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Day 12: Highway 12 is Awesome!

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

I left Escalante a tad after 8:00 AM feeling far more refreshed than the previous day. However, I still had left knee pain, now worse than ever. After about an hour of riding it tends to go away, but today it was still sore throughout. Luckily, I was immediately distracted by the beautiful landscape I was riding through.

I was greeting by rolling red hills for the first hour before the hills fell away and the road wound down along the face of a cliff! I wish I had a picture of that exact section, but the canyon after will have to suffice…

Soon, I was within the canyon itself and giving my knee plenty of rest stopping every five minutes to take more videos. Because of the inaccessibility of Utah due to all the sand, canyons, and cliffs, it was the last part of the USA to be mapped. The Escalante River was the last river in the USA to be mapped in the 1800’s.

The climb out of the canyon was just as great as the descent into it. I hugged a cliff face going up to a ridge with canyons on both sides. If you got brushed by a car, you’re off a cliff. Luckily, people weren’t taken in by the scenery quite enough to disregard me entirely.

With views like this could you blame someone for missing a cyclist?

Having survived the razor edge, I was now faced with the major climb of the day. Escalante is under 6,000 feet of elevation. I would ultimately struggle up to 9,600 feet continuously ascending with no breaks to speak of. Talking to Claudia later, she said the climb wasn’t too bad, and she’s carrying far more weight than me, including three books! What a beast. She had done this earlier than me since she’s wise to be an early riser and avoid the heatwave that was just beginning to hit Utah.

Once at the top, I was greeted by several signs saying “construction ahead, expect delays.” I had seen a couple similar signs on my trip thus far and never ran into anyone so I didn’t think much of it. However, a couple miles later I find a small line of cars waiting for a mobile red light to switch green. Too tired to wait, I ran it with no one around to indicate whether a bike could clear what cars cannot. So far, all construction sites and road blocks have let me through since, as a bike, I can ride on the shoulders and avoid interfering with their work. This was no different as I approached some large scale road construction. They were in the process of laying down the new road and steamrolling it. After skirting the edge of their work I was now riding a newer road than 99.9% of people have ever done as it was steamrolled within the last 5 minutes. It would turn out that the pristine road would last for the next 12 miles and I wouldn’t see any cars again until the last 3-4 miles, which means they must have been delayed 30 minutes or more.

I ride downhill almost all the way to Torrey before turning off Highway 12 on the road where I’ll be meeting Jason, my Couchsurfing host for the night. I arrived around 3:00, and Claudia had made it over an hour beforehand, so we planned to potentially meet up later for some food and drinks. As I wait for Jason to come home, I relax in the shade of his house on his deck. Soon, he returns from a fishing trip in the mountains.

He makes me a great pasta dinner and we talk for hours, but he is also down to join Claudia and I for drinks and knows a great place. Unfortunately, it’s a couple miles away and Claudia (understandably, after a long day) thinks it’s a little far for her to bike. When I relay this to Jason he immediately asks if she has a place to stay for the night. When she says she doesn’t, he offers her his second room! That’s the kind of guy Jason is. Soon, we‘re picking up Claudia and her bike and bringing her back to the house before we head out for food.

I have my first salad of the trip, having mostly subsisted on food from gas stations so far. Claudia is in disbelief I eat salads at all having never seen me eat a vegetable in multiple days of riding together…

I’m enjoying my time with Jason and I’m also worried about the heatwave and air quality further east due to a fire near Moab. I ask if I could stay a second night. He says it’s fine, but he might have to force me to come fishing tomorrow, if that’s what he decides to do. Being retired, Jason takes everything day by day and just does whatever he feels like the next day. Must be nice…

Claudia, having a 5,000 mile journey ahead of her, is leaving in the morning. We’ll see what Jason wants to do after we wish her goodbye tomorrow…

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