Day 31: Bicknell to Manti UT: 93 miles with 2400 of climbing
If you had asked me if I'd make Manti today while I was cranking up the hill west of Lao, I'd have said "No way!" Thanks to hills and headwinds I was averaging maybe six miles an hour for several hours. By the time I got to the summit, it was almost noon and I'd only ridden 20 miles! Then I got a good downhill, but no letup in the winds so, when the downhill was over, I was still only cranking along at 10 mph on the flat. Let see, 70 miles to go, I've been riding for three hours and it will take me seven more hours to get here. I'm not going to ride for ten hours today!
Well, things obviously improved since I did get here and with less than eight hours total ride time. There were two factors I didn't allow for: first there is a drop of almost 3000 feet from the highest point on my ride today to my destination, and, second, although the winds kept up during most of the ride, the wind direction was different when I got out into the big valley.
Loa with LDS church and irrigation water spray
I left Bicknell after a good breakfast( pancakes) at about 8:40 AM. By 9:20 I was approaching Loa again. The hills behind Loa looked pretty big. I stopped in Loa at the grocery store to stock up for the next forty miles of riding with no services. I got bagels, apple sauce in cups, and two payday candy bars (they don't melt in the heat). I also bought a quart of gatorade and put two liters of water in one of my Platypus water tanks. It took a little time for me to sort out balancing the load of the gatorade and extra water, but I ended up with the water tank in my right front pannier and the gatorade bottle on the left side of my rear rack. Then I headed west out of Loa
It really isn't uphill for fifty miles on UT 24, but it feels like it. The actual climb out of town occurs in steps, unfortunately with valley in between the later step, with no more than a few hundred feet of climbing in half a mile in each step. Cumulatively it adds up to more than 1500 feet of climbing in the next ten miles. Combined with a good headwind, as I experienced it, it feels like twice that much climbing.
One more valley, several more hills...
The day was cloudy and that, combined with the wind, meant that I wasn't overheating on the climbs. I was just slow. I stopped after two hours of riding, including the riding from Bicknell, to rest and eat a snack. It really took me, not counting that rest time, over an hour and a half to do the climb. Going down the other side was OK, but the headwind kept me from going very fast, even on the section that was marked at 8% grade. Shortly after that section, which is between the road to Fish Lake and the road to Koosharem, I stopped at a very nice rest stop, the only one I saw today. I mentioned the wind to a fellow who was working there and he said "Yep, it starts around ten or so and blows till evening, pretty much every day."
Note the blurring of the road in the bottom of the frame taken at 30 mph or so
I rode on down the valley into the wind for five miles or so, then the road turned west and another climb started. I stopped again to rest, eat, and refill my water bottles from my water tank. Then I rode on up the hill into the wind wondering how much longer I was going to be riding at four to six mph. That climb was only three or four hundred feet vertical, so when the road headed back down I thought it would only go down a similar amount. At this point I had ridden about forty miles in about four hours. I had another ten miles to go to reach Sigurd (strange name!) where there were services. I was figuring on at least another hour of riding. Well, that downhill just kept going, all the way to Sigurd. The wind was blowing up the hill for most of the ten miles, and very strongly for the last half mile, and my biggest problem was that my eyes were getting dried out by the constant 30 mph plus airflow over my face.
Once I made it into Sigurd, about half an hour after the start of that long downhill, I stopped for lunch at Dave's Trading Post. Sigurd isn't much, but lunch was quite good. It was a pastrami and swiss on half rye - she only had the heel of a rye loaf - and onion rings with a large coke. I put that in for Dick Boyd who just mentioned in an email that he missed my food fixation of last year. Dick, I agree - touring is eating! Having eaten well and throughly enjoyed it, I headed on toward Salina.
It was around 2 PM when I stopped to eat. I had come fifty miles and I had another forty five miles to ride. The wind in Sigurd was blowing from the west-southwest and UT 24 heads north, then joins UT 89 and heads northwest so now the wind was my friend. I was cruising at 15 to 18 mph and suddenly Manti didn't seem so far away. I rode on to Gunninson, where UT 24 ends, stopped for a snack, and then rode UT 89 to Manti.
Most of the towns I have ridden through in Utah have not been very attractive. Manti is quite a pretty town, one of the oldest in Utah, and it is dominated by a Temple. Towns in Utah have reminded me in one way of towns in northern Quebec: they are dominated by the church which often seems outsized compared to every thing else. Of course in Quebec the church is Catholic and here the church is LDS, but the effect is similar. Manti has carried this to an extreme, but one that is often found in Catholic towns. Here is a photo of the town from a few miles away:
Those white towers are the temple, the smaller stuff below them is Manti which is actually a pretty good sized town. Here are end and side views of the temple.
Wow! And this was built from local materials using local, unpaid, labor in the mid to late 1800s. I'm impressed.