Saturday, September 29, 2012


So far this trip I have seen the same hitchhiker four different times. The first time I met him was at the Bryce Canyon visitor center. I stopped by to up water bottles and he was filling out a job application. The second time was at the bottom of the Red Canyon, which is just west of the park. He was at an intersection with his thumb out towards Zion. The third time was when I was in the back of a pickup to get through the tunnels in Zion, where bikes aren't allowed. He had his thumb out so the driver stopped for him as well. We talked a bit about where we were both headed, and how we had seen each other before. He continued on in the pickup while I got out after the tunnels. The last time I saw him was at the visitor center in Zion. Apparently he had left his phone in a bathroom to charge and someone turned it in to lost and found. I don't think I'll be seeing him again, since his plan was to head towards the Grand Canyon next, while I'm headed west again.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Another day, another flat

Today was mostly downhill, so I spent a good part of the afternoon in a town park charging electronics and sorting through a bunch of pictures to upload. That way I can make good use of the time without overshooting my planned destination for the night.

Once I got started again I got to another little town where I saw a in biking gear with a loaded bike around the side of the building. I stopped over to say hi, but she didn't speak much English so the conversation was pretty short. I mostly got that she had come from the Grand Canyon and was headed to Zion the next day, and then east along the way I came.

After leaving her I started uphill towards Zion, when I immediately got a flat front tire. Again this one was due to the same sharp spiky plant as the other three flats. I was in the process of changing it when a couple that was touring headed the other way stopped to see if I needed help. They were also European and were also planning on taking the same route that I just took. It's most interesting because it is not one of the official Adventure Cycling routes, just one that I put together to hit a bunch of National Parks.

After getting the tire changed I started on my way again, when it started to rain. I'm just glad I got the tire changed quickly to avoid the rain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spooky nights

I spent last night I a graveyard, the second time I have done so on this trip. They aren't really scary or anything. Actually they are nice and quite, almost park like. I don't sleep on the graves, that would be a bit to weird or disrespectful for me, but somewhere off to the side is often nice.

This cemetery was actually really nice, with well watered grass. The little caretakers shed even had an outside faucet as well as an outside electric plug, so I was able to charge electronics, at least until it started to rain. Thats when I ducked inside my tent and made sure that everything was waterproofed. The rain stopped shortly, but by then it was already dark and I didn't feel like sitting in the dark just to charge something.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Once I got to Bryce I found out something really cool about the park which helped me out a lot. Apparently the park is too overpopulated during the summer months, so the park runs a shuttle bus along all the tourist points in the park. This gave me a break and saved some time and effort.

The major attraction at Bryce is the hoodoos which are tall rock spires. Basically it is part of the side of a plateau that has eroded strangely, not really a canyon at all.

I decided to use the shuttle bus a bit, but also take advantage of not having the bike to go hiking along the rim trail to see a bit more of the park. I have to say there is an amazing variety to the people in the parks. Most of them don't seem to be very much the outdoor type, but instead just the general tourist. There are a huge number of foreigners as well, some with large tour groups and others not. Most people also have gigantic cameras, many of whom probably also don't know how to even take it off of the auto setting.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

More bad news

I woke up this morning to another flat tire, on the rear wheel. Apparently I missed a thorn, which had worked it's way further into the tire after I changed it last night, so I changed my third flat tire in the morning.

After that it was relatively uneventful until I got to the Capitol Reef area. Then the wind started to really pick up a lot, and of course it was a headwind. I saw some cool petroglyphs on the way in, and then went most of the way down the scenic drive in the park, until I was going up a steep road into a strong headwind, and didn't think I would see much of anything different I kept going. The way back was much nicer with the downhill and the tailwind.

That was until I got back to the campground area, where my rear tire blew out completely. I pushed my bike into the camping area and started to change the tire again, when I realized that the actual tire had worn through, and not just a popped tube.

I sat there for a bit trying to figure out my options until the camp hosts stopped by. I asked them about the area, and they didn't think there was anything close but offered to call the rangers. A bit later a ranger stopped by and told me he was going to call a place in the nearby town, about ten miles away. He took the info about the tire and rim and then left. A while later he came back and told me the store did have a suitable tire but that they would close in ten minutes. He offered to drive me and my bike there, so I threw everything in the back of his truck and he drove me into town. We arrived around 4:05 and the store was supposed to close at 4:00. Fortunately the owner hadn't arrived yet to lock up, so I was able to buy the new tire. It's a bit wider than the one I had, and more of a mountain bike tread, but it fits just fine. For $27 I was able to get back on the road and didn't even have to hitch a ride or take any extra time to get things up and running again.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I posted my last update from a picnic table in Hanksville UT where I was sitting with three other bikers who were headed east. I had already done fifty miles to get there and was planning on taking a break in the shade anyways so it worked out nicely. I know I made a post about how I hadn't had any flats yet, an it seems like I jinxed myself.

After taking care of everything in town I left, planning on spending several hours in the shade of a bridge by a river. I managed to get down to he water ok, and spent several hours relaxing in the shade. I realized that I had pushed my bike through some prickers to get there, since I was pulling them off of my socks, but didn't really think much of it. After I was done with my break I pushed my bike back u to the road, where I realized that both my tires were flat. Since I had been with my bike the entire time I knew it was punctures and not just someone letting the air out.

Replacing both tubes was interesting, since I was sitting on the side of the road with my bike completely in pieces. I started fixing one flat with a patch kit, when I decided to just use the two new inner tubes I had bought, and I would fix he flats later in camp. When I was part way through that I realized that the valves on the new tubes were different, being presta instead of schrader. I wasn't sure if my pump would work with these, but I knew some pumps were interchangeable. It took some work on the pump, and I had to take apart the pump head an reconfigure it, but eventually I got the two new tubes on, got the tires on the bike, and got them both inflated with air. Now I'm just hoping that the sharp points I felt on the inside of the tires were the only ones, and that I was able to fully remove the sharp bits. Otherwise I'll end up with more flats tomorrow morning.



Over the past 1000 miles my bike has been making more and more noise, mainly due to the chain. Each time I stop I mean to pick up some chain oil, but I have been forgetting each time. Yesterday when I was in Green River, UT, I met Ben, another long distance cyclist, in the town park. We talked for a while, and hung out a bit. Before I left I remembered to ask him if he had any oil I could use. Fortunately he did, so I applied a bit to each link in my chain before returning it.

Today as I was riding along I realized that my bike was making almost no noise, which was really strange. It was nice and calm, and there was very little traffic, so it seemed like I was just flying along. Now I really have to remember to pick up some chain oil next time I get a chance, since it is really nice to not listen to a chain rattle. I also think it runs smoother, since it seemed like it took a lot less effort to pedal today. That might have just been due to the lack of major hills all day, but it was still a nice change for once.

Friday, September 21, 2012

1000 Miles

I hit just over 1000 miles today as I passed through Green River, UT. That includes all of the highway mileage as well as any side trips, including grocery stores and all of the mileage in the National Parks. And exactly 1 month of biking so far. Hopefully I will be able to increase the mileage as I go along, aiming for roughly 50-80 miles a day, but right now I am probably hitting 40-50 or so, unless there are special circumstances, like the mileage in the National Parks where I have to get back outside the park to camp for the night.

And the best part, so far, no flat tires!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Canyonlands National Park

Today I got to the Canyonlands Visitor Center right in time for sunrise. The sun rose just over the La Sal mountain range, with an interesting tint due to the smoke in the air. The smoke is from a large fire north of here, it's not enough to smell like smoke, but it does obscure the views from farther off.

After the sunrise I went to the Mesa Arch, which is supposed to be a nice short hike to another arch. The really cool thing about Mesa Arch is that it stands on the very edge of a cliff, so looking through the arch you can see an awesome backdrop. It would have been a good spot for sunrise, but by the time I got there it was a bit later, so a lot of the features were a bit ghostly. This made for a few really cool photos too.

After that I went to a bunch of different overlooks, and a few side hikes to different points. Along with a bunch of views off the edge of cliffs I also visited one spot that was a large collapsed dome area. This area is supposed to be either an old salt dome that burst and eroded, or the site of a meteoroid hit that burst the area and the subsequently eroded away to blast junk.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Arches National Park

Today I spent the entire day touring Arches National Park. I had camped two or three miles from the entrance so I got there early in the day and was able to devote the entire day to the park.

There was a pretty good climb just to get up from the entrance, and then several other good climbs throughout the day as well. The main route was 36 miles round trip, plus I took a few side hikes as well as an extra five mile detour to see a few more things in the park.

The main attraction was obviously the scattered arches throughout the park, with the most impressive being the landscape arch, which is one of the longest and is very skinny. What was really cool was that a tourist had been on scene when part of it collapsed and had actually caught a photograph during the collapse, which is on display at the arch.

Towards the end of the day I was getting tired, and it started to seem that the landscape was more of the same. One arch seemed just like the next, and the hills seemed bigger on the way out. It was definitely even worse because I knew I had to get back to Moab for the night to pick up more food and water, so I had to do an extra 5 or 10 miles at the end of the day, since I hadn't stocked up for enough days when I went through town the day before.

Conclusion at the end of the day, lots of cool stuff to see, but too many hills.

Monday, September 17, 2012


On the way from Monticello to Moab my bike started making strange noises so once I got to Moab I wanted to have it checked out. I went to the first bike store I came to, which was Moab cyclery, and described the noise and what actions cause it. Basically every time my right pedal neared the top of it's rotation there was a creak that didn't use to happen.

After I described it to the mechanic he was able to tell right away that the bottom bracket was either loose or dirty. He proposed to take it apart, clean it and then re-oil everything. After about 25 minutes he had it back together and had me try it out. Fortunately that fixed the problem, so I am back in business, at the cost of $15. At some point in the near future I would like to re-oil the chain and everything, but it can hold off for a bit.

After my previous research I have also been looking for different gears for the bike to give me a better ratio, mainly for climbing all the hills. I checked every shop in Moab, but none if them had any smaller gears for a five bolt setup like I have in front. Ideally I would like to replace the 30t gear I have right now with a 24t gear. This would help out quite a bit, dropping the slowest gear down to an ideal 6 mph, instead of the 7.8 mph ratio I have now. I might also replace the rear cassette with something bigger, which would also help the situation. That change is a bit more involved, likely involving a change in rear derailler as well.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hello Utah!

After having spent the last several weeks in Colorado I finally came to the state border. The funny part was that I had completely forgotten that I was going to be crossing the border today.

There was a big bill board that from a distance I thought was just another advertisement. When I got closer I realized what it was, especially when I turned around and there was a similar sign for entering Colorado. There was a small little turnoff where I was able to stop and take a quick picture, and where a couple of motorcyclists pulled over for a break as well.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Proper gearing

I did a bit of research to find out more about proper shifting technique for long distance biking. It turns out that it is more efficient to rotate your feet at a higher rpm with lower gearing. The ideal rpm is roughly 80-85, which is much faster than most people would be pedaling.

I also counted my gearing on the front and back gears to see what that might translate into for mph.

On the front gear I have 3 gears, with 30, 42, and 52 teeth respectively.
On the rear gear I have 8 gears, with 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, and 25 teeth respectively.

Given the tire sizing, one complete tire rotation is roughly 86.35 inches traveled.

Putting this all together I can figure out the ideal mph for each gearing ratio, as follows:

52 teeth 42 teeth 30 teeth
12 teeth 28.34 22.89 16.35
13 teeth 16.16 21.26 15
15 teeth 22.7 18.31 13.08
17 teeth 20.01 16.16 11.51
19 teeth 17.9 14.45 10.33
21 teeth 16.22 13.08 9.35
23 teeth 14.78 11.97 8.5
25 teeth 13.6 10.99 7.85

This has a few interesting features. First, I should be pedaling a lot faster, instead of harder. Second, I had always assumed that the middle front gear was always a higher ratio than the smaller gear. It turns out that some of the ratios with the smaller gear in the front can actually be higher, so it is not always a low, medium, high gearing in terms of speed.

I can use this information with my bike computer to determine which gearing I should be using, in an ideal situation. I have previously just been going based on changing gears whenever it felt too easy or hard to pedal. I'll have to see how this actually goes though, but now I have some data to use.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mesa Verde National Park

I spent a day and a half touring the Mesa Verde National Park. The first half day I spent within the front portion of the park, where the focus is more on the natural environment, like a normal national park. There were several short (1+ mile) hiking trails that I explored, to get views of the surrounding peaks, mesas, and valleys. Then I left the park for the night, so I wouldn't have to spend $25 for a campsite in the national park.

The next day I got up early to spend the whole day going around the back side of the park. The closest interesting portion of the park is roughly 20 miles from the entrance, so I had a full day of pedaling, especially given how hilly the park is.

The first archeological site I went to was the Spruce Canyon Tree House, which is one of the cliff dwelling sites, right near a museum. This was one of the cliff dwellings that you could do a self guided tour for free, so I was able to go pretty much right to the dwellings, which were stone houses built into the side of the cliff, in hollowed out sections of the wall.

Then I did a 6 mile loop going through roughly 600 years of Pueblo history. This included several mesa top sites, such as pit houses and village sites on the flat portion of the mesa. The cooler stuff was the long distance views of several more cliff dwellings on the opposing cliff faces. Theses dwellings are several hundred feet from the top of the mesa, and are again carved into the side of the cliff face. Some of them held multiple buildings in a single alcove, so an entire village could survive on the side of the cliff. Then the villagers would climb to the top of the mesa with toe-holds on the cliff face, so they could farm along the top of the mesa.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


So far I have tried a website called warmshowers five times in different locations. Tonight will be my first successful host, in Dolores, CO. Every other host had something going on when I was passing through town.

I have so far had better luck with couchsurfing than warmshowers, but warmshowers is a site devoted to touring cyclists, so it is better suited to what I am using it for. As I go along I'll keep trying both websites and see which one works better over all.

Lizardhead cyclery

As I passes through Dolores CO I saw a sign for a new bike shop that had just opened. I didn't really need anything but I decided to stop by anyway. They didn't have a whole lot of inventory yet, but they did have a lot of scrap parts. Most of these parts get turned into artwork in some form, which looks kind of cool.

One thing I did realize that I needed was some type of spacer to rotate my rear rack back a bit. The way it has been the pockets sometimes get in the way of my heels, and the rack isn't level. They didn't have anything but the owner scrounged around for scrap metal and ended up cutting apart an old gear to make two extenders. His solution also looks pretty cool, somewhere between steampunk and punk rocker. He also only charged me for the metal he cut up, unlike most bike stores that charge an arm and a leg for labor. It probably helped that the metal wasn't useable, so he was able to get rid of scraps and help me out.


Monday, September 10, 2012


Last night I spent the night near Lizard Head Pass, just under 10,000ft. It was one of the coldest nights so far, and I woke to some frost on the ground. I guess it is getting colder, so I had better get moving.

Fortunately I'll be heading through the Utah desert soon, so at least the days will be warm, and I'll be at a lower elevation, so that is also not a problem.

Due to the lack of trees in the upcoming areas, I have also had my tent mailed out to me, since I normally use a hammock. This will also help with the warmth issue, since tents usually sleep 10 degrees warmer, while hammocks are usually 10 degrees colder. Shouldn't really be much of an issue, but I'll have to wait and see.

Friday, September 7, 2012

More equipment

I decided I needed to get front panniers for my bike. It has been a bit of a pain to tie my backpack on top of the rear panniers, so I have been checking in all of the bike shops along the way to see what they have in store. Pretty much all of the shops have been mountain biking shops, so they don't carry the front racks or panniers. I did finally hit one in Montrose that had a front rack for $40, so I got that just to have something. Then I am having more panniers shipped to Dolores, CO, so I will get a bit more room in a couple of days.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Today I took the first side trip to a National Park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. I hit the park pretty early in the day after doing a particularly nasty climb up to it. I ended up buying an annual pass to all the national parks, since I am planning on hitting quite a few of them over the next year or so.

The park itself was a lot smaller than I was expecting. I was comparing it to Letchworth State Park, in NY, which is roughly 20 miles long along a gorge. The National Park was only 5 or 6 miles going in one direction, and the other direction was at 16% grade, so I didn't want to hit that. The overlooks were also pretty short, averaging about 200 yards from the road to the overlook.

However, the really cool thing about the canyon was the extreme depth and steepness of the canyon. The Gunnison River drops quite a lot of elevation in a very short time, so the water is very fast moving, cutting away at the banks. Pretty much all of the overlooks would caused problems for anyone with a fear of heights, since they drop off more than a thousand feet.

I also got to see the Painted Wall, the largest cliff face in Colorado. Apparently rock climbers sometimes spend several days doing a single ascent. One particular route was Hallucinogen Route, which was climbed in the early 80's by the son of the owners of a store in Cimarron, CO. He spent 8 days on the face of the cliff working out the route, and named it for the fact that you would have to be hallucinating to see a way up the rock.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bike Computer

I got a bicycle computer a little ways back, and here are a few stats
Top speed: 39.5 mph (downhill)
Avg speed: 10.4 mph

uphill in lowest gear 4.5-6 mph
avg flat speed: 13 mph

Just Starting Out

I met another cyclist who also just started. We were pedaling down side streets in Gunnison in opposite directions when we both waved and pulled over to the side to talk to each other. It turns out that Chase started in Boulder, CO, several days after I did, so we have been doing about the same average per day.  He tends to do more miles per day, but then takes a lot of time off, so it all averages about the same.

Chase's big problem was that he sleeps in a hammock, same as I do, but he doesn't have a pad underneath him, so it can get pretty cold. He had suffered through the last week or so, but was looking around in town for some type of camping store to get better equipment.

He had recently quit his job and sold everything to take off by bike, but at least he had a lot of previous biking experience. His biggest day was 60 miles so far, but I am working my way up to that kind of mileage. I am in no real rush, so I can take as much time as I want. Chase doesn't have any deadlines either, since he quite his job, but he still wants to get out west as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Second meeting

I met another long distance cycler today, again at the top of a pass. This time we were headed in opposite directions when I met Wayne. He had pulled off at the small store at the top of the pass, marking the Continental Divide. Wayne had started on the west coast, and was headed for NY. He had gone to school at RPI, and was headed back in that direction before embarking on a multi-year backpacking stint in some third world country.

Wayne had several horror stories about the upcoming desert for me. He broke 4 spokes (I had already gotten 6 extras) as well as worn off two pairs of tires due to the heat of the desert. He mentioned it getting up to 107 degrees, which didn't seem that bad, but apparently most tires aren't made to withstand that type of heat. Fortunately he met three other bikers, who were with a SAG van, so they had extras they donated to his cause. He also mentioned several 80+ mile stretches along Utah, where he went through 8+ liters of water between stops. Sounds like I will have to get extra tires as well as more water bottles (I currently have 4 liter capacity). Good to know

Sunday, September 2, 2012


While sitting outside the library in Buena Vista CO (it was closed for Sunday) a hiker walked up. He definitely looked like a thru-hiker so I asked him about it. It turns out that he is hiking the Colorado Trail and had stopped in to town for some food and a concert down in Salida. We talked a bit about long distance hiking and biking, since he had also done a short bike tour in California. He hasn't put up a trailjournal yet, but is planning on it, and his trailname is Gentle Bear.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


While I was biking along a side road near Silver Plume, CO I noticed that the same several cars kept going back and forth along the street. After the fourth or fifth time one of them passed me I asked what they were doing. Apparently they had driven all the way from Detroit, MI where they worked for GM. The whole point of the trip was to test the cars at higher elevation (9000+ ft) to see if the onboard computers were able to correctly deal with the change in altitude, especially for burn rates, etc, given the decrease in available oxygen.

The driver also told me that Jaguar rented several large outdoor refrigerated boxes nearby, so they could do cold-start tests. Basically they leave the cars in the box until they freeze, and then start them up and retest everything about the car. This makes sure that the car will function normally in cold weather, without having to actually wait for cold weather to do the testing.