March 2021: Utah to Train

posted in: Grizz, Training, Utah, Van Life | 4

I’m not sure any of us thought we’d find ourselves back in Utah so soon but, hey, plans change! Well, our plans didn’t really change because we didn’t really have any plans. We usually prefer to roam freely with no set schedule or itinerary in mind. But ultimately, if you would have asked us 3 weeks earlier if we’d end up back in Utah anytime soon, our answer would have likely been, NO. It just made sense to go to Utah to train. Plus, it’s a beautiful drive!

Train Why?

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Eric and I have finally decided to take that big bike trip we’ve always dreamed of. Sure, Covid-19 sort of messed up our plans to hit Scotland, Ireland, and other parts of western Europe, but that doesn’t mean we have to snuff out our fire for an epic adventure, right? Right!

So, back to Utah. Specifically, St. George (StG), which will be the starting place of this months-long journey. First, Momma Sue lives there, and because she’s the best mom in the world, she has offered to check in on the van from time to time while we’re gone (no mice wanted!). Since we’ll be gone an extended period of time, this act of kindness will be a huge piece of mind! I mean, the van is our home after all! Second, it’s the perfect home base for gathering supplies and getting to spend more time with my mom whom before this year, I rarely got to see. So, win-win if you ask me! Third, Utah’s warm-ish winters, epic riding locations, and big mountains are the perfect training ground for our upcoming trip. So, really, it’s a win-win-win.

The Route

After much deliberation, the route is nearly planned although nothing is set in stone. The overall goal is to basically ride from St. George, Utah to Eureka, MT. If that goes according to plan (which is to go slow and NOT die), we would like to hit the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (aka: GDMBR) and ride into Banff, Canada (if the border is open). After, we’ll traipse back down to New Mexico and then….ok. I’ll stop there. Our plan is starting to sound rather absurd. This is hundreds of thousands of feet of elevation gain, remote, and water (in certain sections) is scarce. I’m talking myself out of it even as I type this!

Anyways, the goal is basically not to focus on how far we get but rather to pack our bikes with everything we need to survive and then ride them day-after-grueling-day doing what we love most—huffing and puffing up mountain tops. Ultimately, we just want to have a good time. Realistically we know that it’s going to be the most challenging thing either of us have ever done (both physically and mentally) in our entire lives.

Side note: Obviously our idea of a good time greatly differs from 99% of anyone’s idea of a good time—as you can clearly see. Whether you think it’s fun or crazy—it’s going to be an adventure for sure!

Grizz

Yes! Grizz is coming with us. We couldn’t leave our mini adventurer behind! This isn’t your ordinary bikepacking trip—it’s a DOGpacking trip!

He’s already taken to the rigorous training sessions…

Prototype 1 (early March)

Chillin’

Prototype 2 (late March)

This dog has a lot of personality!

See how rigorous his training is! Is it me, or does this dog have it made?

I’m sure you’re wondering, why not have Grizz run the whole way, but…well, it’s like 5,500 miles. He needs a place to chill, cool off, and rest. Plus, it will be a safe place in case we need to do some road riding or to save him if he is injured in the backcountry.

Prototype 1 was just not safe. The bike with trailer was super heavy, a bit awkward and completely unsteady (especially downhill). It was a jackknife, fly-off-your-bike accident waiting to happen. We pretty quickly nixed that idea and Eric built an almost DIY cargo bike out of a cheap masonry tub and 3 aluminum reinforcements for rigidity. So far, this concept is working out beautifully. Grizz loves being closer to Daddy and the entire setup is lightweight and stable.

The Real Training

We’ve been hiking…

We’ve been biking…

And, we’ve even started doing a bit of yoga.

I know. I’m never that serious unless I have to be. Training is….going. Slowly. It seems like we’ve been sidetracked by so many things—weather, a major dental issue I had to take care of before we could leave, minor injuries, and even a few mental road-blocks that were entirely our own fault. But, this is life—Challenges are part of the game.

Van Life

Eric and I wanted to find a good place to train and stay put for an extended period of time so it took about a week to find the perfect spot to make our home base.

Outskirts of StG

Spot 1

Spot 2

We tried two spots just outside of St. George. It is beautiful out there but it’s got a lot of strikes against it!

  • Trashy (literally there is trash, glass, debris, and billions of shotgun shells everywhere out there)
  • Heavily Trafficked (a car/truck/semi/ATV drives by at least every 30 seconds all day long)
  • Not a lot of options for riding (not big on heavily trafficked dirt roads)
  • Safety Concerns (not sure we’d leave the van very long due to the vibe of the area)
  • People appear to live out here in an array of vehicles, RVs, trailers, etc. (We’ve gone through a few times in the past month and a half and nobody appears to follow the 15 day stay-limits).

Mountains Ho!

We loved the Dixie NF area! So beautiful. I did a blog post back in October 2020 of this area when I bikepacked up here on my first semi-solo bikepacking trip! It’s extremely clean (in comparison to the other area), feels a lot safer, and well there is plenty of elevation for training purposes.

We even found a beautiful spot!

Unfortunately, it was early March and major snow was in the forecast. So we spent a wonderful evening here and set our sights on somewhere less mountain-y.

It was completely worth the drive though!

As we’ve come to learn, when one door closes, another one opens.

Apple Valley

The perfect happy-medium—Apple Valley. It hit all the check boxes that we needed. Safe, clean(ish), endless biking/hiking routes, tolerable weather this time of year, and as a bonus…stunningly beautiful.

Off and on, we spent the next month in several spots around the Zion area.

Here are some photos from our time here.

Zion Area always has the most dramatic skies
Grizz thanks me for today’s 10 mile hike
Sunset over Mt. Zion
Not a bad yard for nearly 2 weeks
My favorite time of the day: When the sun turns the rocks bright orange
My little climber
Views from the multi-layered valley below
Caught some beautiful sunrises while we were here
One of his many nicknames: Master Shredder.
Views of the mountains beyond
the sunset glow hit the clouds looming over Zion
Happy Hikers
Feeling creative today
My best furry hiking friend (except for Millie of course <3)
Mountain views from Bowls and Ledges
What a wonderful place to ride bikes
Grizz and I hike the rim
Another glorious sunrise
Awe. I didn’t even have to ask <3
This dog. So glad I bought myself a chair!

A Quick Side Note ————-

I got in a LOT of reading the last 1-2 months

Reading List for anyone interested in checking any of these titles out.

  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, 3.5/5
  • The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai, 5/5
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune, 4/5
  • Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan 5/5
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig 3.5/5
  • Clap when you Land by Elizabeth Acevedo, 3/5
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, 5/5
  • Elevation by Stephen King, 1.5/5
  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January, 2.5/5
  • Hunger by Roxanne Gay, 3.5/5
  • The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, 3.5/5

Ok, back to the photo fest!

Enjoying the sunset
Bike ride near the rim
Watching a storm move into the Zion area
Grizz is always trying to steal my snacks
Another beautiful sunset
A dusting of snow with some dramatic clouds over Zion
This was Grizz’s favorite sunning spot
Another fantastic ride with my buddy
Peering through the trees overlooking the canyon
Light ride up/down the main drag
Grizz was feeling stoic this evening
This boy loves the trail
Grizz had so much fun climbing the large rocks on today’s hike
Rim Trail
Fully loaded test ride
Panorama of our new home on the rim
Hidden Trail
Loving the orange colored rocks
I can only keep up when Grizz is on the leash
Grizz and I enjoying the sunshine, views, and exercise
Grizz’s inquisitive look
Riding the Bowls & Ledges
The views never get old
I spend alot of time hiking around the rim
Grizz is tired just watching Daddy work on Prototype 1
Sunggle, snuggle snuggle—-our daily routine after potty time.
Views of where we could have been if we’d stayed in Dixie NF (brrr)
Grizzy <3
This pup loving the soft dirt
Just a pretty view
Getting excited
Happy to be on trail!
A sunset stroll with my bud

Snow Days

After several days of sunshine, it was finally our turn for some snow. Initially, it was just a dusting and the snow cleared relitively quickly. It was just enough to tease Grizz—the true snow-lover of the family.

No more snow?

The next day we got a bit more snow…

and then, we got a blizzard!

I’m guessing all together, it was about 6+ inches of snow over a 3 day period of time.

Grizz was in paradise!

YAY!
Best. Day. Ever.

I happily took the dog duty/explorer role….

Eric was industrious.

Considering we were stranded out here until the roads dried up, we took advantage of free, easy to access water!

And after a long day running, diving, digging and rolling around in the snow…we had a tired boy.

Can anybody say spoiled?

The sunrises over the course of a few days were painfully gorgeous.

Grizz Update

What a month!

Grizz has been doing great! He really came alive during our time here in Apple Valley and was really digging our hikes, bikes, and trailer training. I’m so glad we’ve continued to be patient as he slowly progresses.

While Grizz has made a lot of gains, he is still scared of many things (ie: cooking on the Instapot is a little tough and ATVs…forget about it). But overall, Grizz is doing great! He has more personality than just about any dog we’ve ever had. He’s too smart for his own good and those expressions of his nearly says it all. We basically know when he’s happy, anxious, irritated, frustrated—He’s an excellent communicator (with his eyes and his voice).

We’re looking forward to our epic adventure and while he doesn’t know it yet, Grizz is too! He absolutely loves our time on the trail and has been an even better bike-dog than hike-dog.

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Stay tuned for more updates soon! Currently, we’re in the mountains of Arizona training, training, training. As always, any questions or comments post them below and if you want more current photos and mini-blog updates, check out our Instagram page @CyclingSloths.

Thanks for reading and until next time friends….

4 Responses

  1. Debbie

    You are so darn cute and look so happy! I am thrilled that you, Eric and Grizz have taken off on this van adventure. I’m even happier to hear about your upcoming bike trip. Your plans are mind boggling to me, but SO you!! I can’t wait to follow along with you on your journey. Grizz looks like the happiest dog ever!! I really can’t wait to meet him! Hopefully, soon! I thoroughly enjoyed these pictures too. I can’t wait to see the area for myself!!

    • Jenni

      “Mind boggling” but “So You”. I was laughing so hard when I read that. Very true. It seems that we are all or nothing kinds of people—not always good, not always bad. 🙂 Grizz is pretty happy and he seems to be doing much better (overall). I’m looking forward to sharing our adventure with you! I hope we make it! xoxo

  2. Barbara McNeil

    Grizz has the most expressive, beautiful face!! We won’t even mention his limber body! 🤣 His yoga pose far outshines mine! Millie would love to be with you, but Grizz is a perfect companion. ❤️
    If you are ever in the Elko area, my son and his wife (Millie and Moore’s parents) would be delighted to have you stop by for a visit!!

    Take care during your training and have fun!! 🤗

    • Jenni

      Oh Thank you Barbara! Millie did win my heart, but yes, we adore Grizz. If we’re ever in that area, I will definitely let you know! Haha…Yes, Grizz is quite limber and outshines even the most practiced yogi at times! 🙂 Thanks for reading the blog and staying in touch!!!

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