Mountains in the Rearview Mirror

It’s mid July now, and Tony and I can look in the rearview mirror to see the mountainous part of our bicycle ride across America. Of course there are mountains on the east coast too, but that’s over a thousand miles away. We found the mountains of Utah and Colorado to be hard, but not as hard as we expected. To date we have climbed over 100,000 feet. That’s a lot!

We have finished Phase 2 of our TransAm, from Cedar City Utah to Boulder Colorado. Phase 2 was bracketed by two breaks: in May-June for Joy to do some work in Europe, and currently in early July for Tony and Joy to visit parents in Seattle and San Francisco. Phase 2 was also bracketed by two big climbs, out of Cedar City and then over the Front Range into Boulder.

Phase 2a: Cedar City to Blanding (Utah)

Red. Steep. Hot.

On June 6, we got back in the saddles and pedaled very slowly up Cedar Breaks. This was a steep climb of some 5500′, to an elevation of 10,500′. After a two-week break, it was a hard climb. But we did it and were rewarded by a great afternoon at Cedar Breaks National Monument. It was gloriously beautiful.

One of my favorite parts of the trip so far was the downhill after Cedar Breaks. Downhills are (almost) always fun, but this one had the added advantage of being so very pretty. Burbling streams meandered through green meadows.

We rode past Bryce Canyon, which we had just visited a few weeks before (in a car!) with our friends Anne and Steve. Then on to Escalante, where we spent a rest day exploring the slot canyons.

A beautiful ride through layers of white and red sandstone, down to the Escalante River and back up brought us to Boulder, UT, where we spent a few days waiting for Tony to get over his flu. He had a sad 3 days, but I went for a great ride out and back on the Burr Trail. So much easier to ride without all our stuff!27845616901_7a0e470d40_o.jpg

Once Tony was almost well — in retrospect, probably a day too early — we headed over another mountain, down through Capital Reef National Park, and on to Hanksville UT. Hanksville is surrounded by beautiful country (more crazy sandstone rock formations), but they managed to find a pretty boring and unattractive place to plop the tiny town.

From Hanksville we experienced the hardest 3-day stretch of the trip: to Lake Powell, then Natural Bridges National Monument, then the dreary little town of Blanding UT. These days were characterized by scorchingly hot weather, the complete absence of any services (such as water), and steep hills. Seriously, where did the Utah road engineers go to school? I almost cried. Never was I so happy to see a dreary little town as when we limped into Blanding. One guy we met made it from Lake Powell to Blanding in one day. I don’t see how that was possible.

Phase 2b: To Boulder Colorado

Mountains. Green. Beautiful.

A few hours after we pedaled out of Blanding, we reached the Colorado border, and things immediately improved. Beer was more readily accessible, and the landscape greened up. Speaking of green, vegetables are available, yay! The food in Colorado is noticeably better than in Utah.

An afternoon stop in Dolores, CO to get our bikes fixed up, and we were off over Lizardhead Pass to Telluride. We stayed there a few days, to enjoy the stunning scenery of the San Juans and the exceptional food in this expensive ski resort.

We worked our way to Montrose, through Blue Mesa to Gunnison, then over another high pass (to 10,800′ and then down in the incredibly cold rain) to Salida. Blah blah blah, more passes, more ski resorts, and then the final big boy: Loveland Pass over the Front Range is 11,990′ and steeper than many other big Colorado passes. The final day into Boulder included still more climbing, and a huge descent (which, at 14% grade, was way too steep to be fun. Must have hired someone from Utah to design that road.)

Phase 3: Out of Boulder

Our bikes are sitting in a Boulder hotel garage while we visit our parents and friends. Our loose agenda for the next few weeks takes us to the Black Hills where we’ll travel the length of the Mickelson rail-trail, then head east across South Dakota and Minnesota. We’re thinking of taking the ferry across Lake Michigan. We’re still shooting for the Atlantic in late September, somewhere between Boston and Portland ME.

3 thoughts on “Mountains in the Rearview Mirror

  1. Hi Joy and Tony – so glad that you made it safely through the mountains! We bailed on Loveland since we’ve biked it before (been there, done that, not doing it loaded), and got a shuttle from Leadville to the ski area. Really enjoyed the traffic free ride on the bike paths and frontage road back to Denver even though our back hub was failing. Check out Highway 12 – the Yellowstone trail in South Dakota (goes further east too) and for sure take the ferry across Lake Michigan!


    1. I’m so glad you made it home safely. I hope the rear hub is easily fixed, though that sounds expensive! I imagine you are both relieved and saddened to be done with your epic journey around the SW.

      We will definitely check out Hwy 12. It looks perfect at first glance.


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