July 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.
Roosevelt 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.
Duschesne 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.
I 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.
At 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?
The 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.