Denis Kertz, ©2015
My friend Dave picked me up at 7:15 am and drove me to
So I decided I wasn't up to the gamble and reluctantly chose to take it along on my flight. As it turned out this was a fortuitous decision. At the airport there was curbside check-in so I only had to carry my bike box and luggage a few feet and then everything was taken care of. Flying my bike cost $75, just a few dollars more than shipping would have cost, and my 2 rear panniers strapped together and a duffel bag with my tent and sleeping bag went free as two checked baggage items.
The plane was completely full but I got an aisle seat and
I was okay. In
I found a quiet area in the baggage claim area and re-assembled my bike. Fortunately, I had a large bike box and I was able to pack the bike with the rear rack and rear fender attached to the bike. So I only had to attach the front rack and front fender. Within an hour I had the bike ready to go with the panniers hooked up. I did have to re-pack everything later at the motel but it was good enough to ride the few miles to the Fairfield Inn where I used my Marriott reward points for a free night stay.
I figured riding out of the airport couldn't be too
While trying to figure out how to get to the motel from the airport it occurred to me that I could have used my GPS. When I thought about that I realized I didn't know where my GPS was. I knew I had it with me in the baggage claim and I had a bit of panic that I somehow managed to leave it in the baggage claim area when I unpacked some things. It was a relief later when I finally dug it out of my panniers at the motel.
As soon as I got situated in my room I asked the front desk for a grocery store. There was a Vonn, a large grocery store, about 3 blocks away so it was an easy walk to get stocked up. Then there was a Subway next door to the motel and it was a convenient choice for dinner. In between I re-organized my packing and got everything mostly in order. By the time I ate and wrote my trip notes it was almost 7:30, which was really 9:30 for me and I retired shortly after that. A fairly long day but more pleasant than I expected when the bike packing went better than I expected.
I slept well and was ready to go in the morning. The
After easting a significant breakfast I did my final
packing. As usual I managed to
completely fill the panniers. I left
just before 8 am. I needed to get to
At the intersection I stopped at a 7-Eleven, my last
opportunity for a cold drink until I reached my destination,
When I crested the climb there was a nice descent to the
intersection with the
After 32 miles I reached the turnoff to
I hung around the store for about an hour and a half, re-hydrating and people watching. Then I managed to summon up the energy to ride back to the campground and pick out a site. The trick was to try figure out which site would give the best shade later in the evening. I paid $5 for a site with my senior pass and set up camp. Then I walked back to the store where there was also a grill and had their cheeseburger special and recorded my day's adventure.
But the day's adventures weren't over yet. It was still very hot so I spent some time in a picnic area near the campground where the picnic tables had an overhang. In the shade the temperature was tolerable. Eventually I made it back to the campground. I did my best to cleanup with a damp rag. Then I went into my tent and tried to sleep and was miserable.
My single wall tent is great for normal weather but this wasn't normal weather. If I had had a double wall tent I would have wanted to erect the tent without the fly and that might have been okay. My single wall has decent ventilation but it stifled the little breeze that was around. I tried lying on top of my sleeping bag but that was too much fluff. I stripped down to just my shorts and laid on top of my Thermarest sleeping pad. I was still sweating. It wasn't until about 11pm that it cooled off enough that I could sleep without sweating. From that point on it was okay for sleeping.
Early in the morning I heard some thundering. Then around 5am it started raining. I dashed out of my tent to put a plastic grocery bag over my leather saddle. The rain didn't last long, maybe 20 minutes.
I wasn't in a hurry to get up in the morning because the
marina store didn't open until 8am. I
packed up and was down at the marina shortly after 7am. I figured it was just as well to wait there
as in the campground. I had a good
regular breakfast with ham, eggs, potatoes, and toast with coffee for $9. Not cheap but this was a resort area and they
didn't skimp on the portions so I was happy.
I also loaded up on water since it was going to be another hot day with
no services until
I got on the road about 8:45. First off I had to recover the 500 feet that
I lost yesterday on the descent to the bay.
It was a 4 mile ride back to the
The biggest problem with this type of riding wasn't so much the heat as the fact that the drinking water was very warm. I tried to keep hydrated by taking frequent sips of tepid water rather than large gulps with limited success.
There were two big climbs, the initial climb leaving the bay and then another about 5 miles later of similar difficulty. At the top of the second climb there was a trail to a nearby summit with a restroom at the trail start. I stopped as much as anything because the restroom cast a shadow that allowed some protection from the sun.
Continuing on there was a couple more short climbs. Near the top of the second climb there was a picnic area just off the road with a sheltered picnic table that I took advantage of for a break from the sun. I could have taken a nap there but delaying only meant that it would get hotter and it would be longer before I would get a cold drink. So I continued on after about 20 minutes.
I crested the last real climb and then there was a nice
5-mile descent. A little more climbing
and I reached the
On the descent I passed by a ranger station and noticed there was a water fountain outside. I stopped and found I hit the jackpot as it provided cold water. I drank a couple bottles of cold water before I descended the rest of the way to a store at the bay just before 2:30 pm. It wasn't much of a store with just some basic drinks and a limited food selection but I had a cold Gatorade, which would have been multiple Gatorades had I not taken advantage of the cold water fountain at the ranger station.
I also lucked out that there was a picnic table outside the store that was in a shaded area. It was actually pretty pleasant in the shade with a little cooling breeze. I hung around there for about an hour because I knew I would not likely find a spot like that in the campground until later in the day.
Finally, I picked out a camp site at the campground next door and set up. I spent some time picking a site that would have good shade and also close to water and the restroom. Somewhat surprising the campground water spigot provided water that was more drinkable than yesterday which was way too hot.
The bad news about the store other than minimal selection was it closed at 4:30 pm. So I hustled back to the store after setting up for more cold drink and some marginal food. I noted there wasn't really anything for breakfast so I expected to rely on my cereal supply and the cold water at the ranger station in the morning.
This was a harder day than yesterday even though it was the same mileage. That's because there were no services along the way and it was about 1,000 more feet of climbing.
It didn't seem quite as hot as the previous night so I slept a little better. I got up at 6 am and packed up and left. I rode up the hill a short ways to the ranger station with the cold water fountain and used it along with my powdered milk for a cereal breakfast.
It was 5 miles back to the main road and 500 feet of climbing. The big question for the day was whether I would visit or skip the Valley of Fire State Park. It was a 5-mile side trip with at least 500 feet of climbing.
Along the way I stopped at a picnic area. As I was about to leave a motorcyclist passed
by and then turned around and I met Gilbert from
Continuing on I left the Lake Mead Recreation Area and rode into Overton. It was only about 25 miles but I was considering staying there. I was dragging somewhat and the idea of a motel was appealing with all this heat.
First thing I did was stop at a Maverick for a cold drink. They had an 83 cent special for a large drink at the soda fountain so I had 2 Gatorades which helped to improve my disposition. Then I rode to the McDonalds and had a vanilla shake.
There were a couple of motels right in the downtown area. One was obviously closed and when I stopped at the other one the proprietress said she didn't have any rooms. There was another motel on the edge of town that looked pretty upscale so I passed on it and rode on. I was feeling much better after some cold libation. However, there wasn't anything in Logandale so I had to continue on to the Interstate junction but not after I had another cold drink in Logandale.
There was some significant climbing on the 12 miles from
Overton to the Interstate. When I got to
the Interstate I discovered I had to ride a couple miles south to
There was a 15-unit motel as part of an AMPM food mart. I thought it would be reasonably priced given looks but they charged $66. This was a pretty crappy motel for the price. First I had to kick the door open when I used the key. Then it wasn't laid out very well inside with a microwave oven perched on the only table in the room. Then I discovered I couldn't access the WiFi. I had room 11 and it was too far away from the office. When I walked closer to the first room I got enough signal that I could get connected. I went back to the office and complained so we switched to room 3 where the signal was marginal inside the room but workable.
As I was switching rooms I ran into a Swiss bicycle
tourist who was looking for a room too.
He had come from the Valley of Fire State Park and really liked it. He was on his way to
The cafe was useless for breakfast since they didn't open until 9am. So I grabbed some things in the food mart and ate breakfast in my room.
Leaving about 7:15 am I reclaimed the 500 feet I lost
When I reached
Ideally I would have stayed in
As the road neared Littlefield I could see some greenery
in the distance which is usually a telltale sign of civilization in a desert
area. When the rode reached the
Interstate I got back on and crossed the
When I recovered I found Littlefield had little. I stopped at a small store joined with a bar
and guzzled another 32oz Gatorade. It
was also obvious that the
Next door was the Beaver Dam Lodge, a golf and RV resort, and the only accommodation in the town. I got a room for $50 which was much nicer than last night's room with a good WiFi. The restaurant was also good if all you wanted was pizza, the only item on the menu in this off season. That was okay with me and I had a large pepperoni pizza that was too much but I chugged it down anyway. I might need all the energy from this pizza tomorrow when I continue on NV91 with a 3,000 foot climb.
I debated riding over to the store for breakfast but ended up having breakfast in my room. As I was packing up I discovered I had been running my chromebook on battery so I plugged it in and waited 30 minutes to give it a reasonable charge. Then I rode across the road to the store and picked up a couple pastries for the day.
Today's ride featured a constant climb for 18 miles up Hwy 91. You could see the road going straight up the wide open space to the base of the mountains and then it wasn't obvious where it went. I usually imagine climbs like this as really hard and then they end up being not too bad. For some reason I didn't think this climb would be too bad but it turned out harder than I anticipated. After initially climbing at 7 mph I steadily dropped off until I was climbing 3-4 mph the rest of the way.
As usual it was hot and there was a little breeze. Unfortunately, the breeze was a tail wind which didn't help to cool me off. After grinding for almost 12 miles I stopped for a break. I would have liked to have some shade but there was nothing in sight. Since the day was a long climb without any services I had filled one of my water bladders in addition to the 3 large and 1 regular water bottles I always carry. Since I had emptied my large and regular water bottle, I uncovered the water bladder under my tent/sleeping bag and discovered it had a leak. So instead of having the equivalent of 2 extra large water bottles in the bladder I only had half of a large water bottle.
After riding on a little ways I finally saw where the road wound its way through a gap in the mountains. And immediately there was a large rock outcrop with lots of shade, just what I had given up on finding. So I stopped for a few more minutes to take advantage of the shade. Then I decided to use one of my two large bottles that were packed in my rear panniers and discovered an empty water bottle. That left me with a single large water bottle for the rest of the way. I figured that would be just enough but I went from a very comfortable water supply to half of what I thought I had and barely enough.
I sipped cautiously from my remaining water bottle the rest of the climb. At least one thing turned out better than expected I thought it was an 18 mile climb but it turned out to be only 17 miles. I also thought the climb was 3,000 feet and it turned out to be 2,535 feet according to my altimeter with no descending during the climb.
The next 7 miles were a nice descent and a great view. I found myself riding towards a huge red mountain wall that was something like 5 miles wide. Shortly I came to a food mart and stopped for my first cold drink. I drank two 32oz drinks along with a sandwich and filled two of my water bottles.
From there it was only a few more miles to the
It was a strange night. When I crawled into my tent at 8 pm, I wasn't sweating wearing only shorts. Then later it cooled off more and I put on my jersey. Then, unheard of, it got cooler and I rolled out my sleeping bag and crawled inside without zipping it up. Needless to say, I slept better.
The morning was great when I got up close to 7:30, which
was really 6:30 but
There wasn't anything nearby for breakfast but St. George was just 10 miles away so I packed up and left. Yesterday I was surprised how slow I was riding to the campground. I assumed I was just tired from the climb up Hwy 91. Today I found out the real reason. It was uphill and now downhill today. I coasted out of the park and continued to coast with easy pedaling into St. George except for one modest climb.
Near St. George there was a small shopping center with a
breakfast place. It looked more upscale
than I cared for but it was convenient so I stopped. I had a good breakfast and the place had
WiFi. I had originally planned to stay
in St. George and basically take a rest day.
I could have made it all the way to
I left the breakfast place at 10 am and rode a little
further south then took
During my earlier research I found the Willow Wind RV Park where I got a campsite for $28. It was mostly an RV park but there were some tent sites. The tent sites weren't great but they had several large trees that provided good shade so they were fine. This was a good location in the middle of town just off the main highway. Next door was a Wendy where I treated myself to a vanilla Frosty. There was a grocery store across the street where I picked up a couple of items.
Another nice feature of the RV Park was it had a
clubhouse. The tent sites were on the
lawn just outside the clubhouse so it was a convenient place to use the
WiFi. I checked
It was nice to have the campground situation out of the way. Now I just had to hope the rain wouldn't put a damper on everything. Interestingly, the clubhouse had a computer in it and a guy was using it when I entered and still using it when I left. I thought he was doing something serious but he was apparently playing solitaire the entire time.
After cleaning up I walked a bit through town and found a
BBQ place that advertised itself as voted the best in
When I got back to the RV Park I wanted to use the clubhouse WiFi again but discovered it was locked. So I walked to the office to inquire if that was to be expected and discovered the office was locked. Turned out they both closed at 5 pm. That was unfortunate since the clubhouse also had a TV which could have been useful for some football watching.
Anyway, an easy day that turned out well.
Since I already had reservations at
I left around 8:30 with about 24 miles to
I set up camp in the walk-in tent campground and then walked to the visitor center to get situated. I decided to ride my bicycle the 8 miles to the end of the canyon since I didn't really have anything else to do. It was also reasonably nice weather. There were wispy clouds that increased through the day and when the sun was hidden it was quite pleasant.
The further up the canyon the closer the sandstone walls came in. The big problem was they were too high and too close to get good photos but I tried. At the end of the canyon I hiked the easy Riverside Walk, 2 miles roundtrip. This walk took me to The Narrows where the walls hemmed in and the only place to walk was up the river, which can be dangerous due to flash flooding. I walked just to the beginning of The Narrows and got my feet wet in the river and then retreated. I could have gone further but the rocks were slippery and walking sticks would have been really desirable.
I thought the canyon road was pretty flat but it was much easier riding back with easy pedaling. The park has a shuttle system and doesn't allow vehicular traffic through the canyon. Bicycles are required to stop and let the shuttle pass when encountered on the road. On the way up the canyon I let several shuttles pass but none on the way back, a reflection of the fast pace returning to the campground.
When I got back to camp I was starved and there was the Springdale Pub conveniently located just outside the park which was a short walk from the campground. I had a buffalo burger which was good but was shocked at a $20 bill for the burger and soda, about a 100% markup. The menu conveniently didn't list prices which should have warned me. The menu listed prices as integer numbers and the buffalo burger was a 16 and I never saw a translation of what that meant until I got my bill. Turns out what I thought was a code was the actual price - $16. There is a market attached to the pub and I picked up a few things. I expect tomorrow I'll shop at the market for my dinner.
By 6:00 pm clouds were threatening and there were a few sprinkles. It wasn't clear whether there would be real rain or just teases.
A good day with great scenery. It was a relief to not have to worry about getting a campsite and I got in an afternoon of sight seeing.
The main plan for today was to do the Angel's Landing Hike and getting started early was recommended. I had originally planned to bike to the Grotto where the hike starts but then realized it would be better to take the shuttle. That way I wouldn't be carrying any bike related equipment like a helmet.
The first shuttle started at 6am followed by 6:30 am and then about every 10 minutes. It didn't get light until about 7 am so I wasn't in a hurry to start before daylight. I had my cereal breakfast and then filled up my water bottles and walked to the shuttle station at the visitor center, a short walk. I got there just in time to catch the 7 am shuttle.
By 7:30 I got off the shuttle and was on the trail. This hike ended up on Angel's Landing, 1500
feet above the canyon floor, so it required some serious climbing. The first part of the climbing wasn't that
bad because it was all on flat surfaces although there were a bunch of
switchbacks, most notable Walter's Wiggles, some 22 switchbacks named after
This point on was labeled as treacherous in the park guide, presumably to scare off folks who have no business trying to do this climb, either because they don't have the conditioning or they are afraid of heights. The climb started off up a narrow rock wall where there were chain lines for the difficult sections. It was about a half mile climb that required some care.
At one point it started to sprinkle and I wasn't sure I wanted to continue but others did and no rain really developed. It did get colder and I was glad I had my rain gear with me to provide some warmth. Some had only shorts and short sleeve shirts which wasn't appropriate for the conditions.
It was a great panoramic view at the end of the climb with Angel's Landing jutting out into canyon, 1500 feet above the canyon floor. There were 8-10 folks on the point when I was there. After spending about 15-20 minutes I started down, partly because the weather was uncertain and I didn't want to get caught descending on wet rocks. However, my timing was a little off and it started raining before I was down off the narrow wall. I put on my rain pants and continued descending a little more carefully. Two guys ahead of me look partially terrified as they inched their way down. They probably shouldn't have been on the climb.
Once I was off the narrow wall, the rest was just a matter of hiking down switchbacks on a flat trail. I finished by 10:30 and there were a lot of people hiking up as I was hiking down, as this is one of the most popular climbs in the park even though it is rated a strenuous climb requiring a typical 4 hours roundtrip. Again it was amazing the variety of preparation or lack thereof for the hikers.
It was a great hike despite the uncertain weather and the cool weather made the hiking somewhat easier. I carried two water bottles and ended using no water. I doubt that would have been the case if it had been very warm.
With my two major goals out of the way cycling the canyon road and hiking Angel's Landing I had to decide what to do the rest of the day. I knew I didn't want to do more hiking since I had just done a pretty strenuous hike and tomorrow's ride heading east involved a serious climb of 3,500 feet. So I needed to rest up and I found a good way to do that I rode the shuttle through the canyon and back, an 80-minute ride. It was perfect for resting my legs and seeing the park again.
After that I spent some more time checking out the displays around the visitor center. The weather continued to vary from nice to threatening. At about 4:45 pm it stopped threatening and hit with some force. It became very windy and rained hard, with the wind driving the rain sideways along with some small hail. I was in the campground so I just holed up in my tent. This lasted for about 45 minutes until the sky cleared again.
Unfortunately, there was a lot of rain in those 45 minutes and that caused some problems in the campground. The problem was the tent area was a rectangular area bordered by posts laid sideways in the ground. The border was a little higher than the ground and water was trapped inside the tent boundary area. I had water building up to the side of my tent on the low side with the water having no place to go. Seems like a rather poor design to confine the water to where they confine the tents.
I was able to use a tent peg to dig a little trench to allow the water to drain out of my tent area. Some others weren't so lucky and had to move their tents.
As I was writing these notes it was clouding up again and
it looked like more rain for the night. The
bigger question was what the weather would be like tomorrow. It was projected to be 40% probability of
showers which was down a little from today's 50% probability. Hopefully I will be able to get out of the
park heading east and on my way to the North Rim of the
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2015. All rights reserved.