San Francisco to New York

April - June 2005

Week 3

9 May - Monday - 89.8 miles/720 total

Border UT to Delta UT

Sometime in the middle of the night I realized that when I asked in the cafe what time they opened for breakfast, and they said six, I should have asked if that was mountain or pacific time. I decided it was probably pacific time, so I decided to sleep an hour more, and then a little extra, on the pretext that I didn’t really need a morning shower.
There was supposed to be a new low moving in, replacing the low that had been producing so much serious weather (although generally in places where I wasn’t). There was to be a front with showers and thunderstorms, starting around six in the evening in Salt Lake. I figured I’d better get to Delta well before then to avoid getting wet.
The weather people were also predicting heavy southwest winds, perfect for me as I was heading generally northeast. But why do I believe weather people when they predict tailwinds?

The wind was heavy alright, but mostly southerly with an easterly component. For the first forty miles, this meant strong crosswinds with significant headwinds. So I was happy to start the climb to the first pass (nameless), as the mountains largely blocked the wind.

The descent from that pass was through King Canyon, black vertical cliffs narrowing to barely contain the road. There was a construction crew along this section, apparently reinforcing the road with more dirt dumped along the side. Real human beings! I may have left Nevada, but US 50 was still pretty lonely here.

Then a flat stretch, with the headwinds back, through some very pretty, meadow-like rangeland, with giant buttes everywhere in the background. Following this, a long climb through Skull Rock Pass (I looked for the skull but didn’t see it), over a ridge, then at last, a view over a flat plain filled with a huge shallow lake, Sevier Lake, marked on the map as intermittent. There was definitely water in it today, and it was so large I couldn’t see where it ended. But my road followed the edge of the lake for miles, and kept going along the plain for more miles, and now I had a real tail wind. It was mostly crosswind, but it must have been going at 30 or 40 miles an hour - when I stopped for lunch I could barely keep my bike upright and the sandwich in my hand. So I went along for long stretches at 20 or 22 miles an hour, with little pedaling effort. And even though my speed eventually dropped, I had a real tailwind for 40 miles or so.

Hinckley was the first town, 83 miles from the Nevada border. The farmed land around it was amazingly green and neat after hundreds of miles of Nevada. Six more miles to Delta, where I checked into a motel. It is now past eight in the evening, and the threatened rain has not materialized.

Buttes after King Canyon
Buttes after King Canyon

Sevier Lake
Sevier Lake

10 May - Tuesday - 0 miles/720 total
Delta UT

Overnight there were intense thunderstorms, as predicted. I was awakened a couple of times by very, very loud thunderclaps. When I got up, I was pretty tired, it was wet outside, the forecast was not good, so it was time for a rest day.

Delta is small but apparently moderately prosperous, at least in comparison to most of what I saw in Nevada. There’s a main street, US 50, and some residential side streets, but not much else. In the center of town there’s a very green park, very nicely kept up, with some shelters for picnic tables, and off to one side, the town offices and library, all very modern. In front of the library, Mark Twain sits, lifesize in bronze, on a park bench, reading Huckleberry Finn. I wonder if the city fathers who approved the statue had ever read Twain’s hilarious critique of the Book of Mormon. The biggest thing in town, after the high school, appears to be the LDS church.

There aren’t a lot of places to eat here, and today I went to what appears to be the most upscale place in town, the Pizza House (nicer than it sounds, though), for a hamburger. For dinner I went back to the Mexican restaurant adjacent to the motel, the same restaurant I ate in last night. At least they have beer.
The rest of the day I dozed and watched TV. Well, I’m tired!

11 May - Wednesday - 0 miles/720 total
Delta UT

The forecast today was as bad as yesterday’s. It was wet and raining slightly when I got up, and the weather map showed the big low stalled over Salt Lake, swinging spokes of thundershowers counterclockwise, with one of them headed directly toward me. And it’s very cold. It seemed likely that I’d get soaked and chilled if I rode on today, so it looks like another enforced rest day.

Yesterday I finally tried connecting my Palm Modem to the net by dialing directly (at motel phone rates) rather than using a credit card. It works. So I uploaded photos to the blog photo directory. I then discovered that I couldn’t easily upload text to the blog, except in small pieces, because the PDA’s clipboard holds only a small amount of text, making it difficult to transfer text from a word processor file to the blog. I need the clipboard to do this.

In the afternoon I went to the town library, got on the internet, and managed to get the pictures I’d uploaded, the ones from week one, to display in the blog. So I went back to the hotel, uploaded the second week of photos, went back to the library, and got those to display. This has turned out to be a productive day, just because I’ve been so frustrated in not being able to get the blog in shape.

The weather is going to be better tomorrow and very nice for the next few days afterward. I should have just four more riding days in Utah (to Vernal, at least); maybe I can get them done without interruption from the weather. After that, I may be able to make Fort Collins in four more riding days. Then I’m done with the serious mountains.

12 May - Thursday - 82.1 miles/802 total
Delta UT to Payson UT

I was getting antsy after two days of no riding, so I was glad to leave Delta. Heading north on US 6 (goodbye to US 50 at last!) it was flat to Lynndyl, with an occasional half-hearted shower. There I turned east through dark flat farmland past Leamington, where it got a little hilly. I passed some primitive nineteenth century charcoal ovens so close to the road that there were Jersey barriers to protect them from traffic. Soon after there was a cement plant, but that was the last sign of civilization as I headed up into scrub uplands, over a nameless pass and down into Nephi, which was farm country again.

My route north now followed the valley and the interstate into Mona, where I came close to looking for shelter in some new construction when hail and rain started coming down fairly hard. But it soon let up, in time for me to discover that the back road I was planning on taking parallel to the interstate was closed. I got directions, too many directions really, from the clerk at the country store cum gas station in Mona, and went north on another parallel back road, around a reservoir and down through a very nice canyon into Goshen.

Riding toward Santaquin, the rain started again, and kept up for the rest of my ride into Payson, where, slightly soggy, I checked into a chain motel. But the weather is supposed to be better over the next three days.

Then a quick trot across the motel parking lot in the rain to a ‘family restaurant,’ where I had a not very good dinner served by absurdly over-solicitous waiters. And no beer, of course. Alas, to bicycle across Utah is to know the pain and disappointment of Archy’s dessicated, beerless pharaoh.

Old Charcoal Oven West of Leamington
Old charcoal oven west of Leamington

Canyon on a Back Road Between Mona and Goshen
Canyon on a back road between Mona and Goshen

Strange Works of Some Sort - Probably Mining - South of Payson
Strange mining works - South of Payson

13 May - Friday - 48.0 miles/850 total
Payson to Heber City

This was to be a short day, so I got a late start, leaving at ten. Instead of following US 6 toward Provo, I took some smaller roads that stayed closer to Utah Lake. I figured that this route was likely to be flatter than the highway that seemed uncomfortably close to the mountains. And it was indeed very flat farmland. But off to the east I could see the huge and apparently unbreached wall of the mountains - the Wasatch or the Uintas, I haven’t figured out which.

Somewhere along in here I passed the first road cyclist since the eastern Sierras. He was going fast in the other direction and only waved.

At this point I had to get onto US 89 in Santaquin, as that was the only road north into Provo other than the interstate. As the interstate was clearly flat and my road wasn’t, hugging the mountains as it did, this was a little annoying. It was odd that a broad flat valley, well-populated, didn’t have a secondary road running through it.

Once in Provo, I got a little trapped in Brigham Young University and backtracked a bit to get around it. On getting north of Provo, I headed east on US 189, up through Provo Canyon, the gap in the mountain wall that allows the road to get to Heber City. It was a climb of about 1000 feet, but a gradual one.

Along this road is photogenic Bridal Veil Falls as well as the road to Sundance. And there were also campgrounds, where I would have camped except that I wanted to make it to Heber City as the day’s mileage would be short enough as it was.

At Heber City I hit US 40, something of a nostalgic landmark for me. Not that I’d ever been on this section of it, but when I was very young, before a lot of the interstates were built, my parents would drive us from Pennsylvania to Tulsa every couple of years, and we’d take long stretches of US 40 through the middle west.

I checked into a Holiday Inn Express - not bad - and walked across the parking lot to a pretty good steakhouse. It’s odd, though, that when I’m in a restaurant in Utah where I can in fact get something to drink, I feel guilty ordering it, as if I’m verging on a sacrilege of some sort.

Wasatch or Uintas
Wasatch or Uintas

In Spanish Fork
In Spanish Fork

Bridal Veil Falls
Bridal Veil Falls, near Sundance

14 May - Saturday - 69.3 miles/919 total
Heber City to Duchesne

I never got to see downtown Heber City, as my motel was at a highway intersection a little south of town. I allowed lots of time to climb Daniels Pass (7980 feet), and assumed there would be no food all the way to Duchesne, 70 miles away. So I took it easy on the climb, which was a pretty steady uphill of 2400 feet or so along an overflowing stream - or river, now, because of snow melt - and made the top of the pass around eleven, earlier than planned in spite of the easy pace. At the top there is a whole complex comprised of some sort of lodge hotel, a gift shop, and a restaurant, a fairly tony one for the locale, where they made me a turkey sandwich to take with me.

I headed downhill, but the drop was quite gradual and rolling, and there was a headwind, so I didn’t get a good payoff from the climb. Eventually I passed a road cyclist going the other way, walking uphill (and complaining of a headwind), who had been at a family reunion in Altamount, 60 miles east, and had set out for Salt Lake early in the morning. He had 16 miles to go to the top of the pass - I hope he didn’t walk all the way! - but after that, if he followed the route I had taken from Provo, it was all downhill or flat, and even though it was another 100 miles, it was just noon. At any rate, his wife was behind him in a car.

In Fruitland I stopped at the little store and had a couple of ice cream sandwiches and a short rest. Somewhere along in there I stopped at a very sixties view area, arranged in front of some very picturesque cliffs and some nicely contrasting pasturage. Too bad it wasn’t better kept up. A little later, just before Duchesne, I stopped at another rest area, more modern, very well kept up by a caretaker who happened to be there and who wanted to talk. So he told me about the ‘gravity hills’ I must have crossed in Nevada, where you’re pointing downhill but the local warped gravity field pulls you backward. He seemed pretty serious about this. There certainly were several climbs along US 50 in Nevada that looked like they were descents because of the non-level horizon.

From there, it was a short distance to Starvation Lake, which was supposed to have a state park campground (with showers!) that I was thinking about staying at, but I never saw the entrance. So I went a couple miles more into Duchesne and easily found the one motel in town - cheap and reasonably comfortable for the price - and checked in.

Snowmelt, Climbing to Daniels Pass, East of Heber City
Snowmelt, climbing to Daniels Pass, east of Heber City

West of Duchesne
West of Duchesne

West of Duchesne, Viewed from a Neglected, Sixties-Design Rest Stop
West of Duchesne, viewed from a neglected, sixties-design rest stop

15 May - Sunday - 57.6 miles/977 total
Duchesne to Vernal

There were only 58 miles to do today, so there was no pressure to leave early, and I didn’t.

The dry semi-desert on the west side of town changed suddenly to farmland on the east. The fields here were soggy with irrigation. But the flat horizontal lines of low red buttes were always in the background. The road followed the Duchesne River downhill all the way to Roosevelt, where I stopped for a pre-fab pizza lunch at a gas station convenience store.

After Roosevelt, it was dry again, flat, then a little rolling. Finally I climbed one long and unexpected uphill to just before Vernal. In this stretch I saw the first signs of an oil drilling rig, although I haven’t seen a pumping jack yet. A good downhill, after which I checked into one of the two local Best Westerns where I was supposed to be due a free night (pay with MasterCard, stay three nights, fourth night free!). The motel didn’t seem to know about this promotion - I have a feeling I’m not going to get my free night.
At the motel there were some guys with mountain bikes, come to ride the local back country, one of whom had once ridden from Wyoming to New York on a Serrota with a trailer. I asked him about the road ahead; he didn’t think there would be a serious climb on my 90 miles tomorrow to Maybell.

Low Mesa, East of Duchesne
Low mesa, east of Duchesne

week 4