I’d had heard about Arizona’s Virgin River Gorge even before I knew it was bikeable. In fact I’d driven through it several times and had always been frustrated that driving concentration interfered with my scenery appreciation.
The Virgin River begins near St George, Utah in red rock country, carves a magnificant gorge through unpopulated northwestern Arizona and then flows peacefully into Nevaga’s Lake Mead near Mesquite. Interestate 15 traverses this route, and we biked it today. Our 1000th mile rolled under our wheels in the process.
But the gorge was the highlight. We were told at bike shops in both Cedar City and St George that it was a challanging ride. Minum shoulders, large trucks and a few sections with no shoulders at all. It only wheted our appetite.
Both the Virgin River and Interstate 15 leave Utah peacefully enough at 3000 feet elevation. Then the highway exploits what the river created, and together they twist and turn for 15 miles while losing 1500 feet of elevation. There isn’t a straight-line-mile in the whole affair.
As we crossed into Arizona the first bands of multi-hued sandstone were visible high obove the roadway. The river completed its work up there before modern timekeeping began. Soon we were banking right, then left, then right again. The feeling was similar to kayaking.
And the rocks, oh the rocks. Every color geology allows was represented above and around us and each turn brought a new one into view.
Most of time we could pedal and look, but there were three bridges with no shoulders at all. There we were biking on the white line that defined the edge of the freeway’s right lane. I prayed for good balance. Fortunately the speed limit was only 50mph, but still on those bridges I questioned our judgement.
Then the canyon expelled us, and it was over. But we still had our eight and ninth states and our thousandth-mile. It had been a hell of a day, and there would be steaks tonight.
And tomorrow Las Vegas, provided we can navigate 80 miles through a 90 degree day. And we have to, as the weather pattern is predicted to be constant, and there’s no hot showers or clean sheets anywher in between. Credit card camping does have its drawbacks.
To be continued.