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Day 11: Paul’s Big Day

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

After having my $5 French toast plate and coffee driven out to our campsite by DJ, the Riverside Campground manager, Claudia and I were back on the road. But not before a final chat with DJ. She is fantastic! I’ve never had my breakfast and coffee delivered to me in a hotel, let alone a campsite! Also, in the middle of nowhere, her campsite has a bathroom with running water and a flushing toilet. She also let Claudia and I split the cost of the campsite. Great human. Stay there if you go to Bryce Canyon!

For the last two or three days, my left knee has been causing me some issues in the front near the base of the patella. At a suggestion from Claudia, I raised my seat and that definitely helped, but was not a complete fix, and I’ll have to monitor it going forward.


Prior to leaving, I had ridden my Specialized diverge a total of 25 miles or so, over two days. Everything was so last minute for the trip I didn’t have enough time to really make sure it fit me. I think I’ve been incredibly lucky to be as comfortable as I have been all considering. It isn’t perfect, but better than one could have realistically hoped for with so little preparation.

Soon after raising my seat, I see a trailhead for Thunder Mountain. Paul (my first host ever), spent a lot of time with me planning and going over my route and different options before I even left the front door of my house. At the time, I was so busy with everything else I didn’t have much time to research anything myself and was just going to wing it as I rode from home. Paul not only got me over the Sierras safely, but also constructed this entire day for me. He had recently road tripped out to Utah to mountain bike and since he knew I wanted to go off-road, he had some suggestions. The first of which was Thunder Mountain.

Claudia’s bike is slightly less off-road capable than mine, so we said our goodbyes at the trailhead. She took the bike path to Bryce while I headed up Thunder Mountain.

The trail isn‘t a loop, rather it spits you out closer to Bryce Canyon and that’s the side the vast majority of people start on since it’s far less climbing and some of the sections are too rocky and steep to bike going the direction I was. However, despite having to push my over 63 lbs of bike and gear on numerous occasions, I was too mesmerized by the scenery to really care. Hiking my bike just meant I got to look around longer!

I haven’t seen red rock like this since I was three, so it’s basically a new experience for me! While I had observed some from a distance the last few days, this was my first opportunity to actually ride through it!

In retrospect, I don’t think I would have even changed my direction on the trail. A lot of the sections I was walking were steep with lots of loose dirt from all the horses I shared the trail with. If I went down those sections with my heavy bike it’s likely I would have crashed, and I ran into another cyclist who had crashed despite not having all the weight I did and suspension.

Rich, the fallen cyclist, had previously biked across the US just a few years ago and gave me some good advice about what to expect once I was over the Rockies. We had a good chat for 10 minutes on a knife edge ridge of the trail.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Bryce Canyon, but I figured it couldn’t be too much better than this.

This spot is the exact same spot that Paul sent me a photo of from his trip to Thunder Mountain!

A bunch of climbing later and I was finally on downhill, but my progress had been so slow due to having to walk my bike and stopping to take a bunch of photos and video, that by the time I reached the other side of the trail, it was past 12:00 PM. I had only gone 12 miles. I had big plans for the day and really needed to get a move on. But first I refilled my water at a gas station.


At all the different gas stations I come across, I look through their chip and candy selections looking for new and unique stuff I’ve never seen on the west coast. After a day of cycling, I will typically burn between 3K-4K calories and since I’m 6’4 I also burn a lot of calories just existing. So every day I need to eat around 6K calories or I’ll start losing weight, and I don’t have much to spare before that might hurt my ability to bike. The different candies I try go a long way to help me meet that goal. I usually know going into it that I’ll likely not like the new candy I try as much as ones I know I like, but I’ve gotten to the point in life where I can spend a dollar on a piece of candy, not like it, and I’m not devastated 🤑. Truly living the high life…


This time around I find some unique flavors of Charleston Chews, which the owner of the shop loves, so she gets her hands on all the flavors she can get. Out here they don’t give me any issues with refilling my water, unlike the McDonalds in California.


I bike the next 6 miles to Bryce as what seems like hundreds of cars pass me. It’s a Monday. Why is it still so busy?? After navigating through throngs of people, I make my way to the canyon edge. There, I get my first of three views that I have been told by other cyclists are worth going to. Bryce is a tad out of the way and, with a big day planned, I didn’t want to go further than necessary off course. These views though, were necessary.

I was told by a ranger that I should walk my bike. There are no “no bike” signs anywhere that I can see, so it must be a park policy listed somewhere more general. Regardless, now off my bike, it took me a while to walk my way to the next view.

At this second viewpoint I met a lovely couple from Missouri, Amy and Elgin. Amy had just run three marathons in the last three days or something crazy. And yet they were impressed with me biking 100 miles? I would be impressed with a single marathon, let along three back to back!


If I go through St Louis, I will have to look them up and see if they want to go out for lunch or something since they were so much fun to talk to.


All that was left was a final viewpoint wayyy above the others. I climbed my way up there and was rewarded.

At this point it was getting late in the day. Nearly 3:00 PM and I still had 50 miles ahead of me if I wanted to reach Escalante, and over 20 miles of that was dirt with a 2,000 foot climb… I got one final selfie before booking it out of Bryce.

Next up on Paul’s suggestions was Old Escalante Road. This was a gravel road that he had never ridden on bike, but during his road trip to Utah, he scouted it out by truck. After 18 miles of rolling paved roads, I arrived.

At this point in the day it was over 100 degrees, and although I filled my bottles in Bryce, the water was already warm again. I had also not ate much that day since I hoped to have a huge meal at the final of Paul’s suggestions, a Mexican food truck in Escalante with the best Mexican food Paul had ever had. Not eating more, regardless of the planned feast, was a mistake.

The climb up Old Escalante was not as easy as I had hoped. The road was in worse condition than I thought it would be and it was full of loose gravel and washboards, but in time I made it to the top. Exhausted and low on water, I rolled down towards the other side, but it wasn’t a very relaxing descent since I needed to pay full attention to my riding as I was traveling at times at 30 miles an hour and then suddenly hit washboard or a patch of loose dirt. I nearly crashed on one particularly sandy patch, but when you are going so fast you also get out of sandy patches quickly. So while my wheels squirmed for a second, they soon found grip again and I continued on. The road took me over 9,000 feet elevation again.

At last, Escalante and my Mexican food truck feast! Except… It’s closed Mondays… I’m so hungry I go immediately to the restaurant next door. I must have been pretty out of it because I was just staring at the menu on the window for a solid minute before the manager came over to see if I wanted help. I asked him for a recommendation and he said he’d make me whatever I wanted. I think it was obvious to him that I was struggling because he says that I can get anything and he’ll buy me my dinner. Thank you, Matt! I finally decided on nachos and asked one of the other staff members for their favorite side dish. It was beans. So I had beans and nachos on Matt and I am incredibly grateful…

It was all delicious. I then bought myself a cheesecake from them, not on Matt, of course, and left a 60% tip, but I was more than happy with my great and discounted meal.

I found a campsite in town for $9, which included my own spot, water, bathrooms, showers, power, and WiFi. There, I saw two other cyclists, but was only able to talk to one as the other was already asleep. Talking to the other cyclist, the sleeping guy is from Korea and hates the heat so much he leaves at 4:00 AM everyday to avoid it as much as he can.

I also hear that Claudia has made it to Escalante today, ahead of schedule! She has a campsite with yet another cyclist and are in the public park. She gets going far earlier than I usually do, so I probably won’t catch her until later tomorrow on my way to Torrey. There I have a host, Jason, who I am very excited to meet. He teaches photography, which I would really like to improve at. I hope he also knows some videography because I am recording this whole trip on video and I know virtually nothing on what makes a good video. If he has any advice at all, it will be helpful.

I have a short mileage day at only 66 tomorrow, but I also have over 6,000 feet of climbing, so I’m going to hit the sack so I can get up at a reasonable hour.


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Are you taking a break during the heat wave? I heard it was well over 100 out there....

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Another AMAZING day, and great blog entry!


XO

Cindy

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Thank you!

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