“Never Ignore Your Instinct And You Can Always Push Harder. I Get Inspired When I Think About People Who Have Pushed Their Bodies To The Limit” – Rachel Atherton
Almost 700 miles, over 35,000 ft. climbed, and 43 hours in the saddle in the first eight days. The plan was to frontload the route to deposit miles in the bank. We would make small mileage withdrawals as we park-hopped through Utah and Arizona.
I earned this one with interest!
With 112 miles on the docket, I set out before dawn, 0500 pst to be exact, to outride the wind and heat. Here is the look of a chronic morning person who slept too little and woke up to early. My Training Peaks account might be correct—my body may need extra rest today! No such luck!
The ten-mile uphill drag out of Caliente, NV, left the setting moon behind me as I greeted the sun. The desert was cold in the morning, and my hands were numb, but my legs were warming up. I turned the corner and began climbing.
After over an hour of constant pressure through the pedals broken up by repeated out-of-the-saddle efforts, I finally hit the top. More confetti in my mind, and all I could find to celebrate the accomplishment was a few signs—and an exceptional few. It was worth it!
No ceremony when I crossed the state line into Utah, except when my phone clicked back an hour into Mountain Time, and more color has slowly entered the scene.
The rolling Schwenk Tank and my trusted crew caught up after about two and a half hours. I was still smiling, but I wasn’t happy.
The moment I pointed my wheel downward, the rising headwinds reared their ugly heads—again.
I will happily climb all day. Riding downhill and cranking with much of what you have to hold a respectable speed is incredibly demoralizing—60 miles of mental toughness training to the next climb.
The next major climb on the route came at mile 72, which was a serious one—five miles and over 1,200 ft. of elevation gain. I relished the relief from the wind and held hope that my gusty luck would change when I reached the top. No such luck! It was worse.
As I was plodding through the unrelenting breeze, I came along a sign pointing to the ominous landmark. The only thing I could think was my ride was a massacre, and there will be nothing to memorialize my defeatism but the visceral scars. Then I thought it through and put my pain into perspective. It added wind to my sails.
The Mountain Meadows Massacre (September 7–11, 1857) was a series of attacks that resulted in the mass murder of at least 120 members of the Baker–Fancher emigrant wagon train. The massacre occurred in the southern Utah Territory at Mountain Meadows, and was perpetrated by Mormon settlers belonging to the Utah Territorial Militia (officially called the Nauvoo Legion), together with some Southern Paiute Native Americans. The wagon train, made up mostly of families from Arkansas, was bound for California, traveling on the Old Spanish Trail (trade route) that passed through the Territory.
Following the massacre, the perpetrators buried some of the remains but ultimately left most of the bodies vulnerable to wild animals and the climate. Local families took in the surviving children, with many of the victims’ possessions and remaining livestock being auctioned off. Scholars debate whether senior Mormon leadership, including Brigham Young, directly instigated the massacre or if responsibility for it lay only with the local leaders in southern Utah.
After another 15 miles of the downhill that wasn’t, the situation was desperate. I contemplated my life choices over several stroopwafels and a half a jar of jam. In retrospect, I clearly wasn’t thinking clearly.
I gathered and rallied for the final 20-mile push into St. George, UT. My mood immediately changed when I saw this whimsical sculpture. How could it not?
St. George is a hip and progressive city. The energy was palpable, and I felt like I belonged in the bike-friendly environment. A kind lady waited while I stopped in the generous bike lane to take this cool picture.
After almost seven hours in the saddle and nine hours on the road I rolled into our destination for the night. I earned this one!
My tunnel vision focused on the end of the ride, and I forgot to leave my sticker breadcrumb on the route. Then it occurred to me. Yes, I did!
The spectacle that is our RV-bike leapfrogging operation turns a few heads. A man approached when Kristin and Uncle Rudy stopped at a corner. The conversation went on as the cars piled up behind him.
Vincent Rice was a Washington State University professor enthralled in our story and a novel ear to tell his. He asked for a sticker and then another and said, “I’ll put one on my car and the other on my house.” I needed his words of encouragement as I rolled through.
The unique and interesting people we’ve met have highlighted the experience. Like the delightful woman, Kristin and I met in the laundry room of the RV park in Caliente. Susan McLain is touring the country alone, and it is evident that she is in her element. I admired her independent spirit and lust for making the most of every moment. Thank you, Susan, for sharing your love of adventure and wealth of memories.
I earned it today! It was worth it!
About the DIRT Dad Fundo Pledge for Day Eight—Thomas Houghton
A finer, more respectful, and talented young gentlemen you will never meet. Thomas is the type of guy who you think is a transplant from a previous generation with always a polite word and offer of assistance.
Here is what Thomas had to say—”So excited for your trip! Hope to see you in Niagara Falls!”
Amount Raised to Date—$2,193
Thank you, Thomas! I hope to see you in Niagara too!
Now off to Apple Valley, UT and Zion National Park!
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!