Utah Bike Trip
Las Vegas-Brian’s Head-Bryce Canyon
We met the group from Black Sheep Adventures and drove to Brian Head, Utah. Our bikes and gear were transported from Berkeley by the company, so all we had to bring were our other clothes and such. The long drive was quite comfortable and pleasant and the VeloRaptors became acquainted with others on the trip.
We stopped several times along the way, and by the time people were ready to get on the bikes, it was mid afternoon. There was a light drizzle, and MissLinda and I chose not to ride in that, especially since the road was wet and the course was downhill. We stayed in the SAG wagon the first 35 miles, until there was no more rain and the road was dry. The air was fresh and riding felt wonderful as we went the final 22 miles to Bryce Canyon. The scenery was beautiful, especially in the early evening light. The 8 miles near the entrance were on a bike path parallel to Highway 12…a real treat. We stayed at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel, where the rooms were spacious enough to hold our bikes and gear easily. Dinner was a late buffet at Ruby’s.
Miles ridden for me: 22. Climb: 1000’ Most of the rest of the group rode 56 miles.
Out and back from the hotel to Rainbow Point
We rode from our hotel to Rainbow Point and back, 20 miles each way, and we stopped frequently at the viewpoints. What a beautiful place! Bryce Canyon is glorious. On two separate occasions Chinese people stopped me and asked me how old I was. They were shocked when I replied “66”. I wish their English were sufficient to explain why they were surprised. We had good weather for the ride, but seconds after we reached the hotel, the heavens opened up with rain. Gail (my roommate) and I took a short hot tub, but left when we heard thunder nearby.
Miles ridden: 40 Climb: 2500’
Bryce Canyon-Springdale, UT
Today’s ride of 83 miles included 43 miles on Highway 89. Most of the way there was a rumble strip between the traffic and shoulder, and it never felt unsafe, but nevertheless much of that was not pleasant riding. Past Carmel Junction the riding got prettier, with fields on either side and even a herd of grazing buffalo. The ride into Zion National Park was the most beautiful I have ever done. I have driven into the park many times, but nothing prepared me for the grand views one sees when you are not enclosed in a car. We arrived in the late afternoon, and the soft light on the reds and oranges of the rock was stunning.
We stayed at the Majestic View Best Western in Springdale, UT. It was 3 miles from the junction to the park, on the very south end of the town. The room was large and had a nice balcony overlooking the pool. Upon arrival, we immediately took a very refreshing swim. Fred (our guide) took us to Zion Adventure Center, where we got fitted for neoprene socks and boots, a dry bag backpack, and a stout wooden pole for tomorrow’s hike.
Miles ridden: 83 Climb: 2000’
The Narrows hike
We drove to the Zion Museum parking lot and took the shuttle into the park all the way to the Temple of Sinawa. From there we walked a mile to the entrance of The Narrows. This is where the Virgin River leaves a walled canyon, and in low water when there is little threat of a flash flood, hikers are allowed access to hike up the shallow river. Of the many times we have visited Zion, the only other time there was access was in October, 2001. We walked up the river about 2 hours, criss-crossing it numerous times, using poles to help keep our footing on the rocky bottom. In many areas we could walk along the side of the river, out of the water. It was a beautiful hike and felt very special. I really appreciated having the equipment that we had rented, as it kept us comfortable and safe.
Miles walked: 9
Springdale UT-Jacob Lake AZ
The ride up and out of Zion was stunning. It looked intimidating, but was actually not bad at all. The route took us back through Carmel Junction and then on to Jacob Lake. It was quite hot, and we stopped frequently at the SAG wagon for ice, drinks, and to cool off. We also stopped at the town of Kanab for ice cream and lunch at a charming old cafe. After that some people chose to sag, but Barbara, Larry, Ricardo, and I cycled the whole way to Jacob Lake. We called ourselves “The Unvanquished”, as it truly was a challenge, and we all relied on the moral support of the others to make it. It also helped that we got some cloud cover the final 30 miles, which dropped the temperature a bit. The last section was through a high forest, a distinct change from our earlier terrain.
MissLinda’s derailleur broke, and could not ride the last half of the ride. We stayed at the Jacob Lake Lodge, a funky but adequate facility. The food and service were shockingly bad, but there was no other housing or eating option.
Miles ridden: 83 Climb: 7200’
Jacob Lake-North Rim, Grand Canyon-Las Vegas
The ride to the North Rim was beautiful, ranging from forest to rolling pastures. The green was quite a contrast to our days in Utah. The Grand Canyon was not visible until we were right upon it as we reached the park campground. We explored the historic lodge with its large stone patio that overlooks the rim and walked out to various viewing spots. For all of us, climbing the steps back up to the lodge felt difficult, as our legs were tired and we are still noticing the effects of the altitude. I would love to return here and stay at the lodge.
Fred took us back to the campground, where we all took showers and changed into regular clothes for the 5 hour drive back to Las Vegas. We stopped for dinner at a wonderful Thai restaurant (Benja Thai and Sushi) in St. George UT. We then drove back to LV and got to our hotel at 11:30PM.
Miles ridden: 45 Climb: 2000’
Trip leader: (and owner of Black Sheep Adventures): Fred Ackerman 6 ft 7” !
Guide: Mark Nielson
Notes: Black Sheep Adventures is a first-class operation but at a reasonable price. Fred had worked for Backroads and learned how to run a good trip. We had moderate but very comfortable accommodations. We were responsible for our own lunches and dinners, but there were so many snacks provided all day that we didn’t always buy lunch. We generally ate together for dinner and paid for our own meals. I liked the fact that the dinners were not fancy or overly long. The SAG vehicles were always available and the guides extremely helpful. Although I didn’t have any mechanical issues, those that did got immediate support from the guides. We each kept a bag in the van with extra clothes to add or drop off. I LOVED having the SAG wagons so available. 5 days of riding was a perfect amount, especially having the hiking day in-between our two longest days. I loved the fact that we rode our own bikes yet didn’t have to transport them for the trip. We drove them to Fred’s house in Berkeley before the trip and picked them up the day after. The guide, Mark, drove the truck with all 13 bikes to and from Las Vegas. This was an ideal arrangement. The terrain included a lot of climbing, but it was never steep compared to the hills we are used to in the East Bay. I never even got into my “Granny Gear”. I never had any muscle soreness, but I could feel the effects of altitude throughout the trip. (we were riding at 7000-9000 feet altitude).
Essential items: Both red rear light and white front light; rear-view mirror on helmet; arm warmers; bandanas; sleeveless jersey; high visibility nylon vest; extra tote bag in addition to 22” rollerboard suitcase and bike duffel bag; Kindle; Aquafor ointment; Advil. I brought Banana letters but never used them.