Tuesday, July 28: Well, I’d commented that in yesterday’s blog that today could likely be a bit of a grunt, grind, thrash, and pain-fest. It was definitely a grunt, it was absolutely a grind, and it was definitely  bit of a pain-fest. This was a TOUGH day. And having been putting this together for the better part of three days I pretty much knew it would be this way. Now what I don’t do sometimes, and maybe I’m wrong in doing this, is tell Judy just how hard/nasty/gnarly/dangerous the segment it. She worries too much in my opinion, and I’m ok with that, but her idea of a bad track and my idea of a bad track are really way, way off from one another, and we both know that. So if I open my big mouth and tell her I’m in for an ass kicking for a segment, or that it’s a dangerous or technical segment, she immediately puts on the worry-wart face. So I usually tell her the difficulty thing once a segment is over. That was the case for this one. I’m usually pretty silent before hand if the segment is serious. Again, that was the case for this one. 

So, with that in mind, I worked longer yesterday so I could get up early this morning and really be ready to ride, like on the bike, at 7:30, this to get done early and not have to riding in the heat on the west side of this mountain range. So we were up at 5:15, did the coffee thing, and I ate my leftovers from last night’s dinner at this wonderful little Mexican restaurant. We checked out and were on the road before 7. Problem was that as I was going through gear on the way to yesterday’s end point, I wasn’t watching the road and Judy ended up making a wrong turn. I didn’t catch it until we were 12 miles from Richfield, about 15 miles in the wrong direction. This one was on me obviously because I’m the map/navigation guy. So right from he get-go I lost a bit of early start time. 

So instead of getting on the bike at 7:30 I was on the bike at the junction of the Paiute OHV trail and FR102, I was on the bike just before 8. Got going on this climb on FR102, 2 miles up from the start, which I descended yesterday to meet back up with Judy, and I was in the middle ring and hurting because that’s just not the way to start the day - climbing as the gun goes off! The first 2 miles were still just climbing up the foothills through scrub pine, sage brush and high desert. Things got real at the Willow Creek junction area, that’s where the road did a hard 180 switchback and really shot up in the gradient. Went from the middle ring to the little ring in the switchback, and did not shift out of that for the next 2 hrs!

This wasn’t the nasty, rocky, ledgy stuff I’d done in the canyons. It was true gravel/rock/dirt single lane road, but it was pretty steep and consistent, like about a 10-12% grade with maybe like +1-2 more percent on the switchbacks. Most of the time I was in the absolute easiest gear I had. I just tried to get as comfortable as possible and not torch myself by getting on some kind of testosterone mindset. At times I’d shift down 2 gears so I could go out of the saddle and stretch out my hammies. When I was about 40 min into this thing I heard the roaring of trucks below me, and I kind of figured it was time for the off-road truck crowd to begin coming through, but to my surprise it was a train of Forest Service and BLM folks who were fighting a fire up in the mts. Had to be at least 10-12 trucks go by me in the span of 15 minutes. 

Judy and I had seen this fire on Sunday from our motel room window in Salina as it was really billowing a lot of smoke. By Monday it was still smoking, but much, much less than on Sunday. And it still was emitting some smoke today as I started the ride. This got me a bit concerned about getting to the top of the mt and then running into a road block on the roads because of a forest fire. That was a very real possibility, which it kind of had lurking in the back of my mind all the way up that mt. What the hell would I do if I couldn’t descend down to Filmore?

This FR102 just went on for what seemed like forever. I’d think I’d see the notch that this thing may be going through to get me to the top, and then it was just a false pass and I’d keep climbing. This must have happened 5-6 times. It was just relentless. Once I was about 1:30 hrs into the climb, and I was still clean (hadn’t dismounted the bike to rest or walk) I was determined to do this whole damned thing clean. “Ride clean or Pie out,” was going through my warped mind. 

By this time I was well into the mts and way, way out of the high plateau desert terrain. The mountain sides were just covered in pine trees and there was Willow Creek at my left side gurgling away. The temp had gone down to a very comfortable low 70’s and there was a light breeze. Sky was cloudless and deep blue. This was just fabulous despite the unrelenting climb. No worries about storms blowing in, and no constant ATC traffic. After those Forest Service vehicles it was just me out there listening to my breathing and watching my lines in the loose gravel. 

Now I though by the time I came to the first important junction, FR96, that’ I’d have topped out, but that was not the case. I made the L onto 96 and continued to climb on this ridge line. I did stop at that junction to take a few pics, especially to the easy where Salina and Aurora were located. I mean it looked as if I’d ridden 40 miles. That desert area looked so far off. Got rolling again up this ridge line for another 2 miles, and finally, finally topped out just before the next junction. At this point I was 10.5 miles into the ride, and I’d gained just over 4K in elevation. Took the next junction onto FR100, Chalk Creek Rd, and this kind of rolled up and down on a ridge line as did FR96. This section was just like riding on softball sized ballbearings. I mean it was just treacherous, and my mantra of  “Ride clean or Pie out” became ever more important as I hunkered down on the bars and tried to use just my legs while not pulling up on the bars as I did these little kicker climbs as the road rolled up and down. 

Finally this thing began to look like it was going down, and that’s where I saw a sign that read: “Filmore 20 miles”. “Twenty miles,” I thought, “that’s one HELL of a descent!” It started pretty mellow, at a sane gradient down through this cattle area way the hell up there in the mts at over nine thousand feet. But it soon started kicking down at steeper and steeper gradients. I’d hit sections of really, really loose gravel and cobbles, that I’d just try to float through with no brakes so as to not dump it with a wheel wash, and then I’d try to hit a line with little to no gravel where I’d feather the brakes a bit. It really wasn’t that simple, as I’m just trying to generalize. Each chunk of switchback presented its own set of logistics. Some were smooth, some totally choked with gravel and cobbles, and some contained both. 

I couldn’t even guess how many switchbacks were on this descent. Look at it on google earth and you can count (that’s FR100 to Filmore)! But by half way my hands were really starting to go numb. I’d unclip the inside foot on the switchbacks because these things were just swimming in loose rock and gravel, so if I were to slide in those tight turns it I could dab out and save myself from washing a wheel and dumping me and the bike. Did this countless times with all those steep, gravely switchbacks. After the half way point, this thing really got steep and exposed. At that point it’s a road-cut in rock with expose on the outside that’s as little as 50-100 feet, or as extreme as 300-500 feet. I mean this thing was just a beast in places. I’d try to ride the best line, with the least loose gravel, and unfortunately sometimes that line lay on the exposed outside part of the road. I had been shooting this on my Hero4 hemet cam, and several times I thought about NOT becoming one of those knuckleheads on Youtube whose video of him/her ends as the rider goes off the road, into the air, and into the trees, and ends with the video just bleeping out suddenly in a flash of fuzz.

I could gaze down this canyon and see the road switchbacking deeper and deeper down, a thousand feet or so, without any end in sight. This was just amazing. Once I got to this area that warned of the 4WD road up ahead, where I’d just descended, the road really got much better, and the gradient calmed down. This is where I took a break, shook out the hands, and turned off the video, which had been recording for a whopping 45 min. This was at the Pistol Rock picnic/camping area. So from here on the road is drivable on most higher clearance vehicles, and there are several camping/picnic areas. 

Kept descending though, for another several miles to the junction with Chalk Canyon Rd. Now the road I had descended on, FR100 this splits into New Chalk Canyon Rd and Chalk Canyon Rd. When I’d giving Judy my route itinerary I’d written that I’d be on New Chalk Canyon Rd. But when I got to this junction I was stunned to see that New Chalk went up, and Chalk just continued down along the creek. At that point I really, REALLY did not want to climb again. But the nagging thing in my head, “what if Judy get’s worried and drives down New Chalk looking for me?” I had no cell service at this point to tell her that I would be coming out a different road. Had to bite the bullet and do that freaking climb up New Chalk. I knew it would eventually descend again, but any more climbing was just not in my mindset by then. 

The climb was steep and slow, with me again in the easiest gear I had. Had to be a good 2 miles long before it actually flattened out a bit. And right around then I heard the phone ringing. It was Judy, worried as hell since I’d told her the segment would take 3-4 hrs, and I was at 4:15 hrs. Told her to just hang tight…I was ok…I wasn’t lying at the bottom of the canyon unconscious…and that I was within several miles of where she was at. The road went back to the descending mode and I had a flyer on some very good gravel for the next couple of miles. Met Judy at the van with 28 miles in for the day, with nearly 4.6K of climbing in 4.5 hrs of riding. Filmore was still another 3 miles up the road, but I was good with the end point for the day. I still have to work on getting myself from this end point back to my original route which is west of Filmore. I’ll do that work tonight. 

I was done, tired, sore, hungry and parched. We drove into town and I treated Judy to a Best Western just outside of Filmore. Right now she’s lounging in the pool area as I write this. Feels Great to have done my last stint of mountain climbing/descending for this summer’s trip. The next three days should be on the high plateau desert area as we work north towards I-80 and the NV border. I think I’m on the way to a nice cold Fosters Lager Oil Can right now. I’m out!!!!!