Saturday, October 24, 2015

USA from a bike seat- part one of my recent trip

Now ensconced back in Norway I thought I ought to post a few photos and share a few highlights and incidental memories from my recent trip stateside. The posts are necessarily going to be quite dense because I can't see myself  taking the time to properly document a 7 week trip filled with innumerable memorable moments.

The trip started in Salt Lake City, where I was put up by the ever gracious and generous Miles and Erin. It was awesome to see them again after so many years and they showed me a really good time: Oktoberfest at Snowbird, the Spiral Jetty, delicious food in SLC’s many eating joints and afternoon beers on the porch.

The otherwordly Spiral Jetty, most impressive was the pink coloured water of the lake itself which we wandered over the salt flats to dip our toes in. Photo: Miles

I got a couple really nice runs in whilst in SLC, including Grandeur and Pfeifferhorn. The heat and altitude were a far cry from what I’m used to in Norway, but the sweet trails and incredible views more than compensated for any of that.

From trail on the backside of Grandeur. Not too many cities the size of SLC can boast such incredible access to real mountains and an amazing network of quality trails.

Went for a run with the speedy Tom Goth on the Pfeiff. It's hard to keep up with him, but I like running with him all the same.
After waiting a few more days than I had planned, my new bicycle finally arrived at the store and the next morning I set out; clad in lycra and with a mixture of excitement and apprehension at the prospect of having 700km of road to ride over the following 6 days in order to make it to Crested Butte for a WFR re-cert I was enrolled in.

On a backroad in between Altonah and Monarch in northern Utah. I fell in love with my bike when I discovered how well it handled the dirt/gravel as well as being super comfortable and fast on paved roads.

I'm used to seeing empty beer bottles and cigarettes along the roadside which people have thrown out of cars. This was the first time I've found a pistol though.

Photos can never do justice to the immensity of a landscape, so you'll just have to take my word for it...

Compared to the bike tours I’ve done it Europe the key challenges I discovered to cycling in the US can be boiled down to:
      1)      Finding campsites when there are “Private Property/ No Trespassing” signs posted every 20 metres along the road for what seemed like 100km stretches. (Compare this to “allemannsretten” which makes free camping easy.)
      2)      Lack of regular access to water (not surprising given how arid most of Utah and Colorado is- apart from the mountains). (Compared to perpetually rainy Norway, where you pass a stream of clean water seeminly every few minutes on a bike).
      3)      Some busy roads being unavoidable and having nearly non-existent shoulders. (I guess even the rural areas I've cycled in the past have been more densely populated so there have been more roads to choose from.) 

None of these problems were hard to overcome though. And the simple solutions I found were:
      1)     Simply riding a little bit further each day until either a) a decent campsite presented itself or b) I became too tired to care and found somewhere atleast discrete enough to go unnoticed. Once I got into the mountains again it was easy to find great camping, and Forest Service areas in particular allow dispersed camping in really beautiful areas.
      2)      Gas stations, which are common enough, turned into my typical water refill stations. Or, if I was in the mood, I could get a half gallon cup of Root Beer with ice. Also having a 6L MSR dromedary was key to having enough water to ride stretches where there were no gas stations.
      3)      If it was possible: timing my travel on the sections of busy road to early morning, when there wasn’t as much traffic certainly helped. Otherwise it was simply a matter of seeking out the quiet back roads.

Mt. Sopris as seen from the road near Carbondale, despite being just underr 13,000 ft. this mountain offers the biggest vertical you can ski in Colorado: apparently 6500 feet or 2000 metres.

Carb loading. This was a typical dinner: flavoured rice and cheese in a tortilla. I'd usually start with one as an appetizer then eat two for my main, and then finish up with one more for dessert.

I averaged about 140km and 1400 metres of vertical per day for the first five days, and before I knew it I was in Crested Butte ahead of schedule. I camped out in the mountains 10 miles out of town for a few days, went running in the mountains, swimming in icy cold lakes and was kept awake at night by bugling Elk, which is pretty terrifying when its pitch black, you're half asleep and you have no idea what an bugling Elk sounds like. You can close your eyes and imagine whilst listening to this:

The last of several passes I cycled over enroute to Crested Butte was Kebler. The views were stunning and people driving by were very friendly, offering watermelon and encouragement.

 Having never been to Crested Butte I based my expectations of the place on Aspen, but I was happy to discover that the place has a much more local and welcoming atmosphere than the famous town on the other side of the mountains. It might be related to the time of year I was there (prime shoulder season) but everyone I met was super friendly and the place seemed like a real community and not just a collection of second homes for well-heeled city dwellers. As much as it says something about the place, flannel shirts and pickup trucks were more common than Gucci handbags and flashy convertibles. Also the quality of trails for running/mountain biking was truly incredible.

My first run near Crested Butte was up to East Maroon Pass, this is looking over Copper Lake

Trail Porn: there's enough single track around CB to keep anyone busy for a long time

One of the coolest grade 3+/4- scrambles I've ever done was on Avery Peak. These were the views from the summit.

Had another really nice run from the aptly named "Oh Be Joyful TH" up to Poverty Gulch, over Daisy Pass and back down Democrat Basin to the TH.

 More posts to come over the next few days about running 14'ers in the Sawatch and my take on the Four Pass Loop.

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