Day 15: Through Mountain Pass to Cedar City
We woke up at 6 something I think, and groggily loaded up into the car. Mom made me a pb&j, apologizing for how low our supplies were were starting to run. That is such a silly thing for her to have apologized for. For more than two weeks she has been taking care of me, making sure I stay nourished, hydrated, etc. and she still feels bad that I don’t get some lavish breakfast. She apologized after giving me something. Moms are crazy man.
I fell asleep in the car. Mom woke me up as soon as we reached the middle of nowhere that is Marysvale. We pulled the bike out of the car on the side of the road in front of an inn, checked the tire pressure, lubed up the chain, topped off my water, then I started to pedal. We had already driven this route yesterday, but because I had fallen asleep so quickly after getting in the car, it was still completely new to me. One of the continuous lessons of this trip was how different driving a car from riding a bike is. Mom was convinced that the road was pretty much all downhill until the next major intersection I had to pass. It was very not that. So so very not that at all. It was actually rolling hills with a gradual rise in elevation for almost 40 miles (38.21 to be exact). When we reached the turnoff I jokingly told Mom she was a liar with regards to the elevation. She apologized profusely. A bonus lesson from the pilgrimage: don’t sarcastically say things that could be perceived as critical while you are tired. I think exhaustion makes everything seem more serious than you actually intend. After finally convincing Mom that I had only been joking we hit the road again through the last major mountain range of the journey.
Mountain ranges like to run from North to South because of geology, tectonics and science and stuff. Thanks to Utah’s being an extremely mountainous state, many days of this bike trek, especially all of the West to East or East to West days, involved crossing over some mountain pass. This was my last major section of East to West, along Highway 20 to connect with I-15 and head south. The road was under construction for much of the 10.44 miles of uphill. Usually that would suck for any normal commuter, but this sporadic construction resulted in a lane of traffic being closed off. This closed lane, plus the wide highway shoulder gave me about a lane and a half to two lanes of traffic almost entirely to myself. I went pretty slow up this climb. I knew I was gonna be able to cover the necessary miles to day, and figured that it was already day 15, I got nothing to prove to anyone by racing. Road construction workers cheered me on and jokingly “You’re Welcomed” me for having blocked off a VIP lane of sorts for me and my travels. After climbing around 1,500 feet I reached the summit and took a little break in the air-conditioned car with Mom. Air conditioning is a beautiful thing.
The 10ish miles to the I-15 was a breeze. I love going downhill. Mom drove ahead to scope out the possible routes from the end of this road to Cedar City. Prior to this trip, the thought of biking on major freeways, highways, and interstates was absolutely terrifying. However, after having biked hundreds of miles on them already, including such monsters as I-70 and the fearsome Highway 6, I had arrived at the conclusion that such routes were not only inevitable, but also not that bad. Mom, had learned this as well, but was still eager to find any other possible route for her beloved son.
She didn’t find one this time.
All cocky confidence aside, I-15 was the interstate that scared me the most. However, once I got on the wide shoulder and the smooth, well-maintained asphalt, most of those concerns melted away. Mom’s nerves were still on red alert, so we took it in spurts, meeting up or at least calling to check in at the exits we passed until we reached Cedar City. As I approached an exit called summit I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. At the start of this trip my Dad and I were talking about the task I was taking on. “So you’re going to have to go over Summit aren’t you?” Yes, yes I did. Here I was biking over a section that had worried my dad do much and it was part of the easiest part of one of my easier days. I really is hard to anticipate how crazy adventures like this will be.
The ride through town was pretty chill until about three miles from the temple currently under construction. Actually, chill is absolutely the wrong word for anything that happened that day. As I was approaching the climb the temperature was in the high 90s, and I ran out of water. The temperature continued to climb and my throat continued to dry out. I had not fully appreciated how critical my Mom’s presence on this trip had been for reason of hydration alone until now. The last three-quarter miles were some some of the steepest I had climbed yet, with the added bonus of the temperature capping off at 99 degrees when I reached the summit of that stupidly steep hill. The location of the temple is cool because you can see it from all around, but that hill is gonna be dangerous in the winter. The temple grounds are still a huge construction site, so I plopped down on the curb so Mom could get the now necessary picture in front of the temple. then I told her about the water situation and she frantically snatched my bag from me to fill it up, doused me with a cold wet rag and gave me some electrolyte packed beverage to fix me right up. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Yun Lutgen is one of the greatest humans to ever live.
After cooling down, we realized that we were pretty much done for the day as far as our schedule was concerned, but thankfully we still had quite a bit of daylight. I decided I wanted ice cream, so we went and ordered waaaay to much. After becoming uncomfortably full of ice cream, we decided to bike another 12.76 miles to the Kannaraville rest stop. We got there and rested a bit while appreciating the natural beauty that is Southern Utah all around us before loading up and making our way to a distant relative’s (the Aunt and Uncle of my Uncle) house in St. George.
We entered the home of Jolene and Gary and were welcomed with warm hugs and a feast! After eating pb&js, microwave meals and diner food for two weeks. This home cooked meal was a miraculous thing to behold (admittedly, my normal diet is pretty similar to what we had been eating, so Mom was way more stoked than I was). Vegetables had never tasted so good. We talked and talked and talked. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. It was weird to actually try and tell people about what we had been doing for the past weeks, kind of difficult actually. I honestly still kind of struggle with it. How do you tell someone about two weeks of constant struggle and adventure. Luckily, they were some of the kindest, most curious listeners I’ve ever had the privilege of swapping stories with. Listening is a special gift I think. It’s a gift that anyone can develop, but many people don’t choose to. It takes a special level of humble curiosity, of actual interest in someone other than yourself, of realizing that anyone and everyone has something special that they can tell or teach you, to be really good at it. Talking with them helped me practice on both the listening and the telling side of the situation. Both are valuable and both are fun, but it only works well when both parties can play their parts well. It was cool to hear their stories. It was cool for Mom and I to tell our stories. As we did so, the scale and magnitude of what we had almost accomplished became more real to us. We were bona fide adventurers with our own tales to tell.
The family had prepared rooms for us to sleep in, and we had our turns at enjoying their hot showers. All that was left now was to sleep and prepare for the final leg of the journey.