June 27-28 Flagstaff
Mt. Eldon. Wow. Flagstaff has a fun little downtown area with shops, an Amtrak station, free parking, and many restaurants. Eric and I didn’t spend much time there. Instead, we headed to recreation central aka Mt. Eldon. There are runners, equestrians, hikers, and many, MANY bikers. We started out riding the Schultz Creek trail. It was fairly flat with some technical sections and climbed an amazing amount of vertical without much noticing. We had printed off some maps from the forest service, but we found there are many more trails that weren’t on our map. Navigating was a little difficult. We cruised down the Arizona trail to Little Bear. LB climbs for 3.5 miles with nice overlooks of the area. We were impressed! The temps began to rise as my strength wore out. This was our first time riding on the weekend, so there were a few more people out than what we use to. We were fortunate that everyone we encountered on the trail was friendly and helpful with finding trails. We decided to take Brookbank down. After a little decent Eric noticed a small rogue trail heading off into the forest. He decided that it would be more fun to explore this unnamed trail than to continue on the somewhat rocky wide decent that Brookbank had become. This offshoot trail was for crazy people only. We didn’t know that at first. Eric did a sweet jump off the first large boulder, but they got bigger and steeper and both Eric and I got a little nervous. The trail ended up connecting back with Brookbank, but before this intersection was one last crazy person obstacle. A giant tree. This tree had fallen across the trail and modified to ride with chicken wire across the top for traction and a pile of rocks and dirt for the exit. I was happy to make it back to the somewhat wide and boring Brookbank. We later found out this crazy trail was called Prom Night, “ya know, it finishes with a bang . . . get it? Hahah!” Yeah hilarious, dude. Because Eric and I find enjoyment in pain, we decided to ride up the logging road in the afternoon sun to the very top. We were passed by several truck loads of guys and their bikes being shuttled to the top. I started cursing myself for not carrying ten bucks with me. Next time. We got to the top and rode the Catwalk across the ridge. If I wasn’t ready to quit, mmm, yesterday, it might have been one of the cooler portions of trail of the day. To finish, we rode Sunset to Schultz creek down to the motorhome. We BBQed in a small grove of trees before heading up the road to camp for the night. Oh, but we didn’t just camp for the night. We decided to go for a night ride. We have hauled our bike headlamps all over AZ with the intention of riding when its cooler, at night. So far, we have been so lucky with the mild temps that we haven’t even considered skipping the day ride for a night ride. Although we had already ridden over 26 miles and 5700 vertical feet, we headed out for some more riding. It was pretty fun and the moon was pretty cool. We added about 6 miles with no wildlife encounters. Exhausted, we slept soundly. On Sunday, we planned a shorter ride so that we would have enough time to drive to the Grand Canyon. On this ride, we got lost and ended up on Sunset again, which was fine by us because it was so much fun the first time. We had been hearing a lot of chatter about a trail called Secret and had accidentally ridden a portion of it on Saturday. Our final loop in Flagstaff was up Secret and down the moto-trails. Secret was in prime condition. The trail was fun to ride up and consistently climbed and dipped to our surprise. Towards the end, we stopped to consider 2 signs and 2 trails. One trail was labeled Easy and the other Hard. Although I am not a sissy pants, I preferred to take Easy. I told Eric he should take the Hard trail. We both thought the two trails would rejoin on the other side a giant rock formation. Once on my own, I cruised through a meadow and around some sweet trees. I climbed up a little and dropped a little. Then I dropped an extremely technical boulder garden and found myself wondering when the trails would reconnect. I frightened a baby elk when flew through some loose rocks. I had thought maybe Eric was just ahead of me, and we had missed the reconnection, but the baby elk was clearly disturbed by my presence and so Eric couldn’t be ahead of me. It turns out, I was lost. Not to worry though, I backtracked all the way to Easy/Hard intersection where Eric had left me a giant arrow and messages scratched in the dirt. I descended the hard stuff by myself and soon encountered a tired, worried, hungry husband who was in a near panic state with my absence. We called it a day! We drove to the Grand Canyon. As it turns out, I had never been there before. It truly is grand! I knew this, but we didn’t arrive in Marble Canyon until after the sun had already set. We stopped at the bridge anyhow, walked out to the middle and looked down. The canyon was mystical at night and gave me the heebee-jeebees.
June 29 Grand Canyon –North Rim
In the morning, we took the motorcycle for a spin to Lees Ferry to watch as the lucky rafters loaded their gear for trips down the GC. Eric and I both felt pangs of jealousy. We motored up to the bridge so that I could witness its grandeur of the canyon in the light of day. I wasn’t nearly as creeped out in daylight with other passing motorists. As we were leaving, a man came flying into the parking lot in his pick up. He grabbed binoculars and ran out to the bridge. He asked, “Are they here? Are the condors here?” Eric and I shrugged. We hadn’t noticed any giant birds with wingspans of 9.5 feet. To our surprise, he pointed out 3 giant birds roosting in a nearby cliff face. The enormity of the canyon had dwarfed these magnificent creatures so that we had missed them. Even when one flew across the canyon, we could tell it was big, but it didn’t really look that big. We were able to get a photograph of one of the condours stretching out its wings, but missed the flight. (Today, we saw one soaring above the canyon, so it made up for it) We hung out on the bridge perhaps a little too long waiting for another condor to decide to fly. I was getting sunburned and tourists began arriving by the bus-load! Our intentions for the area were to ride the Rainbow Rim trail of the North Rim. After talking with the lady at the forest ranger station, we decided to drive the 21 miles of gravel road to Parissawampits point, which is at the far end of the 18 mile out and back ride. It pretty much took all afternoon to make the drive, but the difficult access and remoteness limited the number of other visitors to the area. We cruised around some forest roads on the motorcycle exploring the area. The North rim is very scenic and the views are just as breath taking as anything I have ever seen. We enjoyed outdoor showers in the company of nature alone. Later in the evening, we met a lovely woman and her two boys. We enjoyed s’mores around their campfire and chatted about our different vacations. Back at the motorhome, we set an alarm for 5AM. If we were going to ride 36 miles in upper 80s, we had to get an early start and bring lots of supplies.
June 30 Rainbow Rim
5AM was a little early. The sun had not even considered getting up yet, but Eric and I managed to pull out of bed with only two snoozes. There was a little confusion about what time it actually was because our cell phones may have been picking up a cell tower in Utah. Even so, we struck to the plan, eating yogurt and granola for breakfast with hot cocoa to manage the chilly morning. By the time we had finished our mugs, the trees backlit by the dark sky and by the time we had our riding gear on, the birds were chirping. We left the comfort of the motorhome and headed out on the trail. Eric was wearing long johns and a long sleeve shirt. I couldn’t bring myself to wear leggings given it is the middle of the summer at the grand canyon. I mean, come on! The views of the canyon were spectacular all across the rim and we took several dozen pictures. We didn’t see a whole lot of wild life, but I actually was okay with not encountering a bear at dawn. Call me crazy! We rode quickly over the somewhat non-technical trail and ended up at 18 miles away still wearing long johns and long sleeve shirts. It was just getting warm enough to not need them. We sat at the far end of the trail and ate snacks that we probably weren’t hungry for yet, but we had packed so much because we thought it was going to be a somewhat epic ride. As we snacked, we could see a giant bird soaring in the distance. It was a condor! For the next 45 minutes, we were glued to the binoculars. He would wait for air currents to rise up over the canyon and then continue to soar. The distance that could be covered by a bird like that was incredible. Eric and I turned back towards the motorhome thinking that the sun would surely slow us down. As it turns out, the trail was equally fun in the opposite direction at 80 degrees. We took a little more time to take pictures and appreciate the views. About 34 miles into our trip (2 miles to go) we heard a strange buzzing noise that increased in volume as we continued down the trail. We flew around a corner and nearly took out a forest service worker who was weed-wacking an overgrown section. We smiled and continued, stupidly, down the trail covered in the fallen debris. We went a little further and Eric realized his front tire was going flat. Because this was an especially long day, we had packed 2 spare tubes, which was lucky because I had a flat a few miles back. Eric took one look at his wheel and said, “Holy ****!” Our tires were full of goat head thorns left behind in the trail by the forest service jerk. We were about to have 4 flat tires. I ended up making a run for it while mine were holding air, but assessing the number of punctures in my wheels lead me to believe it was only a matter of time. By the time I reached the trailhead I was riding mushy tires. Eric had to change his before booking it back. Forget doing a ride by Bryce Canyon, we had to get to Salt Lake to get our equipment fixed. Eric had also just broken his cable that moves his rear derailer, so getting to a bike shop became a priority. We packed up and moved out. Back down the 22 miles of gravel forest service road and on to SLC. We made to Utah and camped just outside Bryce Canyon. We planned to make a run into the park because I had seen a postcard in a gas station and decided that it was important to see this park.
July 1—Bryce Canyon—Salt Lake
Again, we awoke at the crack of dawn to view the park. I had told my future mentor that I be in SLC around 2pm. If you know me, then you realize that I got a little nervous about making to the city. I don’t like to be late or behind schedule. We cruised into the park before they were checking passes (again, why did we buy the pass?) and stopped at the first overlook. The Bryce Canyon amphitheater was amazing at Sunrise Point! The spires were just starting to see the sun. We traveled further into the park, but realized there wasn’t anything quite as spectacular as the amphitheater. Soon we turned around for the motorhome and the long drive to SLC. We were on the road before 8AM. There isn’t a lot on the road between Bryce and SLC, so it was boring, but we made it to the valley around 1 and Barbara’s around 2, on schedule as planned. Eric and I got the bikes fixed at REI, which was pretty funny with 4 flats. We ended up changing them in front of the bike shop in the middle of REI while the awesome mechanic, Ben, took care of the more challenging parts of bike repair. Later, we met up with some folks from my future lab for dinner. They are a friendly bunch and I am looking forward to working with them this fall.
July 2—Working in the Lab
I know, I know. I’m on vacation, but there are things that need to get going now. I went to work with Barbara at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and began thinking over projects and fellowship writing. I spent most of my day printing papers, updating my CV, and chatting with Barbara while Eric worked on finding trails and figuring out new routes. He also did the laundry. What a good husband! Barbara and her husband, Bob, took us out for dinner at the Red Iguana. We waited about 45-60 minutes to be seated, which seemed pretty typical given the number of people waiting for tables even after we were finished. Barbara and Bob said it is usually only 25 minutes, but there are always people waiting outside. It is a very popular place to eat and has been for as long as they have lived here (>20years). We stayed up pretty late chit-chatting about anything and everything and finally hit the sack around midnight. Tomorrow, we are back on the road enroute to Idaho. This was a good break for me. My bruises are fading and my neck is less stiff. We’re clean and have clean clothes . .. life is great!