My decision to stay in a motel in Panguitch town turned out great. It was 35 degrees when I work up at 6. 18 miles further along the route. The overnight low was 28. Bullet dodged.
After a diner breakfast I headed out, west and up. Panguitch is at 6,600 feet. The lake is at 8,200 feet. As I usually do, I struggled with finding a climbing rhythm at the start of the ride. I finally gave up after five or ten frustrating miles and started walking.
It was cool and I had a light tailwind but my cycling legs wanted nothing to do with the hills.
After about a half mile I tried again and immediately found a rhythm that I would keep but got a few rest stops until I approached 10,000 feet about 28 miles into the day.
The skies were blue. The scenery wooded. The brooks babbling along the road side were filled with clear snow melt.
When I got to the lake about 18 miles into the day, I stopped at a general store. When I dismounted I immediately felt a chill. All my climbing had made me oblivious to the fact that it was in the high 40s.
Inside the store I drank a Gatorade and ate some Doritos next to a fireplace that was burning logs to bear the heat. Ahhh.
All good things must end. I pulled on my jacket and long fingered gloves and began again. Up. Got miles and miles. I was spinning away in my easiest three gears, lucky to break 7 mph.
I stopped only to snack. A pear that was hard two days ago was now juicy and ripe. Gone. Chewy granola bars were my next victims.
I kept grinding away thinking that the 10,300 foot summit was many miles away. I got off my bike and looked at the compass and elevation app on my phone. It said I was at 9,600 feet. Then I jiggled my phone and the app recalculated. 10,000 feet. Could it be?
There was snow in the shaded areas along the road. Maybe the app was right after all.
With elevation comes other problems. I could tell I was dizzy. I knew I needed to get off this mountain soon.
I made a turn to the south. The wind seemed to turn with me. The road was now gently rolling, but still trending upwards. As I came speeding down a curvy section the Mule felt like it was out of control. It was just irregularities in the pavement coupled with my light headedness. I gently applied the brakes and The Mule came back under control.
Then I saw a massive snow pile next to the road. And shortly thereafter the Cedar Breaks National Monument visitors’ center.
I pulled in and paid my $0. I asked a ranger if this was the summit. He said it was and that the rest of the ride would be a steep descent.
It was very cold and windy so I didn’t linger at the viewpoint. All the way up I rode through forests and meadows. The Breaks is where this landscape abruptly becomes a red rock canyon again. When you’re already dizzy, looking at sheer cliffs they stop thousands of feet doesn’t help much.
I left after five minutes. On the way out I checked out s couple of telescopes they were aimed at the sun. My eye was immediately burned to a crisp.
Not really. The telescopes has filters that allowed you to see either the entire orange orb or the chromosphere, the red disk that sends off solar flares.
I reloaded my water bottles using one of my 2-liter bladders and began to descend.
Did I mention it was really cold and windy? For the rest of the ride, I froze my ass off. The price I pay for 20+ mile bicycle bobsledding. (Riding down this mountain on a faired long wheel base recumbent would be amazing.)
The road was curvy and steep with scary drop offs to the side. I feathered my brakes to keep The Mule from killing us both. One road sign had an “S” on its side. It was a crazy switchback.
As the road straightened I allowed the bike to break 30 mph. A right turn at a stop sign put me on the final 12 mile approach to Cedar City.
All of it downhill.
About a half mile later I saw touring bicyclists coming up the hill toward me. They were recent graduates of Johns Hopkins who were riding from San Francisco to DC. They were raising awareness in the rural communities hey were riding through about college opportunities in DC.
Considering the fact that they had been climbing up a 16-mile monster hill, they were in incredibly good moods.
After we parted I hopped back on The Mule and lost control. Fortunately I was only going 10 mph when I veered off the pavement onto the soft shoulder. I managed not to fall and brought the bike to a stop. Still dizzy, I guess.
Back in the pavement I flew downhill for 16 glorious miles. I passed the base of the red rock cliffs of the Breaks and followed the two lane highway as it curved around incredible, massive, multicolored rock formations. I’d have taken some pictures but I was trying not to die.
The road flattened out and there I was in Cedar City, a really City of over 28,000 people. The biggest city I’d been in since Pueblo, Colorado two weeks ago. And it’s at only 5,800 feet.
Traffic. Traffic lights. Residential neighborhoods. Car dealerships. And, best of all, lots of cheap hotels. (Room to let $50.)
After check in and cleaning up I walked to a diner for food and a celebratory vanilla shake.
I am done with 10,000 foot. all-day climbs. And I am only one day behind schedule. Tomorrow I head north, my last day in Utah before tackling the Nevada desert.
Ooh, what fun that will be.
Miles today: 58.5
Tour miles: 2,182
Top speed: 35.1
Lots more pix on my Instagram page.