The Last of the Desert

We rose before light.

The Needles Canyon overlook was only 16 miles away into the recreation area we were camping in, so biking there with no gear was pretty much a breeze. 16 miles! Thats only the legnth of the St. Marks trail! However, we still didn’t arrive at sunrise, which would have made for the best photo ops, but the canyon was pretty impressive anyway.

I’ve definitely never seen a canyon before. It was about an 8 on the Epic-Shit-o-Meter.

Clearly, I had to spit off the edge.

The desert is hard, though. It’s the sun that gets you! It’s so bright! So even though the 36 mile ride to and from the canyon was relatively easy, by the time we got back to our campsite to pack up the sun was really bearing down. We powered on though. In fact, we powered on through a region that was designated on the map as “Dry Valley”.

That shit was dry! And hot! We still had plenty of water, and the only incident was when I was trying to draft off of Travis, so I was about a foot away from his back wheel when he came across a Pygmy rattlesnake in the road. He braked quickly, and I ran into his back tire and swerved into the road. I’m still not used to riding clipped in to the pedals, but miraculously I righted myself before I fell on the shoulder, imminent victim to a passing semi or the deadly venomous rattler. PHEW!

We only had 26 miles of highway riding before we got to the next sign of civilization. But fuck if that weren’t a 26 mile trial. Mile markers were passing verrrrry slowly. And of course there was our first mountain climb before we came to the town of Monticello.

My friend Katie Harris and her partner Aaron go on bike tours almost every summer. They’re farmers too, and annually they take off a month in the high summer season to bike somewhere for a month. Katie gave me some sound advice before this trip— namely, DON’T wear underwear with your bike shorts, and the first three days of the bike tour are the hardest. Well Katie, this was day three and it has definitely been the hardest.

By the time we got to the climb outside of Monticello, we had already been riding for 52 miles. Our legs were jelly. Then we had to climb this goddamned mountain (ok it turned out to be a Mesa but it was next mountains and still 1000 or so feet tall). Can you believe we made it? We really did. And it was terrible.

We ate overpriced burgers at the hippie restaurant in Monticello and it was awesome. Then we hit up the RV park and took showers, and it was awesome. Old people at RV parks know what’s up— they are a Mecca for little dogs. Little dogs are the bomb. Easy to walk, don’t eat that much, little poops. There were so many great little dogs.

Now, some observations about Utah.

First, beer.

In Utah the alcohol content in beer is limited to 3.2%. WUT? So there are these Utah breweries brewing shitty beer with terribly low alcohol levels. It’s bullshit. And they taste bad. What the fuck, Utah? You’re right next to Colorado, arguably the microbrew capital of the US! It’s all because of those Mormons!

Second, Mormons.

Organized religion is creepy enough. But Mormons! The only thing I know about Mormons is that Mitt Romney is one. That’s not true, I do know know more about Mormons— they don’t drink caffeine, they wear magical itchy woolen underwear, and according to PBS they love ballroom dancing. Only 2000 people live in Monticello, but I saw two Mormon churches and one temple. The checkout kid at the grocery store was wearing a shirt that said, “I’d rather be…Mormon!” There was absolutely no diversity there, which isn’t really surprising since its rural Utah, and the Mormon Bible says that all dark skinned people are the sons of Cain and destined for Hell. Oops. And I know I’m from the Bible Belt South, but it is decidedly different out here and you can feel it. In any case, I definitely wasn’t sad to leave Utah the next morning.