Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Rolling With the Punches
After Bryce, the plan was to ride only about 5 km into Dixie National Forest and set up camp. Immediately upon leaving the park, there was a humongous head/crosswind, depending which way the road was pointed. The wind in Utah is fickle, and always seems to be from the wrong direction.
I had trouble finding anywhere that was both flat and protected from the wind, and as a result, continued until nearly dark. At last, I found a flat bank near a creek, protected by all of two trees. By the time I finished pitching the tent, I was wearing all the clothes I had. Only the jacket came off when I got in the sleeping bag. It was still cold.
The wind never let up all night and was still howling in the morning. Not wanting to ride in a bitter wind, I slept in a little. It was chilly, but manageable when I began riding.
The day looked like a huge uphill, a little riding on a plateau, and then a huge downhill. Overall, not too bad. Glad to get the huge uphill done while it's still cool.
About 100 m from the top, you started seeing occasional patches of snow. Most of them could be avoided or ridden over. Once or twice, I had to dismount and walk about 10 m. No biggie.
I reached the plateau at the top and my heart sank.
It can't go on like this for long, I figured, and began pushing Teeder through the snow. It didn't make sense that the snow would be thickest here, in a wide open area that gets lots of sunshine. It must go away as soon as you get around that corner.
It didn't. Nor around the next corner. Nor anywhere else for the next four hours. There were no tire tracks in the snow. No one drives up here. I can't hitchhike my way down. The only way out is through.
Turning back would've been the only other option, but by the time I realized how long it would go on, I was already far enough in. And things were going...OK. My bike shoes were doing an admirable job getting traction and keeping the snow out. And it was a nice sunny day. Then I fell through.
Unbeknownst to me, the snow underneath was melting, and the top layer, at one point, wasn't thick enough to support a man and his bike. With no warning, I dropped in, instantly soaked to the waist. Teeder followed suit. I managed to wade forward, barely budging Teeder along, until there was a point where the snow became solid again. Then I turned around and dragged Teeder out. My legs and feet were freezing. But it was a warm sunny day, and I was exercising. My legs warmed back up in a hurry. My feet, encased in soaking wet shoes, didn't.
Evidently, Utah had an unusual amount of snow this past winter. To a guy from Texas, the concept that there would be miles upon miles of snow on a warm sunny day in June is unthinkable. And not on the peaks, but at road level. And in an arid state.
Four hours after it began, the snow gave way to dirt again. And so began the long descent into Loa, complete with headwind and an excessive amount of washboard. It didn't feel like a downhill at all. Oh, c'mon, I earned this!
I'd expected to arrive in Loa in mid-afternoon, but didn't make it until 7:30 PM. By now, the whole town was essentially closed. Finding a place to stay would be impossible. Normally, I'd ride 10 minutes out of town and set up camp, but it was going to get below freezing that night. And after a day like today (and with still-wet feet), that wasn't something with which I wanted to deal. $85 is a lot of money for the privilege of lying still for a few hours, but I paid it.
The route to Salina looked short and easy, with the exception of an early hill that looked easy to bypass. It took you up to a lake in the hills, then back down. Or you could go around, barely climb at all, and cover about the same distance.
After debating with myself for almost an hour, I went up the hill. If you can't do a hill every now and then, what are you doing out here in the first place?
I made it to the lake in a surprisingly apt manner, and the ensuing downhill was one of the best of the summer. Long and steady, the kind where you don't need to pedal, but only occasionally need to tap the brakes. This went on for over an hour.
The remainder of the day was spent following a creek as it descended within a narrow canyon. This is the life. Four separate times, the road crossed the creek and I had to ford it. You could tell this normally doesn't happen, but the extra snowfall has made all the creeks much higher than normal.
After a satisfying ride, I spent the evening on the floor of Faith Baptist Church, thanks to a generous pastor named Matt. And it even came with a sandwich! Churches used to be my bread and butter, but that approach works less and less often. On day 11, this was the first. Seems like churches have become less likely to have someone there during the day, for whatever reason, and are also more hesitant to help out. Perhaps it's an effect of getting older; I look more like I should take care of myself. But without breaking the bank on a hotel for six weeks straight, how?
from Wild West