I've been looking forward to this trip all year. I'm planning to get both stamps in my passport, and have as much fun as possible doing it. I'll be travelling from Arizona to Canada, then back down to Mexico, visiting as many trails and parks along the way as possible. Perfect chance to really put my Seven Cycles Sola to the test! We started out with a great breakfast burrito sendoff, and hit the road just after the sun came up. 3 people, 2 bikes, 1 vehicle - excellent for getting lots of road under the tires while still having the option of sag support as needed.
The ride out to Lee's Ferry was one of the harder rides on the trip. 200 km right out of the gate, though mostly downhill... while I was completely fresh and ready to go, there were adjustments to make. While preparing for this trip I had ridden a lot, but this was the longest I'd spent on the bike without any real break. Some adjustments to seat height and load distribution were needed before I could carry on. We met up with the car a few times over this route, and had to actually load up the bikes briefly through a road construction project just for the sake of safety.
Starting out with some tacos
We decided to camp near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon that evening, and hit the road again first thing the next day. Our plan to use backpacks for our gear was working out nicely, making it very easy to pack and unpack the car and bikes whenever we made camp. The two of us biking were pretty blasted at this point, so we loaded up the bikes at Lee's Ferry and drove up to the camping area.
(edit: picture of vehicle removed at the request of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) due to unauthorized and unlicensed use of the Jeep® brand name, trademark, and/or related logos and slogans)
Riding out of the North Rim area in the morning gave us all some spectacular views, though I think we got the better part of the deal from the bikes. The ride down to Kanab was a blast. We got some great burgers and then headed on out to do some exploring. There was a lot of general soreness around, but this ride got the muscles all limbered up again.
The Kanab area was beautiful, but we were soon ready to head on up the 89 to Dixie National Forest. Our first big stop on the route north.
The climbing here was pretty intense, and it required lots of breaks. We got in later than expected and weren't able to really get out and explore the park until the 10th. We were now running behind schedule, and had to pick up the pace a little in order to get to Park City in time for our reservations.
Once we got into Dixie National Forest, the views were worth all riding. There were a few choice bike trails to add to the list for the next visit, and one trail I actually was able to try a bit of with the time we had left.
The Seven Cycles Sola has been flawless. Riding and hiking through Dixie National Forest was awesome, and I can't wait to return to that area for a lot more rides.
Lots of trails to explore
Big Goal #1: Park City, Utah
Park City has been on my "must ride" list ever since IMBA announced the creation of the World's 1st Gold level Ride Center. When an opportunity presented itself to not just ride Park City, but ride to Park City - well, I couldn't miss that!
Arriving late in the day, we rode around the beautiful in-town trails and picked up maps and guide books. Checking into the first hotel of the trip was a nice treat, especially as my wife wasn't feeling well.
With a good night's sleep in us, we rode hard and fast all day, clocking nearly 50 km/h on some of the intermediate trails. 4 hours of hard riding proved too much for my riding buddy's bike - he destroyed the front rim and took quite a tumble. After this, I'll have to run solo - now that his bike is stuck on the car.
Park City was just a little too much for this wheel
The trails were fantastic and more than made up for the overall lousy food and costly but unpleasant hotel. Recommendation - get your fill of Thrifty Ice Cream and grocery store sandwiches while you can! The sandwiches were cheap and great, more than I can say for the other dining options.
After a full day of riding and a bit of solo morning riding, we loaded the bikes on the car and headed for Salt Lake City to stop by the new Teton Sports headquarters. Their facility there is a veritable candyland of awesome prototypes and innovative gear. I wanted to take it all home with me!
The next destination was Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Home of much that is awesome about North America.
We had no safe roads for this bit however, so we made great time up to Montpelier, ID, near Caribou National Forest. Then it was wheels on pavement again for a late evening arrival in Jackson, Wyoming - home base for a bit while we get some time in Grand Teton National Forest!
Huge day! We started out near dawn in the Grand Teton National Park with a nice hike, then a few trips down the mountains at the Jackson Hole park. Then we rolled through Idaho as fast as we could, split between cycling and riding in order to hit our timeline.
Some sights in Idaho - honestly, they were mainly sights of Wyoming - were enough to make me stop and get my camera.
The long climb up the old Butte road was some of my favorite time on the bike on this trip. The concrete faded to dirt as we left Idaho, and the neat little bridges were quite a sight. Even with the detours.
I ticked over to just about 1,000 miles as I entered Montana from Idaho. I didn't catch the exact moment because I'd been too busy watching the herds of cattle who controlled the Old Butte Highway.
A storm awaited us in Montana, high winds and the heaviest rains I've seen in many years. We holed up for the night in a La Quinta in Butte and began our hard push into Washington as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I had a tight timeline for the border if I wanted to leave myself any time in the Pacific Northwest.
Big Goal #2: Washington and Canada
We rode across the beautiful north woods of Idaho and across into Washington. The incredibly heavy woods of Idaho slowly began fade into a flat dreary plain, then a river, then we turned up the 2 highway.
There are few things as beautiful to me as the 89 highway that stretches north through Arizona and Utah - but the 2 in eastern Washington is a sight to behold.
I took many breaks here, some because the humidity was really killing me, but many to just work out my camera. For the first time since Wyoming it moved from the car or the saddlebag to my neck.
After we got into the more heavily populated regions of Washington, it was time to head to the border. Sadly, not everyone had gotten passports in time, so I made this trip solo. I biked up through the border and to a small town just north and back, not able to justify a trip to Whistler while everyone else had to wait.
Once I returned from my brief jaunt - successful in talking only the US agent into stamping my passport, we took a rest day and then headed south. We covered over a thousand miles by car during the day when I rested my legs. I spent a little time on the bike on the way back just to stretch, but still ended up very sore and extremely fatigued. I took a week to rest and recuperate, and to find a safe route into Mexico,
According to my Sigma 800, the final tally for this ride was 2,557 km (1,588 miles) all said. The car registered the entire trip as about 3,300 miles. My legs are glad that I skipped a big chunk of the return trip!
Having taken a week to rest, I scouted out the trip to Heroica Nogales, which I then proceeded to bike. It was a lot less fun biking down the 17, past Phoenix and Tucson than it was to take the AZ Trail down! I highly recommend taking the trail instead. It's a lot prettier, and a lot nicer. I've ridden and hiked the length of the AZ Trail too. That, of course, is a story for another time :)
Lessons learned, and thoughts for the future?
The Seven Cycles Sola is far and away the most comfortable bike I've ever ridden. It also managed to switch between a long distance road/aggregate trail bike, a dialed-in Alpine flow bike, and a fairly aggressive downhill/freestyle bike with amazing ease. I can't imagine another bike that can carry 10kg of gear up punishing hills one day and take 2 meter drops and big air jumps the next. I could write thousands of words of praise for this bike - and very likely will soon.
Carrying my gear split between a Black's Creek Antidote and the two Ortleib bags worked wonderfully.
The Teton Sports Oasis 1200s were fantastic day packs for hiking and hydration. I didn't tend to ride with mine on this trip, opting for water bottles, but I hiked with it every time.
Flat pedals. So much flat pedals. The only time I wished I'd had cleats was doing some of the big air jumps in Park City, and even then only briefly. I was often grateful to get a few minutes of walking in to stretch my legs, and wearing my comfortable boots was far superior to changing or wandering around in cycling shoes. Especially on the steep bits.
Less mileage. I pulled over eleven days in a row of centuries. That's a lot of time on the bike, actually too much. Dawn to after dark on several occasions. Next time - maybe cut it after 100 km, not over 100 miles.
Better seat. I just have failed to fall in love with this Selle Anatomica seat, and the rain did simply awful things to it. I could have put a seat cover on it, but by that point I had a hate/hate relationship with it already and was also mostly soaked myself.