No Name Tour: Day 36 – Hogback and Headwinds

The day started late for s number of reasons. I ate at the farm to table restaurant, a place apparently meant for lingering. The food was great so it was worth it.

100 yards down the road my eyes caught sight of two loaded touring bikes at a coffee shop. They belong to east bound French sisters Sendra and Elise. They’re riding from San Francisco to New York City. They’ve been on the road just under a month and have a very positive attitude.

After I talked with them, I ran into Mark, also eastbound, but for Philadelphia. He too was in good spirits. Considering what they all just rode through. (See below.)

Leaving Boulder town is downhill into Dixie National Forest until the unexpected climb over a ridge called Devil’s Backbone. Not wanting to waste my legs so early in the day, I walked much of it.

The views were getting more spectacular by the mile. The winds, mostly in my face, were picking up.After cresting the ridge the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was before me in all its glory.


Just Wow.

Then I saw the sign. 14% downhill.


Just Wow.

Then I entered the Hogback. The road winds down along a narrow ridge with drops on either side. The Mule wanted to run.


Wind gusts blasting. Road curving. Idiot drivers passing. Me trying to take in the view. Faster and faster despite feathering the brakes.

Just a thrilling ride on a par with my descent from Washington Pass in the North Cascades last summer.

Then back up another ridge. Such a slog. I made it to the town of Escalante where I hit the bathroom at the first store I saw. I bought a Powerade out of guilt.

In the main part of town I met Mikey and Sean, eastbounders heading to Yorktown. They advised me that the next 20+ miles were a very gradual uphill to a 7,600 foot pass with no big climbs.

I stopped for lunch at a diner (the Circle D makes a mean sammich). The staff told me the same thing about the climb.

I left Escalante at 1 and began riding into a gusty 20 mph headwind. I decided right away not to fight it. I spun away in my little chainring at 4 to 7 mph. I’ll get there when I get there even if it means breaking out my headlight.

I had bought some road food (bananas, a pear, granola bars) in Escalante. Having food gave me the option of stopping and pitching my tent if I ran out of steam.

But I didn’t. Every eight miles I stopped to eat. I ran out of water in my bottles and pulled out one of my handy dandy water bladders to reload.

After the summit the road turned down. It would have been more fun without the headwind but you ride what you got not what you want.

The initial descent was steep but it soon leveled out. Escalante town had offered a break from the National Monument and Forest. For most of the next ten miles I was back in one or the other. This part of the Monument isn’t as showy as the earlier section but it’s still pretty. (I am becoming numb to Utah’s beauty.)

The National Forest offered scores of good camping spots. I didn’t bite though. I kept cruising along until Cannonville where the road turned north. I was tempted to grab a room in Cannonville but the wind was now at my back.

The ride to Tropic wasn’t exactly fast but I didn’t much notice the passing miles.

For all the work they made me do, the headwinds were cool and kept me from burning up in the 80+ degree heat.

I grabbed a motel room and had a beer and a burger.

A tough day but a rewarding one. Check out my Instagram page for lots of pix.

I ride through Bryce Canyon tomorrow. Much cooler too.

Miles today: 66

Tour miles: 2,091

Top speed: 40.8

No Name Tour: Day 35 – Over the Boulder

Last night the skies disappointed again. The light of the near full moon and the buildings down the hill from my motel made it feel almost like I was at a much higher latitude.

I grabbed a cup of motel coffee (mistake), a mini danish (not bad) and some snacks got the road then I headed down hill to Torrey, UT.

I spotted a coffee shop that served breakfast. Not exactly second breakfast. Certainly not elevenses. But it hit the spot.

On the road the word for today was up. I had 3,000 feet of climbing to do, topping out at 9,600 feet. My bike was laden with about six liters of water so I had no delusions of pulling this off without walking.

The scenery continued to be laughably awesome. I rode into the Dixie National Forest. Pines and aspens and assorted other trees began filling the landscape. As I climbed the creeks which had been muddy were running clear, no longer picking up red sandstone dust.

I struggled to find energy. About 30 minutes into the ride breakfast kicked in. (It’s actually noticeable when my body starts processing food.) I had a pleasant tailwind but I was working much too hard. After a few miles I got off the bike and walked in the hope of recharging my legs.

As I plodded along I spotted a coyote crossing the road ahead. I could hear them barking in the distance, too.

A half hour later I was back to pedaling. I had a nice tempo going and could enjoy the scenery. I passed some Forest Service campgrounds that we’re half decent. If you can’t find an official campground, you can camp anywhere you want on federal land as long as it’s not a National Park. So there are no worries about a place to lay my head down.

I pedaled most of the last eight miles but the last bit was too much and walked to the summit sign.

Then came the fast ride down. Nope. I descended a few hundred feet only to be confronted with a hill.


This is like a trick calculus problem with a local optimum. Second order conditions don’t help. Nerd.

Once over the bump I had a scary, bumpy 30+ mph riot of a ride all the way back down to Boulder town. Along the way I spotted three deer crossing the road. (Please let there not be more. I’m going over 30!) Near the end of the plunge I ride past yet another farm with llamas. A couple of them bolted across the field parallel to me. Llama stampede!!

Actually they appeared to be oblivious to The Mule and me. It was some sort of domestic dispute.

I stopped at the Anasazi Museum and checked out the ruins of a community that was abandoned in the 12th century. Then I bought a burrito from Marigold’s, a food bus parked outside. I asked then to cut the burrito in two because I couldn’t possibly finish it all in one go.

Ten minutes later both halves were vanquished. Mountains make me hungry.

For most of the ride the weather was perfect: cool, dry, breezy. Near Boulder town the wind changed direction and increased in strength. When I climbed Monarch Pass a week ago I foolishly continued on, 32 miles into a headwind. The next day I quit early. So I didn’t want to repeat that mistake.

I checked out a motel across the street. It was okay but the clerk could tell I wasn’t enthusiastic. She advised me to ride into town to see what else was available. I couldn’t help myself. I checked into a resort motel with a gourmet restaurant, hot tub, robes in the room, etc.

More pix and a babbling brook on Instagram.

Why not, right?

Miles today: 39.5

Tour miles: 2,025

Top speed: 39.5

Tomorrow looks like a ride through Escalante. And a descent across the hogback: 3 miles with narrow lanes, no shoulders, no guardrails, and big drops to either side of the road. Weee!