Transcontinental Bike Trip Utah

The Longest Day

The morning desert was chilly. The clouds that had brought rain to us, and flash floods to southern Utah, had passed, and we were left with just a partial overcast. A sky full of LPF’s I called it (PG-13 definition: little puffy fellows.)

We had been thinking about today’s ride for the past few days. Fifty miles had been our previous longest day, and now we had not one, but three 60 milers in three days. And of course the first would be the ice-breaker. 

We started off by getting lost. Not really lost, just missing a turn which added more distance to our day’s budget. None-the-less, we were in good spirits. We took a break alongside a mile-plus string of coal cars on a siding and watched as the three engines moved constantly at perhaps one mile per hour allowing each coal car to pass under the dispensing chute just long enough to fill it. It was sort of like a production line, if the train went too fast, the cars wouldn’t fill, if it went too slow, they would overflow. When we first caught sight of the train it looked motionless. We watched this rolling ballet for perhaps fifteen minutes.

Later we passed a small grouping of buildings, one much taller than the others, and enjoyed a strange yet delicious aroma. Here we were under the looming massif of the Wassach Mountains, harvested fields to the other horizons, our olfactories were overwhelmed with an odor that was part distillery, part roasted corn. To us city-boys it would remain a mystery.

Back on our route, we passed under an on-ramp for Interstate 15. Readers of this blog will remember our love-hate relationship with interstate highways. On the one hand they promised an easier path, complete with mile-markers and well graded climbs. On the other they were verboten for bicycles.

But at this entrance there was only a “no pedestrians” sign. We’d talked to a friendly bicyclist at a fast food stop on Provo, who “thought” bikes were okay on Utah freeways. And here was proof. No longer would we be freeway-intruding-scofflaws. We were legit. Whoosh, and we were on.

Non-interstate-bikers may recoil with alarm as they visualize 10-15 mile an hour human-powered two wheelers next to 75 mph traffic. Well I’m here to tell you, wide shouldered interstates feel much safer than passage on narrow, hilly, two-lane roads in rural Pennsylvania with semi’s laden with gravel, coal and Walmart’s finest, whizzing past inches from my left elbow. 

Save for my sore ass (not just chaffed, but sore to the tailbone) our first 60-miler came and went. I was soaking in the jacuzzi by 6:30 pm.

To be continued.

Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Bill Zarchy
13 years ago

John, The odd smell you describe sounds like the aroma of a nearby corn plant. I spent a week shooting in Decatur, Illinois this summer at a major food processing company, and the massive corn plant there, which turns feed-grade corn into corn syrup, corn oil, and other products, smells just like that — kind of a slightly sickly, sweet corn-bourbon smell. You can smell it from quarter mile away.