Every night when I lay down to write about the day, I never know where to begin. We do basically the same thing every day, but there are so many emotions and landscapes that pass that it's difficult to accurately describe how the day has been.
In an effort to avoid the 100 degree temperatures, we woke at 1 a.m. this morning (after 4 hours of fitful sleep in 90 degree temperatures) and left the recreation area at 2 with our headlights, taillights, and headlamps illuminating the way. As with any nighttime setting, the sounds of our rotating chains and our tires on the pavement were amplified by the stillness of the darkness. The moon was a few days from full so the mountains and canyons were shadows in the faint light.
We had 78 miles to ride, with no services or water for 75 miles. The first 44 miles were gradually uphill and, just our luck, we were greeted with a headwind right off the bat. It wasn't terribly strong but it was enough to wear us out and slow us down to 5-6mph! I was so sleepy that I was nodding off on my bike! My eyes were heavy and I had to make a conscious effort to keep them open. We took a break a little before 5--a perfect spot with a rock slab backrest--and closed our eyes for a few minutes of rest. Then it was back to work, and as dawn unfolded it became clear that this would be a very long day. We had discussions about whether we would make it to town, or if we would have to ride off route to get water and camp with the little food that we had left.
The climb took us 10 hours and we stopped for lunch a couple of miles from the top, at the road that leads to the Natural Bridges National Monument visitor center. It was the perfect opportunity for "yogi-ing" (a term used on the Appalachian Trail for strategically getting food, drink, or a ride from a stranger) from the tourists leaving the park. Seth stopped two cars and scored 2 bottles of cold water and a little bag of ice. If you have ever drank hot water while exercising, you can understand that there is no shame in asking strangers for a cold drink!
We had about 12 miles of downhill after we reached the summit, the only down for the day, and it was so relaxing that again I thought that I would fall asleep on my bicycle! Seth was ahead of me and had stopped to talk to a cyclist heading the opposite direction, so I used the opportunity to take a break to wake myself up! We lost about 3000 feet of elevation and it was scorching hot when we reached the bottom, but thankfully the wind had subsided. On the first of three steep climbs, I passed George who had stopped to talk to a couple of motorcyclists from the Czech Republic. They were impressed by our adventure and took pictures of Seth and me as we rode by.
The next climb was longer and I was feeling the direct heat of the afternoon sun. I was sipping my hot (and foul-tasting) water from the bathroom sink at the recreation area when I noticed some clouds in the distance and heard a few rumbles of thunder. I silently prayed for the sun to slip behind those clouds. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, I stopped to take a break with Josh and Seth and the clouds enveloped the sun and dropped a few sprinkles. It felt like the temperature had dropped 20 degrees! I had hope that I would be able to finish the climb, and if that wasn't enough, here came the two Czech motorcyclists riding back toward us. They stopped and pulled out 4 ice cold Gatorades and a gallon of cold water!! It was incredible! I cannot describe how appreciative we were of their kindness! I drank so much I felt sick but I knew that I would make the next 14 miles.
We all arrived at the gas station 3 miles from town and stopped for a quick snack and cold drinks, and then finished our ride into Blanding, Utah for a total of 17 hours on our bikes! We checked into a hotel and unanimously agreed to take a day of rest tomorrow. We devoured pizza and ice cream for dinner and are ready to crash after this long, long day!