April 2017 Rockies: Tandem Cycling Expedition
Tandem Cycling Over Douglas PassAre We Cyclists Yet?
22 April 2017 | Mri Grout
Tandem cycling over Douglas Pass comments:
Tandem Cycling From Moab to Gateway, ColoradoThe Most Ridiculous Route Ever
16-17 April 2017 | Mri Grout
We were ducked behind a ledge when the shots went off, now stuck between possible death by bullets and definite irritation of backtracking down a stupid, steep, dirt slope that we had just spent the last forty minutes slogging over. So obviously we decided to continue forward and over the hill that was most definitely being used as target practice. And sure enough as we peaked the crest there was a van full of people at the bottom aiming in our direction. Given I'm writing this you can guess I didn't die (neither did Rob), but it was only due to my quick thinking and courageous behaviour that we made it down alive. For I didn't just silently hope that they saw us with our bright orange and red panniers, but screamed out a kindly 'hello!' and waved my arms madly until they saw us. Once they gave verbal confirmation, we toed down the hill that we couldn't yet ride down, and despite our very slow progress not one of them started firing again until we were well away. Given most gun wounds are accidental, you can imagine our relief for not adding to that statistic. Once we got to a tarmac road again, we both hopped on our Dawes Double Edge tandem and delighted in finally being able to go faster than 2 miles an hour. This lasted for a whole five seconds before we lost all speed trying to tackle the massive freaking mountain that we had randomly detoured to yesterday because Rob saw it and said, 'Oooh pretty! Let's just go straight through the bloody thing instead of around it like any sane person on a fully loaded freaking tandem bike would for no freaking reason other than it's pretty! Yay!' So he might've sounded less stupid than that in person, but meh that's how I remember it. To be fair though, it was freaking pretty to say the least.
And eventually we did manage to cycle/push the insane route out of Utah and into Colorado. There wasn't a welcome sign because we had taken a dirt road in up and over a freaking mountain not really used by cars (which to be more fair, was way more relaxing than going back on the busy highway with no shoulder). But seriously, I mean look at this route:
Like what the hell, right? Lols. However, saying all of this about how ridiculously hard and unnecessary this climb was into Colorado, the canyon you get fed into after crossing the border is well worth it. I have never seen a prettier place in all of my five years of traveling. It's just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Heads up though, it's fairly steep and we needed to cool our rim brakes about 3-4 times on the way down - not that we minded the extra time to take in the view! Also I wouldn't drink the water due to uranium mines and radon gas in the area...so make sure to bring loads because there is an amazing free camp at the bottom!
Tandem cycling from Moab to Gateway Colorado comments:
Tandem Cycling from Capital Reef to Mars:Stepping Back in Time & Into the Future
12 April 2017 | Mri Grout
One of the travel experiences I love the most about being on the road is that you will always meet someone who seems way more awesome than you are. In 2012 Australia I met a Filipino man who chose to sleep on the streets of Sydeney rather than not be able to provide for his two kids (they nor his estranged wife knew, though last I heard they were patching things up and he was maybe moving back in). In 2013 Europe I met a man (one of many) paragliding and running 1000+ miles across the Alps from Salzburg to Monaco as part of the bi-annual X-Alps race. He was one of the few that finished, but even if he hadn't his physical endurance and mental struggle to continue race after race was extraordinary. In 2015 USA I met David, a man who had survived the Holocaust with his humour and enthusiasm intact. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe him.
Tandem Cycling from Capital Reef to Hanksville comments:
Tandem Cycling Into & Through BrycePlease Don't Kill Us
6-7 April 2017 | Mri Grout
On a bike, a busy road with no shoulder seems to be more dangerous than taking the freeway - especially if the drivers are inconsiderate jerks who try to squeeze through barely possible gaps and the cyclists aren't experienced enough to stay within the width of the barely there shoulder. And even if these novices hogged the lane for the duration of a blindspot or to stop the attempt of an impossible overtake for their own safety, some moron in a semi-truck would speed down the wrong side of them, going off road to do so, and pinning them between him and another semi coming from the other direction because he didn't in face, have time to pass them like his heartless, tiny brain thought he could. So for any non-cyclist drivers reading this: cyclists hog the lane for a reason and that reason is normally for our own safety. If a car tries to overtake us over a blind hill or around a blind corner and are then surprised by another car coming from the other direction, they'll swing back in to kill us. If one passes too closely, unaware of the day's wind or that their speed/length will literally suck us towards them, then we're suddenly under a set of wheels. Because people can't wait the thirty seconds it takes to pass us safely, hundreds of us are selfishly killed a year in America alone. So next time you overtake a cyclist like Rob and I, please be aware of the possible dangers you are causing and if possible, just move over a whole lane. For a life is worth more than mere thirty seconds, don't you think? Fortunately for us, the other drivers behind that moronic semi-truck mentioned above thought so too and they all waited until after the oncoming traffic (and idiot truck driver) were past us before they took the other lane. Unfortunately though, that level of consideration for our safety wasn't shared by all that later passed us, but eventually Rob and I made it to the start of Bryce's bike lane in one piece and could finally relax to enjoy the scenery. Which was pretty darn epic if we do say so ourselves (which we do :P).
However, we took so long to ooh and ahh over all of the first few viewpoints that in order to see all of the attractions along Bryce's main road before dark, we had to hitchhike three miles before the Natural Bridge. We were extremely fortunate to have met a lovely bird-watching couple that offered us a lift to see the rest of the attractions, not just because of the much appreciated lift, but because of the new friendships we formed. Unfortunately, however the email draft we saved your contact information in seems to not have saved after all, so if you're reading this please get in touch! And thanks for the dry food; it was delicious and needed due to the store being shut by the time we rolled in!
Tandem Cycling Into and Through Bryce comments:
Cycling From Mount Carmel Junction Towards BryceThe Tandem Bike's True Nemisis
5 April 2017 | Mri Grout
Forget dust. Forget the freeway. Forget sand. Forget snow. Just mud. Mud is what you have to avoid above all else when tandem bike touring. You get the option of a river crossing or mud? You better take off your cycling shoes and carry your bike across that river. You come across a split with a mama bear on one side and a ten foot stretch of mud on the other? You better put your game face on and get out your bear spray. Because mud is just that nightmarish. No joke. No freaking joke. Mud is a nightmare. You see, Rob and I, being the noob cyclists that we currently are did not know this. And though you may think that it's just common sense to not take a dirt road the afternoon directly after a full day of rain (which we spent the majority of sitting inside a tiny tent with nothing to do - so it's not like we would've simply forgotten about it...), it wasn't as clear to either one of us. Especially since the other option was a horrible road with very little shoulder to ride on and this dirt track wound through lovely green forests and towards pretty red rock sprinkled in snow.
It was definitely an adventurous learning experience for sure though and six days later as I write this, it's already pretty funny to remember. Not the 'haha, lols' kind of funny though, but the 'omgah are you freaking serious?' kind. Then again our amazing view for the night makes everything we've been through so far seem worth it. Even the mud. (:
Tandem Cycling Trough Mud comments:
Cycling From Rockville to Mount Carmel JunctionDetouring Up Through Zion
3 April 2017 | Mri Grout
I'm just going to be lazy and let the pictures do all the talking. Besides, they're much prettier than anything I can write, especially all of the bighorn sheep! (:
*The car ride was Rob's idea because we had to hitch through the tunnel anyway (no foot or bike passengers allowed) so might as well start at the bottom of the hill. So much for cycling all the up to Canada; two car rides already!
Tandem Cycling Through Zion comments:
Cycling From St. George to RockvilleYou'll Get a Kick Out of This
2 April 2017 | Mri Grout
Getting out of our sandy campground wasn’t nearly as bad as getting into it. We even managed to actually ride down most of it if you can belive it – though we did have one tiny messup where we rammed the middle of a bike into a rock hidden in the low dirt wall we were trying to climb over. Oops. But then the alternative (other than actually lifting it) was to backtrack a whopping 40 metres to where the road split and take the one that didn’t just end suddenly. Why do that when you just climb a small mound of dirt with a 60kg bike all loaded?
Another claim, another stop, and this just kept repeating and still is to be honest. It has been happening less and less with each “fix” though, but regardless if anyone’s got any tips on where the problem might lie, please let us know as it is seriously annoying. It only ever does it when changing to the smallest front ring. We’ve tried not pedaling at all for a smoother change, but nothing seems to really help. However, our malfunctioning chain is not the thing you’ll get a kick out of. You see on one of these many fiddle stops, we realized why the heck we had been going so bloody slowly even when downhill or with a tailwind. It wasn’t just because of our full 60kg load nor our inexperience in cycling nor the other one simply giving up cycling from time to time (which was both of our go-to theory… Lot of trust there huh? XD) It was in fact, the freaking back brake positioned too close to the wheel – ie: we pretty much had the freaking brakes on the whole freaking time. We’re not sure when this happened exactly as Rob swears it wasn’t touching whe he last fiddled with it, but bloody hell it must’ve been a few days at least because there is no way we only managed to go 4mph on average with a 40mph tailwind when we cycled up to St. George…
Tandem Cycling From St. George to Riverside comments:
Cycling From Mesquite to St. GeorgeIt's Definitely an Expedition Now
31 March - 1 April 2017 | Mri Grout
We woke to happily discover that the 60-70mph winds forecast the night before had dropped to a mere 40ish. Better yet, they were supposed to stay as a tailwind until the mid afternoon – ie: the time we estimated we should be climbing the Old US 91 up Utah Hill and into St. George. Then it would be an easy descent from there regardless of whether the wind died or not. However, instead of heading out bright and early to meet this timeline, we stayed in until a bit after mid morning chatting away with one of our new friends/hosts. And despite what we ended up in because of it, it was still well worth it. Meeting new people on the road is one of the best highlights of any trip in my opinion. There are so many amazing and unique souls out there and luckily for me, our tandem bike is a great conversation starter. For despite having traveled for over five years already I still completely suck at going up to talk to strangers. So after finally saying our goodbyes and making promises to keep in touch, Rob and I began our 47-mile, three-state day into St. George. We left Nevada and crossed into Arizona and despite being in a new state, they looked exactly the same. Having grown up in the States you would've thought this wouldn't be news to me, but I was expecting more neon lights in Nevada and more cacti in Arizona and there were a surprising lack of neither. There were just some funny bushes that weren't even real bushes cuz they're like just dried twigs in a pile. Oh and sun. Lots and lots of freaking sun.
But I'm happy to say that we didn't really die despite the raging tailwind trying its hardest to kill us. It even blew the bike nearly sideways and into oncoming traffic as we sped down the mountain! Rob will claim it wasn't that bad, but he's lying because it was bloody terrifying and I ain't afraid to admit it. Luckily though, we made it to the bottom in one piece and even ended up making near enough to St. George that I'm going to count it as in. We were then told of a place to free camp as we forgot to ask for any warmshowers, by some locals. It was a place they went to shoot, but we were tired and if someone shot us at that point it'd probably be a blessing. Funnily enough though, there was someone still shooting there and he let us, two random strangers, shoot an semi-automatic rifle... Because 'Merica.
*****The next day we realized how great dust could actually be when we woke to a muddy ground that we then had to ride out of. However, it was still a much better choice than staying somewhere high up on yesterday's mountain as it was now covered in snow. So counting ourselves lucky, we decided to have a lazy day and headed up to a mountain with the word 'Dixie' written on it to clean all the mud off. It just so happened that we also discovered here that you could free camp in the upper levels of the park and according to the map, it was only a few miles away, so once everything was dry off we rode. Or rather walked because it was mostly just sand too soft to actually ride in. Six miles is nothing...until you have to push a fully loaded tandem across sand. Then it might as well be the freaking distance to the moon. Lols. Gave us some pretty awesome photos though and I'm sure one day Rob will look back on them without cursing, though when that someday is, I'm not too sure. XD
Tandem Cycling From Mesquite to St. George comments:
Cycling From Overton to MesquiteAnything's Better Than the Freeway
30 March 2017 | Mri Grout
We came to (what I thought was) a fairly big dilemma within a few miles of camp. We could either take the road maps.me claimed didn't exist in its entirety, but googlemaps did or go on the three lane (each-way) interstate for seven whole miles. Unfortunately, the decision was pretty much made when the freeway had a wide shoulder and the other road was a very rough dirt track that went uphill at a much steeper grade...
Cycling from Overton to Mesquite comments:
Cycling From Lake Mead to OvertonThe Kindness of Others
28-29 March 2017 | Mri Grout
We woke to a fine layer of dust over everything – and I do mean literally everything. For it wasn’t just the outside of the tent nor the sideways bike that was covered in it. It wasn’t just inside of our sock-stuffed shoes nor on top of our sleeping bags (which were obviously inside the tent). Nope, a layer of dust was somehow also inside of the very sleeping bags themselves as well as under them and then under the camping mats too. It was in our hair and in our eyes and even inside our very lungs. We did not have boogers anymore; just dust. We were now one with the dust – and we were not happy. Unfortunately, however, this caused us to lie still for ages in fear of unsettling even more of it. The unfortunate part was that the wind eventually picked up to around 40mph and if we’d thought the dust was everywhere before… Well let’s just say that the start of day three of our 180 day trip was not very welcoming.
It did, however, brighten quite quickly as a brown lab came strolling pass to give us a morning sniff. For this was Molly and we’d met her the day before through a man – her companion (as ‘owner’ doesn’t really describe their relationship well I don’t think) – named Rusty. They were at the hot spring that we had taken shelter in from the storm the day before and he had offered us some of his water so that we wouldn’t have to trek the extra mile down to the lake – and by ‘we’ I mean Rob obviously as feminism is great, but physical labour is still a man’s job. Though he does most of the cooking now too because feminism is great. Ahahahaha. Sidenote: I actually do do things like setting up the tent and blowing up the mats and getting everything all ready to sleep and eat in. Plus I cycle way harder though Rob’ll definitely argue against that, but only because he’s sore all the time and I’m not as bad. Anyway, Rusty was a fellow traveler who had been hanging around Lake Mead for a while and so had a range of knowledge about the surrounding area. He taught us about the local flora, informed us of a great sheltered place to sleep (both last night and for the upcoming one), and shared with us his bright character that was just uplifting to be around. He also gave us a lift about six miles up the road to the entrance of the Valley of Fire due to a 40ish mile headwind. Yep, already cheating on day three – but hey, it’s not like we’re proper cyclists or anything… Yet? Though I do wish we could’ve stayed a day or so longer at the free campsite at Stewart’s Point in Lake Mead to enjoy Rusty and Molly’s company more, but the dust was unfortunately a serious decider. So if you’re reading this Rusty, then make sure to keep in touch and if you’re ever in England please give us a shout! (: We eventually departed from the two after being given some movie titles to watch and climbed a gradual gradient into the Valley of Fire, which as you can see below was just as stunning as Redstone in Lake Mead. It did, however, cost us a whole $1 to enter as it was a State park and not covered by our National Pass; a whole $1!!! How crazy is that!? Lols. Definitely worth it though and would love to go back without a bike one day so that we may trek all of its hiking trails.
After a hot lunch, we headed back towards the main road, enjoying the wind that was now behind us...until we realized that we probably should’ve still put on sunscreen despite the cooling breeze. It sucks what you realize in hindsight, especially when you're burnt the colour of a lobster and there was some factor 50 within easy reach that whole time. However, as soon as we thought we were suffering too much due to the heat and lack of enough food, we were once again shown kindness by another stranger. She had overheard us talking to another about cycling all the way up to Canada and wanted to help us along the way because she found our trip so inspiring. Having been eying the ice-cream shop across the street due to our burns, but knowing our budget wouldn’t afford it I gave in and accepted thinking she’d us offer like $5. Let’s just say she offered an amount we tried quite hard to give back...But she refused, then drove off, and so we went and bought $8 worth of fancy hummus and bread. Which we ate very greedily. So thank you kind stranger as that was the first time I’ve been full since midday of the day before we left England.
Cycling from Lake Mead to Overton comments:
Cycling From Las Vegas to Lake Mead:Is It Real Yet?
24-27 March 2017 | Mri Grout
“Is it real yet?” Rob asked me as we finally managed to maneuver our packaged tandem bike onto the train. As we put it somewhere that was in no way an inconvenience to anyone, I shook my head with a grin. “Nope.” For I knew that our crazy trip of cycling 6000 miles up the Rockies when neither of us were seasoned cyclists (nay, even weekend cyclists) wouldn’t hit me until we had to leave the sweet comfort of a warmshower’s house and cycle 23 miles to our first (though definitely not last) wild camping spot. But as we laid our sweaty heads down for the night on our comfortable air pads complete with fluffy makeshift pillows, he asked me once more: “Is it real yet?” And though my legs were sore and I was worried about our 41 mile day tomorrow, I found myself still smiling. “No, not yet.”
A few hours later I woke to the high pitched howls of a desert coyote seemingly within poking distance of the tent. However, instead of being scared like the last time we had camped in America I was merely excited and reached for my camera in hopes of recording its beautiful call. Unfortunately though, I also woke Rob up and he scared it away while trying to find it with a torch. Oh well; we’d be sleeping in the same national park tomorrow so maybe I’d have better luck then. When morning finally came, my previous day’s worry of cycling 41 miles increased tenfold. For sometime after the coyote awakening my chronic pain had flared up, changing the sweet muscle tenderness of a full day’s ride into a raging hellcat bent on ripping my thighs apart until they were small enough to fit through the fine holes of a siv. Nevertheless, I rose and packed up the tent because we did not go through all of this hassle just to give up on the morning of day two. My butt on the otherhand, dearly wished we had. A feeling Rob’s butt also shared despite his use of padded bike shorts.
Even if that stop did mean we had to then cycle through a bit of rain and into even stronger winds due to hitting the edge of a storm right before our final rest of the day. I mean, it’s not like we were out and about through the roughest bit as we found shelter in the picnic area at Roger’s Spring – a lukewarm ‘hot’ spring that was full of fish willing to nibble at your back and legs. The small .5-1” fish were pleasant; the bigger 2” ones not so much as instead of staying still to feast, they darted in and out with rough vibrations of their mouth.
Ever been on a trip that didn't really hit you until a few days in?
lifelong vagabonds 2017 cycling expedition