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!
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.
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!
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)
Prototype 2 (late March)
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
A Quick Side Note ————-
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!
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.
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!
I happily took the dog duty/explorer role….
Eric was industrious.
And after a long day running, diving, digging and rolling around in the snow…we had a tired boy.
The sunrises over the course of a few days were painfully gorgeous.
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.
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….