by Sara Dykman

Every night I write a quick few paragraphs in a small, pink, spiral notebook. It seems the most action packed days, the days when the pages could be filled with unplanned adventures, inspiring scenery descriptions, and morale-saving strangers, those are the days when repeating the day in wordsis simply too overwhelming.  Instead, I side step the flowery language and superfluous grammar and just write words that in years to come will send me back to a stranger’s home or a lonely, mountain road.   Yesterday, for example, between a short- yet profane- incomplete sentence about head winds, and another short statement about the library, I wrote in my journal the words: Randy, candy, new chain.

We met Randy in Lone Pine, California and he invited us in for much needed showers and laundry.  Of course, he didn’t stop there.  I’ll never forget that bag of candy he set before us.  Knowing he was a biker himself, we didn’t even have to warn him that we would be putting a huge dent in his candy stash.  While eating candy, we quizzed Randy on locations for bike stores, grocery stores, and thrift stores in the next town north.  When Randy heard I needed a new chain, he went to his garage and got me a new chain.

But I digress.  This is not a story about California. Instead, I must skip back a few dozen pages in my spiral notebook to the red rock deserts of Utah. We have neglected writing about the desert, not because we had nothing to say on the subject, but because recounting the hundreds of miles of beautiful places we have seen is kinda overwhelming.  Where do you start?  How about a few unorganized sentences and pictures to match :

We crossed into Utah, but there was no sign.  We settled on finding the word Utah at a pizza place a few days later.

Tommy has been dreaming of riding along side horses for some time now.  In Utah, his dream came true.

Comb Ridge, a place Edward Abbey takes readers in his book The Monkey Wrench Gang, inspires me to keep climbing the hill so I could get a better view.

We got a nice silhouetted view of Monument Valley, one of many incredible rock sculptures time and water has carved in the desert.

We climb the Moke Dugway, a road of switchbacks cut straight up a mesa.  Approaching the mesa you couldn’t even see where the road would take you.  It was one of the best climbs of the trip.

Tommy and Aaron’s parents joined us for a few weeks in Utah.  It was great to have Mary and Marion around.  They spoiled us with pancake breakfasts, wonderful diners, beer, and good company.

Mary and Marion helped us carry food and water;  that way we could spend more time exploring the desert, and less time worrying about running out of water.  Towns are small and spread out.  We needed to buy food and fill up water for 4,5,or 6 day stretches at times.  Town is also where you find showers and … art.

Taking a rest day to hike down a canyon to some ruins, we found the ruins full of pottery shards and corn cobs.

The great thing about bike touring in Utah is the availability of public land to camp on.  On public lands managed by the Forest Service and BLM, you can camp just about anywhere, thus we would just pull of the road when we are tired and have great views at every camp site. One night, however, the winds were so strong we took shelter in a culvert.

We cross several steep canyons containing precious water.   Watching the murky Colorado River cut through the deep canyon it is easy to see the effect water has on the desert.

Many people travel from National Park to National Park.  The parks are beautiful, but it might be some of the unnamed canyons we biked along or unvisited roadside mesas that I remember most fondly.

But of course, the National Parks are incredible places, and I am so thankful they have been protect for us to see and discover and enjoy.  We explored several National Parks in Utah.  First up was Capitol Reef.

Our Next National Park was Bryce Canyon.

And then we explored Zion National Park.

Now you see why writing a story about Utah was so overwhelming.  There was too much to say.  I could write pages about the beauty of the desert; pages about the cyclist we met; pages about how fun it was to have Mary and Marian join us; pages about how any one that has ever thought about going on a bike tour in Utah should go on a bike tour in Utah.  Hopefully I have covered the basis in pictures and the scraps of sentences.

The basis of course is that biking Utah was grand.