Day 4: July 9, 2004
Tuweep to Grand Staircase - Escalante NM, UT (280 miles, 60 mi dirt)

Highest elevation: 9100 ft, in Bryce National Park

I started the day by riding a different 60-mile unpaved road from Tuweep back to UT-389 near Fredonia. Thankfully this road was devoid of dust traps. It did have some amusing signs, though. All the cattle guards had signs notifying you of them, and warning bicycles to "cross with caution". I would be mighty impressed to see any bicyclists make it the 60 miles of unpaved gravelly road to get out here. The "Primitive Road" sign made me feel hardcore :-) (though this was by no means the most primitive road of the trip; it was actually quite good with the exception of the dust traps on yesterday's section).

"Bicycles cross with caution"

"Primitive Road" tuweep-fredonia, AZ

After riding the 120 miles of unpaved road to get to Tuweep and back, I got back on the smooth, frictionfull pavement. Unfortunately that pavement happened to have a nail sitting on it waiting to be run over. By me. Ironic, but certainly easier to deal with than a flat 60 miles of dirt from civilization. I was just 2 miles outside a medium-size town (Kanab, UT), and I was able to find some shade in front of a liquor store to assess my situation. The flat was in my rear tire and I had a stand to hold it off the ground (for lubing the chain) so I figured I could remove the rear wheel and hitch a ride into town with it, where hopefully I could find a place to patch it.

I removed all my gear, took my bags off the bike, lifted up the rear wheel, and located the nail. The only tools that I had with me were from the small tool kit that came with the bike, but I figured it must have the right tools for such a routine task. (On chain driven bikes, you have to loosen the rear axle to adjust the chain slack every few thousand miles.) Luckily it did have the correct size wrenches to remove the rear axle. Unluckily, they weren't long enough to apply enough torque to get the axle blot loose! Even jumping on the end of the wrench with all my might wouldn't buge it. The liquor store had just opened so I asked the worker there if they had any larger wrenches but I was out of luck. Dejected, I resigned myself to calling for a tow.

Shortly thereafter, a local patron stopped at the liquor store and I was able to solicit his help in removing my axle -- it turns out he had an entire tool chest in the back of his truck! With his longer wrench, I was able to get the axle bolt lose and then remove the rear axle and wheel. He even offered me a ride into town to get the tire patched. The first place we went to wouldn't work on a motorcycle tire but told us about a motorcycle/ATV shop on the other side of town that was able to patch it. This local guy was super nice to me -- not only did he take me and my punctured tire to two different places, he waited while it was patched, took me back to my bike on the other side of town, and then helped me put my wheel back on!!! The kindness of strangers amazes me and restores my faith in humanity. Well, maybe that's being a bit dramatic, but it definitely makes me feel good to know that there are still at least a few people willing to go out of their way to help a stranger in need.

Bryce Canyon, UT

Bryce Canyon, UT

The adventures of the morning out of the way, I proceeded to Bryce Canyon NP. It was beautiful, but wow, what a contrasting experience with Zion and the Grand Canyon. There's only one (dead-end) road through Bryce, and while it's beautifully paved, it's also filled with tourists. Which isn't so bad, but it means that all the overlooks are filled with tourists, and that the National Park Service has put up all sorts of helpful signs, barriers, etc. to keep said tourists from getting killed and inevitably suing the park service. Sigh. At one stop, there was a sign saying "Danger - Do Not Approach Cliffs - $100 fine" -- I guess they figure tourists only understand money. Regulations and listening to families bickering about going on a hike really spoiled the beauty of Bryce for me. Oh well, I have plenty of other beautiful experiences :-)

Bryce Canyon, UT

Bryce Canyon, UT

Next: Day 5 Grand Staircase to Owl Creek Pass, CO

Day 1: San Francisco to Monitor Pass, CA
Day 2: to Humboldt-Toiyabe NF, NV
Day 3: to Tuweep, Grand Canyon NP, AZ
Day 4: to Grand Staircase - Escalante NM, UT
Day 5: to Owl Creek Pass, CO
Day 6: to Broomfield, CO

Return trip: Days 11-13: Broomfield, CO to San Francisco, CA