|We did not want to run the motorhome thru the Zion tunnel!!|
I decided to take a longer, circuitous route through Paiute and Mormon country, and approach Zion from the west. It may have been a bad decision if the weather didn't cooperate, but there was a 'perfect storm ' of wind conditions, temperature, and elevation change, as well as the fact that my pedal pushers are finally back in shape. I got an early start, with cool temperatures, and the unrelenting west wind got a late start, so it was basically windless until my loop route turned back to the northeast to head to Zion on Utah Rt. 9. Utah 9, took its place on the top of my list as the most beautiful road I have ever been on, but more on that later.
I headed out of Kanab, south, back into Arizona to pick up AZ 389. My legs were feeling GREAT, even early in the morning. I blew through the first 20 mile segment of the ride, west through the Paiute Indian Reservation, to a Chevron station, where I took a break and ate breakfast, and gave thanks that the desert was slow in heating up. The red and white vermillion cliffs continued to be on my right, and my left was pure desert. I was entertained along the route by many lizards skittering from the side of the road, and was amazed by the amount of ant nests along the roads edge. I don't know if the lizards eat the ants or not.
My second twenty mile section took me to Colorado City, the old order Mormon town that I spoke of yesterday. One of the reasons I wanted to bike this loop was that I wanted to explore this town a little closer. We were told that they were very unwelcoming to strangers, but that is not what I found. The place was just crawling with kids, lots of women at boring tasks such as pushing wheelbarrows for gardening, and doing carpentry. Where were the men? I didn't see many, unless they were driving in a car. I went out of my way to speak to groups of kids on the street, and most waved ( sometimes reluctantly), or said hello. One teen even ask to borrow my bike. The few adults I saw ignored me, after sneaking a quick glance at the weird biker in a screaming orange shirt and tight shorts. Everyone in town was dressed in traditional long dresses, hats, and long jeans with suspenders. It was a unique experience to bike through the middle of a town like that. So different. I was respectful enough not to take pictures, even though I really wanted to.
Right on the other side of town was the Utah border again. Historically, I read that the Mormons settled in Arizona intentionally when the Utah government was putting a lot of heat on plural marriages and Mormons in general in the 1800's and early 1900's.
|Entering the Paiute Reservation|
|Town of the "plural marriages"|
|One hardy soul!|
|Finally! Water in the river bed!|
After a nice wide shoulder on the road in Arizona, AZ 389 turned into Utah 59, and the shoulders disappeared. Fortunately traffic was light enough that there wasn't much of an issue. There were lots of RV's however,but they were very respectful of a bicycle on the road. I was headed to Hurricane, Utah, and after a minor elevation increase to Colorado City, I went downhill for the next 20 miles. It was gradual until I got close to Hurricane, but I dropped 900 ft to the desert floor and some pretty hot conditions in Hurricane. It was basically an oasis of green lawns and trees in an area where you wouldn't expect it. I had an ice cream bar, and headed northeast with a tailwind, toward Zion. It was a decent climb out of town, but nothing compared to the descent I made into town. The rest of the trip was a gradual uphill, as I picked up Utah 9, which I mentioned earlier for its beauty. I went through small towns that were really neat, and I picked up the Virgin River, which I had never heard of, but it turns out that it would be our constant companion, and creator of the Zion Canyon. It was so nice to be following a river that had water in it after all the dry washes I have been seeing since back in Texas. The sounds of birds and the green trees were part of the beauty of Utah 9. Mountains began to take on beautiful, salmon, cream, red, white,and caramel colors. I could tell I was getting close to Zion National Park. I came to a town named Rockville, and the normal colored road became a burgundy asphalt. This color would remain all the way through the park. Rockville had beautiful tree lined streets, and it was narrow because of the cliffs on both sides. The Virgin River was still there. A really cool thing was a spring that popped out of the ground right next to the road, and poured a six inch deep, two foot wide, river down a gutter next to the road for about a mile, then it disappeared again. Residents were using the water for irrigation, and what ever else they needed it for.
|Red road of Rockville|
|Spring water running down the gutter|
Rockville blended into Springdale, which is where Pam was waiting for me at a town park, where there was river access and lots of green grass. I pulled off my shoes, and soaked in the river for a while, before heading through the park in the Jeep. As we drove through the park, I couldn't stop hanging out the window and taking pictures. It didn't matter what I aimed the camera at because we were totally surrounded by amazing scenery. The road ascended 1500 ft through the park with many switchbacks, crazy blind turns, and that crazy tunnel, that I found out that I wasn't allowed to ride a bike through anyhow. Every time an RV, or bus, or truck, or trailer, or anything wider than a regular car, want to go through the tunnel, traffic is shut down in one direction, so that vehicle can ride in the middle of the tunnel, taking both lanes so they don't rip their roof off in the rounded tunnel with a peak height if 13'1". We then saw a bighorn sheep cross the road right in front of us.
Our campground was only a mile outside of the east end of the park. There was a pizza place across the road, and the day ended with a great pizza, half meat lovers, and half vegetarian. What a great day!
|Zion up ahead|
|The following photos are from Zion. No comments needed!|
|Mike took this photo hanging out the window as we were approaching "The" tunnel!|
|This is called "Checkerboard Mesa"|
|Looking down onto the road below|
|Our campsite at Zion RV Campground|
|One of the best pizzas I've had!|
|After our pizza, we stopped at the corral filled with horses (at the campground entrance), so Mike could feed the horses.|
|We also drove down the road so we could see the local buffalo herd.|
|And we got to see a cowgirl ride by with a string of horses. We are definitely out west!|