Saturday, July 25: Another day up before the crack of dawn, and then into the same routine: drink coffee, catch up on the local news, work, dress, pack, eat, load the van, drive to start, ride five to seven hours, find a motel, wash cloths, wash me, work, blog, eat dinner, have a beer or two, watch a movie, go to bed. It’s groundhog day, but on a bike across the country. Now I’m not complaining, just stating the truth. You fall into a routine that utilizes the time to best fit the situation you’re in. My situation is a freedom of sorts, as most people see it, being on the bike and having the opportunity to ride each and every day, but it’s actually my responsibility each and every one of those days to ride, to get on that bike and ride - period!. There’s a routine to this gig just as there is to a real job. And I treat this as a real job. I try to explain this to people. Some get it. Some don’t. You really have to do this to understand that the romance of the whole endeavor ebbs and flows. It’s not always a bed of roses. Yet for some unknown reason I just love to do this stuff, knowing full well how burned out I get the longer the trip stretches out. 

Right now I’m pretty toasted mentally and physically, despite the fact that I get to ride though places most people only see on TV, in books or on the internet. It’s awesome many days, and tough as hell on others. This last week, with all the really demanding riding in canyon country, it’s been double tough. I mean I’m out there in some pretty remote places, riding on tracks that are just bitchen hard to ride, and all I have to do is slip up just once, and who knows what happens. I really put all that out of my mind as I’m riding. You can’t ride that kind of stuff scared, because when you’re tentative that’s when you screw up. So it’s game face on while riding, and then when I finish the day it’s decompression time, where I have the opportunity to go over the “what if” stuff that I don’t think about when riding. Anyway I went into today knowing that I had two more pretty demanding X-type segments to go before I get a reprieve of sorts on this 40-mile stretch of “Frontage” gravel road - real road - that goes all the way into Salina mostly along I-70. 

We drove the 45 miles from Green River back to the west to where I left off yesterday, at exit 116 off of I-70. Today I’d ride east to west because as far as I could tell, there’d be little difference in total elevation gain either way. Was on the bike unfortunately a bit too late - 8:10 AM - for this place and this heat. But that’s just the way it shook out this morning with such a long drive to the start. Just goes to show that the logistics out here are equally as difficult as the riding, maybe not as crazy as it was in CO, but hard nonetheless. It’s just that in this particular stretch, there are no services for over 100 miles between Green River and Salina. So there’s just no easy way to do this thing. We bit the bullet in Green River for start of today, and we’ll bite the bullet again in Salina for the ride tomorrow. 

My first segment today was one that I really had some trepidation about. I mean it had some gnarly motocross track ascending and descending through tons of loose rock, through some sections with nasty exposure, and past a myriad of unmarked trails. I know I’m sounding like a broken record but I’ll say it again, even with gps and maps you can still get lost down in these slot canyons. You really have to be vigilant while riding! 

The temp was nice, in the 60’s, and it makes me think about how wonderful it is in the mornings, but then round about 11 AM, when the sun really starts to gets up there, how much of a hades this place can be in the afternoon. It’s heaven and hell all in a day. I descended down the road I took yesterday when I did the Eagle Canyon ride, Devil’s Canyon Rd, but this time I didn’t take that R on the access track into Eagle, I stayed straight on Devil’s Canyon and descended some more until I hit a sign for Copper Gold Mine Rd, also called  BLM6845 and EM927. My gps called it 927, and for that I was thankful because there were just a maze of roads running off of Devil’s Canyon. Made the turn R and I knew I was in for a thrashing because this road was half dirt and half beach sand. Some sections were all dirt, some all sand and some a mix. It was dbl track and it was just a total bitch in sections with all that sand for several miles.

Once I got down along and into the main canyon, and into the rock, the sand stuff was pretty much gone, but the painful little punchy climbs and descents were just endless. And again, some parts, like on these nice long sections of slick rock, those were just amazing to ride, while others, these loose rock and boulder strewn climbs and descents, they were pretty tough to negotiate, especially the 2-3 foot slabby drop-offs and step-ups. I had several stretches on the edge of these small slot canyons below me to my left that were anywhere from 20 to 100 feet drops straight down, so I would venture more to the middle and right of the track while riding next to those…just in case I washed a wheel and dumped the bike. 

So I got through about 9 miles of this stuff and then the trail just went to shit as I left the canyon, turning into this narrow dbl track of pure sand along a broad expanse of wash. I did my best to fight through it for a bit, but finally in total exasperation I had to concede and begin walking. No gear, no matter how easy, were you going to ride a bicycle through this stuff - a motocross motorcycle, yes, and so to with an ATC, but not a bicycle. I needed a “FAT” tire bike, and even that I’m not sure would do the trick. I’d try to ride on occasion, but always with the same result - just spinning and falling and washing out the wheels, over and over. It was fruitless. I ended up walking about 2 miles of this stuff, with my feet just sinking in that sand as if I was hiking on a sand dune. 

When the trail finally left the wash for higher ground I could get back on the bike and pedal again, as the trail was a bit half and half dirt to sand, but I could only use my little cookie. Now this thing climbed for a bite, again with those short, steep, rocky, bouldery, ledgy climbs, such that I gained some elevation. At the top was this absolute maze of side trails that all looked like the main trail. Again, thanks to my gps, I was able to ascertain which of all those was EM927. The descent was as grueling as the climbing, but this time, instead of ending up down in a sandy wash, I ended up further descending in this slot canyon for a good 8 miles of circuitous riding, with 180-degree turns every quarter mile, like a snake coiled up, it just went on and on and on. There came to be a point where I wondered if I was off route, but that gps kept telling me I was on 927. Really this was not a road, but just a gravel and sand wash in a long slot canyon. The creek bed was the road. 

This thing finally went out of the slot and began climbing again onto the table top, but then with another long descent I ended up right back down in another slot,  shorter but another slot nonetheless. When this slot came to an end I was at a Y junction point in another sandy wash with zero signage. I could go straight, or turn right. Now I knew I’d have a right to take to get me back up to I-70 and to the van for support, and I knew it was called either I-70 Rd, or EM923, or who knows what the hell else? But again, my gps to the rescue where it registered as EM923. Thanks goodness, that was my right that I’d been thinking off way, way back in those slots. Had I had to go straight into another sandy wash I think I’d have lost my mind. What’s more I’d told Judy this could be a long segment, and it was turning into a REALLY long segment!

Took a R, north on 923 and climbed out of the wash on about a 6-mile gradual up, way back up to the interstate. By the time I got to the van I was just beat, and the sun was beginning to really make itself felt. Judy was wigged on how long it took….nearly 3.5 hrs for 27 miles! I sucked down Powerade and water, ate a peach and some muffins and had some fresh watermelon that Judy had sliced up and put in the cooler for me. Had to empty about a half cup of sand out of each shoe, and then brush off the socks. Ok, the big question was this: do I ride back down 923 to that wash, which is called Willow Springs Wash Rd, again, still part of EM927, and continue on that for 30 more miles to that segment’s end point, OR do I concede to the sand riding, puss out, get my skirt out of the spokes, and ride the berm along I-70 for 13 miles to that very same end point, exit 91 along I-70? Judy was like, “are you kidding me, you should have ridden berm on that first section!” You see when she dropped me off earlier at that first segment’s start, she was 8 miles from the exit point, and I was 27 miles. She thought I was nuts to go 27 when I could do 8. But the stoic A-hole that I am, I wanted to try to stick to the route today, especially since it was the last two segments before an easier day. But after that fight down there in the wash for 8-9 miles with sand hiking, I was really thinking that the berm was an excellent alternative, cuz that next section was going to take a good 4-4.5 hrs if I chose it.

Nope, you don’t have to beat me in the head with a club to get it on this call. I decided to do the 13 miles of gravel berm along I-70. So we got going, with Judy just bloody elated that I came to my senses for a change, and I got rolling on this ugly ass angled gravel berm. And I do mean ugly. Hell, there was an asphalt berm a lane wide, and there I am riding in the gravel and weeds? The temps by then were in the 90’s, and be darned if I didn’t have this long, long climb. No, this wasn’t the punchy little steep rocky stuff, this was just a gravel grinder for 10 miles at a 3-5% grade, and sometimes 7-9%. Couple that with these damned flies biting me as I’m spinning away in the little ring and this was my FUN for the day. Let’s see….walking the bike in sand for miles, or gravel grinding on I-70 for 10 miles with flies biting?

Made exit 91 in about 1.5 hrs…for 14 miles. So Judy though this would be the end of the day, so we could get the heck out of the sun and into some AC. But I had one more section that would connect me with that long stretch of Frontage road to Salina, and this was just 5 miles along Rt 72 and Rt 76, both of which are asphalt. I was hoping against hope that there was some good berm to ride here - better than that on I-70. Now this section was no choice. It was THE only way to connect onto that gravel Frontage Rd. 

So Judy bucked up for the last 5, and we both went R, west on Rt 72. Now these two roads are in what is called “Open Range” territory, where the cows can just walk across the road and go from one mt side to the next. No cattle grates here. To my delight I found that there was this single track, cattle trail that anastomosed from one side of the road to the other in the gravel and dirt - a bloody single track cow trail! Man I was on that pup with delight, cow crap or not, it was totally like riding single track. Thank you Elsie! I couldn’t go fast because a lot of this was slightly up, but I could ride it at like 6-8 mph. I made exit 86 in about 45 min and that was the day. My Frontage road was just on the south side of I-70. Ended up with 43 miles total for the day, with 1K in elevation gain in the first segment and about 2K of elevation gain in the second and third segment - most of this coming from that 10-mile climb. Finished just before 2 PM, with the heat just blazing. 

We did this 30 mile descent down I-70 to Salina, as we watched my Frontage road wind down the mt going under the interstate at least 10 times from south side to north side. Only trouble is that this gravel road does NOT all go down like the interstate. In some places it goes up over ridges and mesas, so my ride tomorrow is not a cake walk, BUT it will be way easier than anything I’ve done in the last 5 days. 

Got a Super 8, did the Groundhog day routine post-ride and here we sit with a movie on and the AC blowing on high. Got to be nearly 100 out there right now. Heck, I hand wash my kit, hang it on the van and it’s bone dry in 40 min! That’s no BS. Well, as the routine goes, I think it’s just about time for that beer or two. Late…….