This event was probably the main motivation behind a week-long trip to Southern Utah and the surrounding areas. Given the proximity of this event's location to so many places we've wanted to see, the ride itself -- special as it was -- turned out to be a part of a greater whole that was a truly varied vacation. Multi-modal deluxe! Not a single moment wasted on this trip, and I cannot believe how much activity we actually packed in. And, honestly, the only stressful part of it all was the gear packing the day before we left.
6 days. 2 flights. 900 miles driven. 225 miles bike ridden. 20 miles hiked. Maiden distance voyage for our new Ritchey Breakaway travel bikes, no less.
For anyone into a week-long National Park spree, I would highly recommend this itinerary and order, but perhaps from Salt Lake City instead if you're not into the Vegas scene.
THURSDAY/2 - We flew to Vegas, with Breakaway bikes and camping gear, picked up rental car, grabbed breakfast at Mandalay Bay buffet, then drove 240 miles to Panguitch, UT by way of Cedar Breaks, and taking a short hike there on the canyon rim. Cedar Breaks boasts similar geological formations as Bryce Canyon (see below) in lesser scale, but undeniably breathtaking. On the way to Panguitch Lake, we saw THE MOST amazing rainbows ever on the mountain pass -- and that's saying a lot having grown up in the tropics. It was the first time I'd EVER seen both ends of the same rainbow -- and we were seeing both ends of a DOUBLE rainbow, right in front of us, brilliantly bright. Happily, digital point-n-shoot did a decent job producing evidence.
Also, due to packing deficit, we actually went outlet shopping for clothes in St. George, UT. Lisa and Alfie. Shopping for street clothes. At outlets. While on a decidedly outdoor-adventure trip. A supremely rare moment, folks. But hey, we needed something to wear for the night out on Vegas town on the return.
FRIDAY/3 - Bryce Canyon National Park. We took the bikes out for 25 mile spin to make sure they weathered the trip and reassembly well (they did). While out, we got totally drenched in one of the passing thunderstorms. We then stashed bikes in the car, and hit one of Bryce's signature hiking trails. Between 8,000' and 9,000' elevation, I definitely felt some oxygen deficit here. Was this the ideal way to spend a day before a double century -- hardly.
SATURDAY/4 - The Desperado Dual event itself, which took us around the Dixie National Forest of Southern Utah. This was a superbly planned and run event by some principal members of the Color Country Cycling Club. Support was first class, in my experience. Post ride nosh first rate, with good vegetarian option. The vibe was so chill and so reminiscent of the Quackcyclist ethic of ride promotion.
Lisa completed. I DNF'd at mile 162, when nearly all of the climbing of the course was behind me. I simply succumbed to the effects of the high altitude as I have in the past with other rides. I was pretty miserable from mile 120 to my bail-out point though, and while I had already ridden all the most difficult parts of the course (no more significant climbs the rest of the way), I seriously doubted my ability to ride in a straight line, let alone last the distance with a complicating ass blister (first I've had since the '04 Grand Tour). So tired, I couldn't even ingest the cup of noodle soup at the rest stop at that point. Game over.
We were at a base elevation of 6,800', and the second half of the course went over 9,000' a couple of times. This is the sort of environment in which Lisa really excels on rides. And I typically turn to mush. I actually had a great first century here, riding ahead of Lisa a number of times to take advantage of faster packs. I clocked just under 6.5 hours after the first century. I was undoubtedly feeling pretty good early on, and even felt great the next day with ZERO muscle soreness. All things sour pointed to the higher elevations on the second loop of the ride.
Even without finishing the whole ride, I enjoyed mile after mile of beautiful colorific scenery in serious Cowboy / Outlaw country, in a state where NO motorcyclist wears a helmet, with very light traffic on all the roads, superb road surfaces, and was supported by great event volunteers.
SUNDAY/5 - We packed up the bikes back in the flight cases, loaded up, and drove 150 miles to North Rim, Grand Canyon. After setting up camp, we took delight in realizing we gained an extra hour (AZ doesn't observe daylight savings), so we hiked the Trancept Trail to the North Rim Lodge, made friends with the maitre d' of the dining room so we got a window table (overlook view @ sunset) both evenings we were in the park. Before dinner, we drove out to farther viewpoints of the North Rim to take in some truly breathtaking views that define the Grand Canyon (Point Imperial, Cape Royal).
The Grand Canyon actually didn't hit me with the same kind of immediate wonder as Bryce did (only because the geological features -- Hoodoos -- of Bryce are more striking at first sight), but the scale and splendor of the Grand Canyon is definitely a slow burn that sets in amazingly the longer you stay. And I think this is especially true of the North Rim, which is FAR less populated with visitors than the South Rim. We didn't see a single tour bus there.
MONDAY/6 - This was the day of our big hike on the North Kaibab trail; 5 miles each way from the rim to the Roaring Springs 3,050 feet below inside the canyon, clinging to rock walls over 500-million years in existence. This was a strenuous, but very doable day hike, comparable to the 4-mile trail in Yosemite to Glacier Point, only slightly longer overall. It does get considerably hot in the canyon in the afternoon -- height of Summer, duh. After this hike, I'm convinced I'd like to trek from the North Rim to the South Rim (typically a 3-day trip) some time.
Conventional wisdom tells you to expect the return-bound hike UP the canyon to take 2-3 times as long as your descent. We planned accordingly by these guidelines, but in the end, our ascent only took us 30 minutes longer than our descent did. This really surprised me, even knowing that I'm a pretty slow descender on foot.
TUESDAY/7 - We broke camp, hit the road again, driving 290 miles back to Las Vegas, but not without an impromptu (1 hour extra driving) trip through Zion National Park and a 2.5-hour hike there (could have easily stayed longer if we didn't have dinner reservations in Vegas; besides, it was hotter than hell in Zion, well over 100F).
Driving into Zion from the East entrance is definitely better than the other due to traffic and because of the lesser traveled Checkerboard Mesa scenic drive; but either way, you have to park your vehicle at either the visitor center or the nearest town at the Western entrance, then rely on park shuttle buses to get around. Would have liked to hike the famous Angels Landing trail, but time didn't permit. Instead we took to the Emerald Pools trail, still sore from the Grand Canyon trek, but I really enjoy rock scrambling style hikes.
Zion's main features are sandstone cliffs (among the tallest in the world) and canyons formed almost entirely by water and erosion over 200-million plus years. Fascinating to compare this to most parts of the Grand Canyon such as the cavernous Bright Angel fault, formed largely by seismic activity in just 5-6 million years. And in the Grand Canyon's case, the lower 2,000 feet of the canyon are believed to have formed in just 750,000 years -- in geological period terms, an instant.
We arrived in Vegas at around 7PM, 2 hours before dinner time, just enough time to check in (an hour-long ordeal at the Flamingo, welcome back to the stupid world), dump the stuff in our garish mod room (with flat screen TV IN the bathroom mirror to boot), shower, dress and bolt across the street to Caesar's Palace for dinner.
WEDNESDAY/8 - Before our flight back to Oakland, we took in some Chinese noodles for brunch at the Venetian, Sidecars (ultra yummy cocktail) at the Wynn (they use the same cocktail recipes as the Bellagio), stroll stroll stroll, then a shamefully anticlimactic buffet dinner at the Rio. There was so much we'd enjoyed throughout this trip, the fantastic bike ride we traveled for seemed almost... secondary!