was ready for a break and stopped at the Little Rock Cafe in McCammon for a terrific burger and fries topped of with a noteworthy cinnamon roll. While I was eating, a throng of Mormon’s arrived: nineteen extended family members celebrating their eight-year-old son’s confirmation. I chatted with the parents while our seasoned waitress handled the rush with aplomb.

IMG_3253My nemesis the wind reared its head for the last twenty miles into Pocatello, but I landed in town before four and took a writing break before meeting my warmshowers host for the evening. My official host was Caitlyn, a college student just back from a three-week cycling trip to the Northwest. But Caitlyn directed me to her parent’s house, my de facto hosts. We had a terrific homemade pizza and beer on the patio. After Caitlyn and some friends went out for the night, Kathy, Mike, and I talked until ten. The sun never seems to set out here.

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Trip Log – Day 87 – Logan, UT to Preston, ID

Logan to Preston IDJuly 31, 2015 – Sunny, 100 degrees

Miles Today: 35

Miles to Date: 4,863

States to Date: 20

Today was an upside down day. I hung around Logan all day – exploring Logan Canyon, visiting Utah State University (where same gender domestic abuse posters populate the men;s room), taking an afternoon writing break, and visiting ANCA (Association of Nature Center Administrators) to talk about tomorrow. When I headed north out of downtown in US 91 about four, the thermometer hovered at 100 degrees. Logan is typical of so many American cities; a few landmark buildings preserved downtown with miles of strip commercial leading in and out of town. Since I hadn’t eaten since my Econolodge breakfast I decided to stop for an early dinner while the sun was still hot.

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images-2Move over Chinese Buffet, I discovered Golden Corral, the touring cyclists perfect feast. Fresh fruit, salad, rotisserie chicken, enchiladas, sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, squash, and cauliflower, chocolate covered strawberries, brownies, cookies and banana pudding. It is amazing.

images-1True, most of the clientele doesn’t look like me. There are a lot of size 42 waists who snatch the tables closest to the buffet line rather than sit near the windows. But for $10.99 (I qualify for the senior citizen discount) there’s lots of healthy food for folks who can avoid the macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken, pasta al fredo and bottomless Coca-Cola. I was fully fueled for my 28-mile ride through the Cache Valley into Idaho.

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Riding in the evening is very pleasant, though I would only do it on easy stretches with steady traffic because there’s less time to address emergencies when the sun is waning. Fortunately I got to see more of my favorite Utah architecture – the ice shave stands that are all over the place – and passed into Idaho and on to Preston without any difficulty.

Preston was bustling because it’s Rodeo weekend, but I managed to book a sweet little room at the Rocky Mountain Red Brick Inn; a converted church that was my first night in a bed and breakfast.

 

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Trip Log – Day 86 – Kaysville, UT to Logan, UT

Kaysville to LoganJuly 30, 2015 – Sunny, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 62

Miles to Date: 4,828

States to Date: 19

Today I was a bicycle tourist in the truest sense of the word. I left Kaysville about 10 with the general idea to go to Logan, though if something interesting came up along the way, I didn’t have to get there, for I had meetings scheduled and no lodging arranged in advance.

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I rather liked Ogden, which is less affluent than other places along the Wasatch Valley, but also less homogenous. The main street is littered with immigrant stores and restaurants: Mexican bakeries, Chinese buffets, Indian Tandoori, Mongolian Barbeque. Too bad I wasn’t hungry. Downtown featured wonderfully painted horses at the street corners. Just north of town I saw a sign for $5 haircuts. Really? I was straggly and so went in, where Corinne, the chatty wife of an Air Force solider, did a terrific job cutting my hair, at any price.

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The next third of my ride was a perfect stretch of cycling. The breeze was cool. US 89 had light traffic and a great shoulder. The Wasatch Mountains loomed over me to the right, the Great Salt Lake spread out on my left. This stretch of agricultural land is like none I’ve seen in the West – sweet corn and fresh tomatoes; cherries, peaches and watermelons. Handsome orchards march up the mountainsides and farm stands sell terrific produce at ridiculous prices. I stopped at Granny’s for some watermelon, but I couldn’t eat it there, as they aren’t licensed for on-site consumption. They looked juicy and good, but not good enough to weigh down my pannier.

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I decided that if Brigham City looked neat I might stay there. However, US 89 took a sharp right before the town presented a good face and so I decided to pedal on. Up, up, up another eight mile rise to a pass that eventually bought me into Logan Valley. I wasn’t psyched for such rigorous cycling. I just did it.

IMG_3231It was pushing six by the time I pulled into the Econolodge near downtown Logan. The town presented nothing but wide streets and preoccupied motorists, and I was too tired to seek out more character. At least it’s within walking distance of a few eateries. I got cleaned up and set out for dinner, pleased to find a Salvadoran food truck with tables under tents. I ordered the special, which included pamposas, yucca, fried pork and a sweet pancake dessert. Edgar, a local Guatemalan construction worker and college student, joined me in a great dinner conversation.

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Trip Log – Day 85 – Bountiful, UT to Kaysville, UT

Bountiful to KaysvilleJuly 29, 2015 – Sunny, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 16

Miles to Date: 4,766

States to Date: 19

IMG_3189Today was a day of connecting with my own family and meeting another who is quite extraordinary. I spent the morning with my sister-in-law Julie and her son Steve. He makes an awesome breakfast.

 

IMG_3196 IMG_3194Then I visited Kadee and Brad Troop and their seven adopted children, four of whom have EB (Epidermolysis Bullosa) a rare genetic disease; the other three were born with drug-related syndromes.

 

IMG_3214I pedaled up the Rio Grande bike trail to my niece Jessica’s and spent the evening with Jes and her two children as well as my nephew David and his wife Jennifer. Ammon is a Lego fiend; we spent time concocting Star Wars sets at his Lego table. Emma is only four but just ditched the training wheels on her bike. She’s fearless on two wheels. I figure she’ll be ready to join me, maybe next summer?

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Trip Log – Day 83 – Midway, UT to Pleasant Grove, UT

Midway to ProvoJuly 27, 2015 – Sunny, 80 degrees

Miles Today: 46

Miles to Date: 4,703

States to Date: 19

IMG_3139The ride from Midway through Provo Canyon is yet another gorgeous slice of Utah scenery. US. 189 is a wide and twisting road that hugs Deer Creek Reservoir at the base of Mount Timpanogos, the largest peak in this area. About halfway down a side turn leads to a bicycle path that runs right under the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls and then continues down to Provo. I rolled through Brigham Young University, had an odd interchange with a coed in a car who insisted she knew me, and cycled through downtown on my way to Fire Station No.5, where I met Chris Blinzinger, the Manager of Emergency Preparedness for the City of Provo. Chris took me out to lunch with four other people involved in medical, civil, and natural disaster preparation to talk about tomorrow.

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Provo is similar to Madison, WI; State College, PA; and Boulder, CO in that it is a college town, but is unlike them in that BYU students, mostly Mormon, are quite different from many college students. There aren’t any bars, the campus is full of married student housing, off campus housing advertises itself as ‘men’ or ‘women’ only.

I was struck by Provo’s architecture, which doesn’t reflect the rugged West, as lodge style buildings do in Colorado. Rather, it harkens to colonial stability with brick, moldings and symmetry. The LDS churches, which occur within blocks of each other, are subtly different combinations of traditional elements. Even the condominiums complexes seek historical connections. I loved The Bostonian, Cape Cod forms in the shadow of giant mountains.

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After lunch I took a writing break, then pedaled back toward Provo Canyon and over the Murdoch Creek Trail to Pleasant Grove, where I stayed with Chris and his family. Kendra and Chris and their eight children could be featured in a heart-warming reality program. They went to their high school prom together, drifted apart, married others, had children, divorced, and then reunited. We shared a terrific barbeque supper and then everyone pitched in to help Chris and his stepson Spenser prepare for a four-day backpack trip with 25 scouts. My two panniers with a credit card for emergencies are easier to manage.

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Trip Log – Day 82 – Roosevelt, UT to Midway, UT

Roosevelt to MidwayJuly 26, 2015 – Sunny, 90 degrees

Miles Today: 101

Miles to Date: 4,657

States to Date: 19

Every time I feel flat or overwhelmed on this project, something happens to rejuvenate me. Today was a challenging day, but two high points made all the effort worthwhile.

I woke up early, filled with the anxiety that comes in facing a century through unknown terrain with over 4,000 feet of vertical climb. I rolled my packed Surly to the motel breakfast right at 6 a.m. to find hot coffee, bagels and fruit. More importantly, I found Alaina, the morning clerk who apologized for ‘not having my face on yet’ and then proceeded to brighten my day. I had not heard that expression since Oklahoma days, and sure enough, Alaina had just moved back to Roosevelt form Oklahoma. She was a sweet open person, and when I pedaled west on US 40, her hearty best wishes gave me more energy than the caffeine.

IMG_3124Roosevelt has grown long and ugly to the west, where the haphazard business of oil exploration has littered the valley with metal buildings, material stockpiles and a general disrespect for our earth’s surface. Since the latest oil boom’s tapered, structures less than five years old are already abandoned. The energy business is not conducive to thoughtful or stable development.

IMG_3127Duschesne is the third major town of the Uintah Basin, the smallest and the least affected by recent energy exploration. The Mormons who settled this area mastered water control. A system of canals enables the arid land to turn into lush green fields. The prosperous looking farmhouses reflect their success.

IMG_3128I enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at Cowen’s Cafe – perhaps the best sausage patty of my life – before heading into 60 miles without services. I climbed up a steady twelve miles to leave the Uintah Basin. Dozens of dual trailer oil trucks huffed past me. I descended into Fruitlands, a wide valley with more signs of land for sale than residents. I needed a noon break, but there wasn’t a scrap of shade, so I propped my bike on a guardrail and sat with my back to the glare. Then I climbed again, ten more miles at a steeper grade. More trucks passed me, along with all sorts of weekend warriors pulling trailers and boats. I saw a peak; it proved false. The next one was a rouse as well. When yet another rise showed itself I took another shadeless break to regenerate, then soldiered on.

IMG_3131At the top of the final rise was Strawberry Reservoir. On the East Coast the basic rules of gravity apply; water lies at low points. In the West, thanks to our prodigious damming, water is high up. Strawberry Reservoir is thousands of feet above its adjacent valleys.

My warmshowers host asked me to call a few hours out; he might ride out to meet me. It was 3:30 p.m. when I told Steve I was entering Uinta Forest, 28 miles from Midway. I had been averaging well under ten miles an hour, so projected I would get there around 7:30 p.m. The moment the words left my mouth I was depressed. Did I have energy to pedal four more hours of this hot sun and grueling climb?

IMG_3132The Entrance to Center Canyon seemed promising, but around a curve was a rise, than another, and more headwind. I was considering putting my thumb out for a sag ride but decided to persevere one other crest. Finally, I saw the summit sign – 8,020 feet – followed by the most satisfying downhill of my entire journey. Twelve miles at a nice 6% grade through a glorious canyon all the way into Heber City. I was at Steve’s door before 6:30 p.m., tired in body but energized in spirit.

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Trip Log – Day 81 – Dinosaur, CO to Roosevelt, UT

Dinosaur to RooseveltJuly 25, 2015 – Sunny, 80 degrees

Miles Today: 64

Miles to Date: 4,556

States to Date: 19

 IMG_3103I continued my journey along US 40 into Utah. The scale is grander than Colorado, the road kill more exotic (bucks and snakes), the shoulder a cyclists puzzle of different pavements and rumble strips irregular as crispy bacon.

IMG_3108I left early to avoid the wind and was in Vernal by ten. I was in Vernal ten years ago or so at the start point for a family rafting trip. The town has grown in size but not in my affection. It’s hard to love a place so naturally beautiful befouled by the detritus of our energy business. The air should be so fresh. Instead it is heavy and rank.

IMG_3110Beyond Vernal the Uintah Basin is stark and gorgeous, except for the drilling sites. Around fifty miles I needed a break and sought shade. I spotted a row of trees, which turned out to line the driveway of a rare house. As I slowed to see if it might be suitable spot, I met Darlene and her granddaughter searching the roadside for a stray dog that came by their place and then ran off. I’m a sucker for Pamela Anderson types. Darlene’s ample figure and platinum hair were offset by the most gorgeous nails I’d ever seen. She invited me to rest in the shade while they searched. I enjoyed a bit of breeze. Unfortunately, they found the dog on the far shoulder, yet another road kill victim. Darlene used the dog to lecture me on being careful. The speckled pink nail of her pointer finger dazzled me. Then I pedaled, refreshed and careful, toward Roosevelt.

The Uintah Basin is an ancient seabed, which explains both the dinosaurs and the oil. More recently it was home to the Ute Indians, whose reservation is centered at Fort Duchesne. Several tribal businesses line US 40, but what caught my eye was the Fort Duchesne Cemetery, one of the most remarkable places I’ve encountered on my trip. It’s a barren place of hard furled flags, garish plastic flowers, antler ornaments and markings of Americans who died much younger than most of us, set off the highway just enough for cars to ignore but not so far as to be serene. A woman and her daughter vacated a mini-van and placed two fresh plastic bouquets on a man’s grave. I did not ask her about tomorrow. This was the kind of place where tomorrow and today mingle in a way Native people understand and Westerners only guess about.

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I got to the Frontier Motel on Roosevelt’s main street before three and had a nice conversation with the clerk, also owner, about her seven children and their interest in cycling. The Frontier cost a notch above my usual joint, so I was disappointed the pool wasn’t open and I had to make several calls to get the Internet to work. I want to patronize local places, but everything is easier at the budget chains. I finally abandoned my room and settled into a booth at the Frontier Grill, where the Internet worked great and I had my first full restaurant meal alone – soup, salad bar, steak, baked potato, vegetable medley, scone, and peach cobbler a la mode: a very satisfying treat.

You might wonder about a scone in a restaurant in rural Utah. Not to worry. It was fried dough, served with honey, under a gussied-up name. There’s nothing British about this part of the world.

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