Today was full of geographic and mental ups and downs. It was 49 degrees this morning so we slept in a bit and then Josh mentioned "diner" and the race was on to pack up and be the first at the diner. We said goodbye to the ACA folks as this is probably the last time we will see them (they were doing a short day today and are taking tomorrow off). Josh, Seth, and I were the first to the diner and George met us a little later. I had three cups of coffee, eggs, hash browns, bacon, and toast, and then I finished Seth's toast. I am thoroughly enjoying the biker appetite!
I felt pretty good as we rode out of Panguitch at 9, but after a few miles I felt like I had no energy...the big breakfast and the big day yesterday were slowing me down. We rode through beautiful Red Canyon, with red rock spires and tunnels, but I struggled as we made our first climb for the day. Downhill does wonders for my attitude and I felt great as we descended into Bryce Canyon National Park amidst the red, tan, and white rock formations.
We stopped and ate lunch in a park in Tropic, the town at the bottom. Then it was back uphill for a 1500 foot climb through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It was incredibly beautiful (I am loving the scenery in Utah) but as I neared the top I felt like my legs were in mud! We had a 12% grade for the last mile or so and I was pushing and pulling my pedals, feeling like I was going nowhere. Somehow I made it to the top and was rewarded with an amazing view of the "upper staircase" of the monument and the valley below. George was ahead of me but Josh and Seth showed up a few minutes later and we began the 16 mile downhill after taking some pictures at the summit.
We are staying in Escalante tonight at the outfitter's campground. George and Josh are splitting a cabin but Seth and I are tenting...they give cyclists a deal: showers, rest rooms, trash cans, a tent site, and water access for $5!
Today was unexpectedly hard for me and I am exhausted tonight! I need a good night's sleep to get me up the mountain tomorrow!