To Tropic 100km
To Panguitch Lake 80km
To Cedar City 60km
On July 24th in 1847, the founding father of the Mormon Church said of the Salt Lake Valley...."This is the right place...". Ever since then 24th July has been a holiday, "Pioneer Day", in Utah. Who knew?
I was enjoying the unexpected, but very much appreciated, hospitality of Chris and Melody, in Torrey. Melody turned up early with freshly made "coconut balls" for my journey, just as I got an email......"Hi this is Hannah. Can I cycle with you today? Will you wait for me?" Hannah is a 26 year old EMT/Firefighter from Colorado. She's cycling across the USA, and had heard I was just in front of her, from Jerry, on his tricycle. "Sure, I'll wait." There was a big hill to climb, and having company for the first time in ages, would be great. We met at Subway, she with a lovely smile, and bouncing with youthful enthusiasm.
In 2013, Ju and I had driven up this hill. It seemed to go on for ever. Cycling it was the same, but having company lightened the load considerably. We were passed several times by cycling teams training for the Tour of Utah which starts next week. They wouldn't move quite as fast if they had Fiona's load...... But then, finally, we had a downhill. 70kph..... Woohooo, and with lightening striking the hills on both sides of the road..... now that's exciting. Into Boulder.... we think. "Have we missed Boulder?" "No Sir. This shop is Boulder." Then we climb again..... up on to the "Hogsback Ridge", a very narrow road along a very exposed ridgeline. Fantastic. Best, is that I know where there is a really nice campsite.
We meet Jason and his family at the campsite. He tells us some of the history of the Mormons, and about Pioneer Day. He is a cycling nut. Owns over 20 bicycles, many of them BMX. He is excited about the Olympics coming up, as am I.
Early next morning, Hannah and I head out. The views off the Hogsback are amazing, and it's downhill. We nearly collide with a bride. They are out getting early morning photographs of her in her bridal gown. She has just recently returned from an eighteen month "mission" in NZ. We get included in some photos. "If you hurry, you might get to watch the Pioneer Day parade in Escalante".
We don't hurry. It's getting hot, and it's all uphill, but we do get to Escalante to see the parade...... interesting, but not stunning...... and far far too much "candy" thrown out to the kids..... but all the locals seemed to enjoy the occasion.
Later, much later, we arrive in Tropic. We are both very tired. "Let's try the Fire Brigade". No one home there, so I cross the road to ask a local if she knew how to contact the Chief. "Why don't you just camp on our lawn? Need a shower? Want to share pizza?" Once again an unexpected and amazing evening, with Annette, Kirk and Conner, our hosts. A fantastic evening of learning and discussion, heralded by Pioneer Day fireworks. I learnt about the generosity and peace loving nature of Mormons, but was dumbstruck, when Annette told me she carried a gun in her purse. Kirk, a retired Cowboy, Rancher, and volunteer Firefighter/EMT, told me that probably 50% of the local population carried concealed weapons. Love thy neighbour..... but be prepared to defend yourself......WOW.
And then Hannah and I started the real climb. Two days of up, up, up. We passed Red Canyon, an amazing Mtb area, and had a short respite, but by just before dark we were shattered. A flat area under conifers was our resting spot...... this area is really beautiful if you like open conifer forest. Then in the morning more up..... to just below 10,000 feet..... but no signage. It was TOUGH. The 20 miles (32kms) of downhill into Cedar City, almost made up for the climb. A big feed. A new tyre for the trailer. Laundry. Rest. A couple of more days and we will be in Nevada.