The Omnivore needed to head north for more educatin', but wanted to get one last glimpse of the landscape he plans to call home before excusing himself for a year. He asked if I had an idea on how we might immerse ourselves into said landscape, see a few sights, and maybe camp a few nights under the stars.
An idea? Yeah, I had an idea.
Packs loaded, chains lubed, weather websites perused and tires aired up, we rolled out--and straight to a pharmacy. I didn't catch exactly what it was that ailed him--he mumbled something about 'atrocious gas' and 'hairy palms' as he ambled off inside.
We stowed some emergency calories in our bellies and on the bikes, then saddled up and followed Dave's GPS track through and out of town.
For those that haven't gotten on the GPS program yet, I gotta tell ya it has really evolutionized touring. You can still opt to take maps and cue sheets if you like, but they've become largely superfluous (not to mention much slower and more cumbersome) once you're accustomed to your GPS unit. A glance at the screen every few minutes tells you if you're off the designated route, and intermittent waypoints (created, in most cases, by the route's mastermind) point out confusing intersections, good potential campsites, and, most importantly, water sources. While I refuse to allow a cell phone to bring unwanted chaos to my life, I'm no luddite. GPS is not perfect but the pluses far outweigh the minuses and touring is infinitely improved by it.
Dave's route wound us immediately south into Arizona for the better part of the afternoon. Scenery included oodles of red dirt, oceans of red and buff colored rock, a deep, dark blue sky, and many spiny things. For company we had each other and the wind.
TO decided that the trail wasn't entertaining enough, opting to add some excitement with the first of (what seemed like) 70 or 80 flats.
The coolness of the day meant that we hadn't used much water, but Coyote Spring looked too appetizing to skip. The hundreds of bees surrounding it would seem to agree.
That same coolness also lent a certain flavor to the low desert: In my mind it felt much higher. Dunno exactly why.
A stinger of a climb up the Honeymoon trail awaited us near suppertime. TO flatted again just as we started ascending, leaving me free to grind the lower stretches and plod the upper stuff at my preferred slothlike pace.
Riding together up top, we roller coastered almost due north toward familiar ground. Although the trails of Gooseberry Mesa are not a part of the route (blasphemy!), just sensing their proximity put a little extra pep in my step.
The golden hour found us cruising the swoopy sweetiousness of the J.E.M. singletrack as a waxing 3/4 moon floated ghostly over Zion.
We rolled into Virgin at dark, topping off our water and onion ring stores at the one-horse tourist trap up the road. The steepness of the ensuing Smith Mesa climb was nearly negated by the perfect-for-climbing-in-the-dark temps and the more-than-adequate-for-riding illumination of the moon. Atop Smith Mesa we called it a night, unfurled our sleeping gear, and passed out.
This was day 1 of 6. Stay tuned--much more to come.