Day 9: Through Moab, Storms, and Monticello

Another early morning to make sure we can cover the 100 mile day in time for me to make it to Monticello early enough to attend a session. After sleeping in the cool mountains of Colorado, getting to sleep in the desert land of Moab was kind of rough. To make matters worse, our campsite was surrounded by this wooden fence and canopy thing. I’m sure this is great for shade during the day, but I felt like it created a sort of heat trap for us at night. Thankfully we were still able to manage to snag a few hours of sleep.

As we were getting ready for the day I notice how putting on my biking clothes was starting to almost feel like a daily ritual, like I was suiting up or putting on my daily armor (armor that would only really protect my head), preparing for the challenging day ahead. Everything I put on had a purpose, the biking specific shorts to help me keep going efficiently, the helmet to keep me safe. Even my shirt, a hand-me-down from my younger brother who is currently serving as a missionary in Hong Kong, was significant. Many members of my family participated in or supported me during the pilgrimage. I wore this old, bright orange Hawaiian shirt as a way to kind of bring him on the journey as well, so that my whole family could be a part of it in some way. This ritual became how I prepared mentally for the miles of biking, mapping the route in my head, thinking about things I had learned so far, wondering what lessons would be learned today. And of course, after suiting up, and before embarking on the day’s ride, mom and I would pray.

Mom dropped me off at our check point from last night as the sun was rising but still climbing up the backside of the canyon walls, and went back into town to run a couple of errands. The ride was absolutely gorgeous. I had the road almost entirely to myself as I approached Moab until I hopped onto a PROTECTED BIKE LANE. Oh my goodness. I love that bike path. Well maintained, scenic, and safe. For every city that has bike paths, I salute you! The bike lane took me into the northern part of the city of Moab where I was forced to hop back on the main road. The ride back to the campground through town was chill. I did accidentally run a red light but don’t worry, nothing happened. Still chill.

I arrived back at camp and was surprised to find our campsite empty and my madre nowhere in sight. Turns out that she had moved our stuff to a not-heat-trapped campsite in the same campgrounds, and left to buy me some biking gloves and chamois butter (helps with the bike shorts and tiny, uncomfortable seat). She was pleasantly surprised when I called her, thinking that it would have taken me longer. Guys, I know I say this in every post but my mom has got to be the coolest mom of all the moms. Also, it feels really cool when you bike faster than people expect. Reunited once more, I got a bit of breakfast, put on (and applied) these new bits of my bike armor, and set off on the long road to Monticello.

I didn’t bother much with too much research on Google maps for this leg of the trip. The only road to Monticello from Moab was a straight shot south down Highway 191. Mom gave me a bit of a head start. By the time I was getting pretty much out of the city she came up behind me and we started our system of her tailing me with flashers while I biked so cars would know to stay clear of the silly biker on the road. The road out of Moab, whether you’re coming from the north or the south requires a decent climb. For some reason, I recalled the Google map plot the ride from Moab to Monticello having a climb at the beginning and then being flat or slightly downhill with a few little climbs the rest of the way.

I was very wrong in this supposed recollection.

I made the climb, still pretty energized from breakfast, my new gloves, and how fast I had done the first leg of the day. I got to the top of the first climb of the day and bombed the downhill, somewhat perplexed by magnitude the next incline up ahead. As I biked, another issue was becoming more and more apparent. Almost as soon as we got out of civilized Moab and subsequent Spanish Valley, the highway shrank significantly. The highway became a two lane road, one going north, one going south. Additionally, the further we went, the narrower the lanes seemed to get. And then there’s the shoulder. Well, I guess a more accurate way of saying it would be, “And then there was not a shoulder.” With semi-trucks and over-zealous, impatient tourists whizzing around mom to get around me to get wherever they were going, with apparent reckless disregard for oncoming traffic in the lane they were momentarily merging into, we realized that it was more dangerous for all vehicles on the road to have mom tailing me (taking up half of the lane) to keep me safe, than to just have me biking, hoping that the vehicles wouldn’t pass to close as I traced the white line of the lane with my tires. We used the checkpoint system, meeting up in areas where she could turn off while i biked on, unshielded.

We passed by landmarks I had never heard of like “Hole in the Wall” and Wilson’s Arch. Physically exhausted, and mentally determined to make it to the temple on time, I didn’t take anytime to explore these spots. While resting for a bit a Wilson Arch, Mom asked me if I wanted climb up to take a picture there.

“Absolutely not,” I promptly replied, slightly surprising my mom and myself. If you have ever adventured with me, you know that this is a peculiar incident indeed. Usually I pride myself in my eagerness to scamper up to picturesque spots. This pilgrimage, however, was not like my usual adventures. This was next-level adventure for me, with next-level tiredness tagging along with it.

The uphills never ceased. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely accurate. The up-downs never ceased. It felt like I was repeatedly facing steep inclines, followed by gently sloped downhills, none of which felt long enough. I lost count of how many ridges I went over. As I looked forward toward yet another climb, I saw lightning flash atop a ridge to come in the middle of a grey, ominous storm. I pulled over at the next checkpoint where my mom was parked on the side of the road for a bit of a break.

“So there’s a lightning storm ahead,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Yup. You need me to fill up your water?” Mom replied, with actual nonchalance.

“Ummmm…yeah that’d be great.”

Apparently my mom, who only yesterday before managed to exasperatedly explain her way out of a ticket because of her great love and concern for me on a major interstate, was completely unphased by me biking up and down another summit through rain and lightning. Trying to figure out whether I was happy or not with this lack of concern. I hopped back on the bike and rode into the storm. Maybe saying storm make it sound more dramatic than it actually was. All I know is the road was wet, my bike was wet, and my butt was wet. Lightning flashed multiple times around me on the summit of the ridge, and the only thing on my mind on the downhill was making sure my wet road bike tires didn’t slip on the wet asphalt. Alas, no slippage.

We finally got to Monticello with time sufficient to change, chill and snack. The Monticello Temple was adorably tiny, and apparently the place to be on a Thursday night for what must have been the entire population of the town. That whole city was tiny. It almost felt like the Subway/gas station I changed at was the hip and happening center of the town. While in the temple I was again overwhelmed with so many uplifting thoughts and feeling throughout my time inside. I thought about how important it was that we take responsibility for our own lives and our own actions, making sure we make decisions because we know for ourselves that they are the right things to do. I thought about my mom, and the hard decisions that she had to make over the course of her life. I’m grateful she had the courage to make those decisions, not just for her sake, but to make sure she could give us, her kids, the best life possible. I am grateful that I made the decision to come on this journey, and for all of the things I was able to accomplish and learn. I feel like a lot of people, sadly, make many of their decisions based on things that they have been told are right over the course of their lives. In other words, I fear that many people aren’t making their own decisions, and therefore might feel like their not living their own lives, but are floating through a life that is fed to them. I know that I have had a lot of major events and decisions in my life sort of just fall into my lap, but I hope that as I continue on, I can prove to be one of the independent, trusting my gut and doing what I feel God and I feel is best for me.

After finishing in the temple, I felt unexpectedly refreshed and rejuvenated, eager to bike as much as possible. I biked back the way I came until the sun began to set, finally stopping at Church Rock about 13.5 miles from the temple. This landmark would serve as our checkpoint for tomorrow morning. We packed up in the car, and mom and I discussed the thought I had had in the temple, about her, about me, and about the many big decision we’ve both made and will be making. Grateful to have made it back to camp, with a spot not shoved in a little heat-trap-box, we readied for bed, and another long day to come.

Daily Stats:

  • Miles Biked: 92.63

  • Running Total: 706.84

  • Temples Visited: 1

  • Running Total: 14

  • Ordinances Performed: 1 (Endowment)

  • Lightning Storms: 1

  • Landmarks Passed (but sadly, not explored): 3 that I can remember

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