No Name Tour: Day 41 – Easy Day Turned Hard

Today’s ride from Baker to Ely was supposed to be relatively easy: 62 miles and two mountain summits (both over 7,000 feet).

I ate dinner and breakfast at Kerouac’s one of two restaurants in town. It had a limited menu for both meals, cold beer (at dinner) and a very cool atmosphere (background music included lots of mellow tunes including one by XTC that I’d never heard). Pricey? Yes. But a pretty good find in a dusty town with a population of 68 people.

The motel I stayed at was in an RV park. It looked rather run down but it served its purpose. I slept for ten straight hours.

After breakfast I headed down the road for about five miles. It seemed downhill which is a nice way to start the day. Nicer still I had a bit of a tailwind and some nonthreatening cloud provided relief from the sun.

The Mule turned 54 today.

Although I started at 8:15, it’s a bit late owing to the fact that I’m now on Pacific time. Winds tend to be lighter early in the morning which might have been a factor a few hours into the day.

I picked up US 50 (yes, the same one!). Out here it’s called the Loneliest Road in America. It seemed mighty busy to me.

I was feeling pretty good, especially after yesterday’s long ride. I knew it had to be a tailwind. I rode all the way up to Sacramento Pass at 7,154 feet. I never felt stressed during the climb, stopping only to munch and eat.

Over the top the thrilling descent revealed the strength of the winds. I was flying down the mountain and getting blown all over. Thankfully, no cars or trucks or rental RVs passed me.

The descent turned toward the south as I entered Spring Valley in the shadow of Windy Peak.

That beneficial tailwind was now in my face and it was strong. (Should’ve hit the road earlier!) even with the remains of the downhill I had to work my butt off to make forward progress. In the valley there were lines of wind turbines spinning away.

The road included a short incline that would have been unremarkable except for the hand of the wind god on my chest.

The wind only intensified, somewhat unusual for this time of year, I’m told.

Crossing the valley to the nearly nonexistent town of Majors Junction took over three hours. The valleys are supposed to be the easy part!

I stopped at an RV Park/Bar/restaurant/motel. The property was surrounded by a fence topped with antlers. The neon sign said “Open”. There was no sign of customers or operators. A sign on the locked door said, “Out back in the barn. Back in 5 minutes.” The porch of the place provided shade from the hot sun while I waited. And waited.

This sign was mocking me.

After 15 minutes a woman came out and said, “We’re closed. Tuesday is my only day off.” In other words, “Get lost.”

So I headed up the ridge on the western side of the mountain. My battle with the winds in the valley had deadened my legs. Thankfully the route turned back to the north giving me a helping wind that I sorely needed.

It was only five miles to the top but it took well over and hour. I kept stopping to rest and re-full my water bottles from my bladders. The wind was blowing so hard that I was having trouble transferring the water.

I kept poking along until I reached Connors Pass at 7,722 feet. I was a hurtin unit.

With that wind at my back and a long downhill to the Steptoe Valley I moved from my granny to my big ring and boogied. 22 miles to go. Nearly out of water. (Or so I thought. I had at least a liter left.)

One surprise today was how green the valleys are. Snow continues to melt on the ridges. I was hoping for flowers but I’ll take grass and sagebrush and trees (on the hillsides).

I closer I was to Ely the slower I seemed to go. I was obviously running out of gas. I grabbed the first cheap hotel I could find, a Motel 6. It’s not nearly as nice as the cheap motels I stayed in the last three nights. (The swimming pool outside my door is gross.)

While sitting on the porch of the closed place in Majors Junction, I decided that if I was having this much trouble on an easy day, I’d be screwed on a longer day. My next day is Ely to Eureka. 78 miles. Four summits. No services. Similar weather.

So I am taking a rest day in Ely. I haven’t had one since Salida, Colorado over two weeks ago. This will give me a chance to rest and buy food. I’m also changing to a different hotel in town.

Miles today: 61.5

Tour miles: 2,383

Top speed: 35.2 mph

No Name Tour: Day 40 – 3 Summits, 2 Dust Devils, and 1 New State

Today’s ominous warning from the Adventure Cycling maps I’m using: No services for 84 miles. BYOEverything!

After diner breakfast I headed out. I planned to start earlier but it was too cold out. Wimp.

The ride was gradually uphill out of Milford for ten miles before riding up over Frisco Summit at 6,723 feet. It’s just west of the abandoned (and apparently obliterated) mining town of Frisco.

The 13-mile climb was rewarded with a 12-mile (maybe longer) descent into the huge Wah Wah Valley. Every George Harrison fan should ride here. It’s wide open ranch land as far as I could tell. In fact, all across Utah I’ve seen signs for Open Range but until today haven’t seen many bovines. The roads have cattle guards which are perfectly safe to ride over (at a right angle). It’s a bit unnerving to cross one at 30 mph but I’m still here so no worries.

Today for the first time I saw cows next to the road. One giantess seemed to want a word with me. No thanks, bossy. Please don’t approach.

One aspect of these valleys is that it’s almost impossible to tell distances or slopes. I was cranking along for what seemed like hours and the other side of the valley was still out there. The other side of this valley included a deceptively long and increasingly steep climb.

I am also in the land of dust devils, wee tornados of dust. I saw two today.

I burned out spinning up the hill and decided to save my legs for the second half of the 84-mile day. I hoofed it to the summit. Near the top a motorcyclist stopped in the middle of the road and asked if I was okay. Sure, too much mountain, not enough legs.

One of three

With the Wah Wah Summit behind me I went flying down another miles long hill into another vast valley. Then I started the gradual then steep climb up the other side. Once again I ran out of legs and walked to Halfway Summit.

This time the descent was more gradual. All day I’d been getting nailed by side winds. Toward the end of the day the turned into tailwinds. The temperature climbed into the mid 80s but the wind had a cooling effect. Did I mention that for the entire ride there was no shade whatsoever?

After the blink and you’ll miss it town of Garrison I headed into Nevada! Oh joy.

Eight miles of grinding later I was in a motel room at an RV park in Baker. It’s managed by the big brother of one of the diner staff back in Milford.

Dinner tonight is at Kerouac’s, a surprisingly cool place in town. I could have eaten across the street at a less chic place but my friend Michelle is a huge Kerouac fan and she got married on Saturday, so it seemed fitting to eat here.

They are open for breakfast so I’ll be back to fuel up before the 60-something mile ride to Ely. The ride features two summits over 7,000 feet. There will be walking.

With the heat and lack of services I’m making good use of the two two-liter water bladders I brought. I was down to my last liter today.

Miles today: 83

Tour miles: 2,238.5

Top speed: 30.4 mph