Mar drove me and my bike from St George to Mesquite, and I then hitched a lift back to Las Vegas. I wanted to get a head start on the weather, and I wasn’t keen on cycling again the I-15, the most direct route. I was looking forward to get to the Death Valley and its pleasant temperatures.
I was expecting to stand on the side of the road at a truck stop for ages, and was thinking I’d try to hitchhike maybe for a couple hours and then start cycling to a camp as it would have made it difficult for me otherwise to make it to a place to sleep before dark -that section of highway being long, bare, and exposed to the wind-.
Turned out, I got very lucky and managed to get a lift within 20 minutes. A very kind man in his fifties, Ted, with a golf cap and a golf cart in the back of his truck, stopped. The first thing he said was “I never take hitchhikers, but your bicycle intrigued me”. After explaining I just wanted to get to Las Vegas, we found a place for my bicycle by his golf cart.
A relatively short post as this only covers a few days of climbing in St George and around, but it would have been a shame not to give my adventures in St George its own post to do justice to the beauty of the area around the city.
Past Mesquite, splendid views where intensified by the snow which had just capped the mountains in the distance (this is why I wasn’t coming from the other side after all !).
After the caverns the wind started to blow strongly against us and we fought our way through to a camp, perhaps just 25 kilometers (16 miles) from the caverns. The tent howled all night under the wind. The following morning it looked at first like the wind had changed direction and we had a very strong tailwind for 6 miles. Alas, it gradually shifted again and we struggled to keep our bikes straight as the now side wind was sending us to the centre of the road. Then we took a slight turn, and by the time we made it to the State line into Texas we had a full frontal headwind, complete with rain and hail. We were super cold.
About 10 miles after the above picture was taken we made it to a rest stop. Ian started talked to someone and she offered me a lift to El Paso. I had 2 minutes to take a decision. I didn’t like the idea not to cycle to El Paso as planned, but strong, violent, winds were forecasted for a while apparently and there was nothing between there and El Paso, which would have been a 3 days ride for me had everything been fine. Picturing my tent getting slammed by the wind, I caved in as I did want to try and keep it alive until the end of the trip, even if it was approaching. By now I had booked ticket planes to France and decided to loop back to Los Angeles in the next month and a half.
From Santa Fe we took the Railrunner to Belen. The cheap city train, in addition to make “beep beep” sounds as the cartoon’s roadrunner, was great as we could just shove our bicycles on board and miss some of the busy traffic out of Santa Fe. Our plan was to follow a bikepacking trail –“Apaches, conquistadores and a bomb”– in Southwest/Central New Mexico.
This post could also be entitled: How not to cyclotour in the States or which areas not to be biking in in the States in the fall!
It doesn’t describe the mistakes we did doing the Great Divide, because, well, as you’ll discover shortly we didn’t cycle much of the Great Divide Mountain Bike route at all… but narrates certain mistakes in the planning, what happen when you cycle against the weather in the West US, and also what we discovered along our unplanned route !
A post covering a shorter period than usual and focusing on tips to cycle through Yellowstone area. If you are just looking for inspiration, there is still a bunch of pictures.
Best time to go:
Our experience was good as we went at the end of the season, which means there were significantly fewer people than usual. Enough people still to have most campgrounds almost full. It’s recommended to go to Yellowstone before Memorial Day (end of May) or after Labor Day (early September). In between, the summer season is really busy and I’d imagine you’d have a significantly different experience. It’s also most likely you’ll be potentially annoyed by forest fires in the area. The only trick with going there before the end of May or after early September is you’ll have to watch out for sudden weather changes, and you definitely don’t want to be caught in the snow, so the ideal window is actually quite limited. Continue reading “Cycling through Yellowstone and Grand Teton”
….Or else that’s what you get when you reverse what’s written on most Idaho license plates.
If you’d asked me what I knew about Idaho before that trip, I would have probably told you my mind was going blank. I knew this was the name of a US state, but I didn’t know anything about it, except that they seemed to have a lots of potatoes. Both Ian and I did hear slightly about it on the bicycle scene before we got there, and did some research before we booked our plane tickets to Boise, but we got really pleasantly surprised when we got to Boise and beyond.
It felt strange to be in the US again after a short flight, we could definitely sense somehow that the atmosphere was quite different in Boise than in Calgary, not in better or worse, but just different. We were looking forward to explore.
In Boise, we stayed with Warmshowers hosts Patrick and Rachel- who are very active in the local bicycle scene, and themselves have done A LOT of cyclotouring so we had a lot of interesting travel-related conversations. We had a great time with them and they gave us so much information about cycling in Idaho and Yellowstone, and among other things showed us the amazing Bicycle Project. At the Bicycle Project (https://www.boisebicycleproject.org/) you can find pretty much any bicycle part second-hand, but barely used, for a fraction of the initial price, get some help fixing your bike, and locals can also get credits towards parts/building a bike by volunteering there.
A Vipassana retreat is hard. Rules are quite strict for the duration of the course. No speaking, no access to your phone, no communication, gender segregation, no sexual activity, no physical exercise whatsoever except walking laps in the courtyard of the foundation, and not even access to any kind of reading material. The idea is to stay clear of any kind of distraction to focus the mind on meditation. While some rules were easy enough for me, I was expecting the no reading material to be the hardest. Turned out, after a few days what I was really craving for was physical exercise, like at least pull-ups or gym. But I did complete the course, though I still found it was difficult to concentrate even at the end.
All you do for 10 days is meditate following a Buddhist technique, punctuated by breakfast and lunch breaks (no dinner, it’s only a snack around 5pm). Meals provided are vegetarian, and it was generally easy enough for me to look for vegan and gluten-free options in what they served. My main interest in following this course was to try to learn to meditate in the best way possible, and I was also interested to see how I would feel after one week without having my mind distracted by any else than my own thoughts. I’m definitely glad I was able to have that experience, even though I found it pretty hard. Everyone has their own experience, and there is a lot to say about Vipassana, so if you are interested, check out this: https://www.dhamma.org/en-US/index .
After Vipassana, I ended back in Calgary. Want to know how?
Leaving Vancouver I cycled to Horseshoe Bay again where I followed the Sea to Sky highway. Brendan had warned me that it could get quite busy and the noise of the cars could be quite overwhelming. I played music on my phone, but unfortunately without earbuds it was completely covered by the noise. At last I was excited to get to Squamish at the end of the day- which had been in my mind for a while.