Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Play Hard

This weekend my company sponsored a "work hard, play hard" weekend, where they paid the entry fees for any employee interested in participating in four events- a bike ride, charity run or volleyball tournament on Saturday and a marathon relay on Sunday. When I first heard about it, I thought I would just do the Liberty Hill Lions Club Rip Roarin' Ride on Saturday, then I thought I would just do the Silicon Labs Austin Marathon Relay on Sunday. When I found out the company would give us a t-shirt for each event, I figured "what the heck?" and signed up for both. I didn't do much of anything specifically to prepare for the events- after I got home from my road trip, I did a 30-mile ride on the veloway on Sunday, and 5K runs on Monday and Wednesday in the gym. The runs actually didn't go that well- both days I started getting a cramp on my right side around my rib cage.

I woke up just past 5 on Saturday morning, even though I hadn't intended to get up quite that early (I had planned for closer to 6). I had breakfast, made sure I had everything I thought I needed, and headed out about 6. It took me about 45 minutes to get to Liberty Hill High School, slightly less than Google maps predicted thanks to almost zero traffic. It was still dark when I got there, picked up my packet, and started getting ready for the ride. I had a bunch of time to kill before the 8am start, most of which I spent riding through the parking lot and chatting with co-workers as they arrived and got ready. We all gathered at 7:45 for a group photo before heading over to the staging area. The turnout was really good- about 15 people, but most people were doing more (103) or fewer (14 or 28) miles than I was planning- 50. I chose 50 miles because it's more than I've ever done, but not that much more than my usual ~30 miles. The first few miles of the ride were pretty chaotic, with the initial solid clump slowly breaking apart into smaller groups as people faded back from the leaders. I kept passing bikes as I kept the leaders (or at least what I thought might be the leaders) in sight for the first 10 miles, then I fell off of their pace and never saw them again. Shortly after that point, though, the "full" 103-mile course diverged from the shorter distance routes. Somewhere around that diversion point, a co-worker caught up to me and we rode together for a while. My impression was that he was less tired than I was and had been going at a faster pace at that point. I think that after we met up, we rode at a pace somewhere in between our paces before meeting- like he slowed down to ride with me, while pushing me to ride a little faster. We stopped for some snacks and water at rest stop #3, about 24 miles in. He left the station a couple of minutes before I did, and I never saw him again. I later heard that because he was feeling good, he decided to do the 65-mile course instead of the 50. I stuck with the 50-miler, which turned away from the longer courses just past the rest stop. I didn't see many bikes for most of the way back from there until I stopped at rest stop #2, which for me was about 36 miles into the ride. I was ready for another break at that point, after a long, relatively steep, uphill around the 32-mile mark that had me cursing in pain. I got back to the high school around 11 and cooled off and got plenty of food and drinks. Most of my co-workers (at least those not doing the full course) had already left, but one who had done the 28-mile course with his son was still around, so we chatted a bit. I really enjoyed the ride, and thought it was well organized. Since it was my first time doing an organized ride like this, I can't really compare it to anything, but I would definitely like to do more in the future. It was a really nice ride on back roads (some of which could really use some repairs) through pretty country with little automobile traffic, and the weather was just about perfect.

On my way home, I was planning on stopping at a pizza place I like, but found it was closed, so I went to a BBQ place instead. I relaxed and watched Texas get walloped all afternoon, but didn't fall asleep. At the end of the third quarter, when I was pretty sure they were going to lose, I went downtown for a Yuen Woo Ping double feature at the Paramount I had scored free tickets to. As part of Fantastic Fest, they were showing Yuen's latest and very first kung fu movies he directed, as well as introductions and a Q&A with the master himself. As an extra treat, The RZA presented Yuen with a lifetime achievement award in the form of a sword. The Alamo Drafthouse had sent out an email that they had some free passes available, first come first served, so I figured why not give it a shot. I won the draw and even though I hadn't asked for one, they gave me a +1 as well, which I offered to a co-worker and he joined me for the screening. The new movie, True Legend was pretty awesome. Hardly anything groundbreaking in terms of kung fu movies, it certainly did feature Yuen's world-renowned fight sequences. The movie was kind of 2/3 revenge story and the last 1/3 was sort of a Drunken Master origin story. I think I would have preferred a little less CGI, but it was a fun, pretty good movie overall. I stayed for the Q&A after the film and the introduction to the second movie, but split as soon as that started in order to get home and get some sleep. It seemed like most people did the same, but they may have just been using the restroom since there wasn't a real intermission between shows.

I woke up around 6 on Sunday, even though I didn't really have to get to the race until much later. I parked in the Silicon Labs garage, then walked across the river to the start/finish area. I found my co-workers about 7, just in time to wish the lead-off 12K runners luck before the 7:15 start. I sat and read the paper for a while as more of the runners from our 5 relay teams arrived. I watched the start/finish as some of the better runners finished their 12K and handed off to the first 10K runner, and hung out there until our #1 runner came across at 52 minutes (even more impressive, it was the same guy I was riding with on Saturday who rode 65 miles). I hung around with my co-workers who were finishing or getting ready for their runs until closer to 10 when I started getting ready for my run. The blood really started to pump around 10:20, when the third runner on my team (the second 10K leg) came in and handed off to the first 5K runner and I had 20-30 minutes before running my "anchor" 5K leg. I was pretty amped up when my lead-in came across around 10:50. I grabbed the "baton" (a jelly bracelet with the timing chip attached) and started sprinting away. I knew I couldn't keep that pace for even a quarter mile, let alone ~3.1, so I had to calm myself down to a more normal pace and heart rate. Whereas I usually try to keep my heart rate somewhere around 160-165 on the treadmill, I was okay with it being closer to 175 on this run. The course started out pretty flat- west on Riverside to Lee Barton, then back east to South First. The road climbed a bit to the bridge over Lady Bird Lake, then was flat to Cesar Chavez and the first water station. The drink re-energized me a bit, even though I was still feeling pretty good. The course continued west on Chavez, which has some minor elevation changes, to the turnaround point past Lamar. As the course returned to South First, I knew I had enough energy left that I could pick up the pace a little. Aided by gravity a bit at first, coming down the slight hill from the bridge, I picked up my pace to the last turn onto Riverside. With the finish line in sight, I went to a full sprint and crossed the line with a double fist pump, which hopefully made for a good picture (I haven't seen any pics yet). My watch messed up along the route about 12 minutes in and reset itself, so I didn't have a very good idea of my time. I felt really good about the run- I probably passed more people than passed me, and I kept a solid pace the whole way. When the times were posted online later, there was some sort of glitch in my team's time. If I interpret the glitch properly, the third and fourth leg times were combined, and my 5K time was 30:50. I was hoping for a little better than that, but I could believe that time. I think my team finished second of the company's five teams, about 55 minutes behind the #1 team, which finished second in the corporate division.

After some food and drink, I walked back to my car and went to get that pizza I had been craving. I took a nice hour-plus nap in the afternoon, then went out and had a delicious steak for dinner.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Road Trip 2010, Part 2

It was only a couple of hours ride from Page to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I was held up from getting into the village because of road construction, but I finally did and met up with my parents who were already there for the Grand Canyon Celebration of the Arts, a plein air painting event with a number of invited artists. They were staying at the parks service's training "dorms," more like an average motel, and had arranged to get me a room next to theirs. Nobody was in the office, however, so I couldn't get into my room right away so we went to my parents' room for a little while before going into the nearby town of Tusayan for a luncheon. The luncheon was held at a brand new Western museum (they had their grand opening later that day) with Grand Canyon and Old West history, as well as a very nice collection of Grand Canyon art. The art was probably the real reason for getting the group there, and the man whose collection the art is from gave a little rambling speech about art. After lunch I got checked into my room and dumped all the stuff off of my bike. I went with my parents for a drive along the south rim west of the village. The road is normally closed to private vehicles, but artists were given special permission for the event. After stopping and checking out a few overlooks, my dad set up to paint and I went for a little run. I ran about 2 miles along the unpaved south rim trail, which was fairly level, well maintained, mostly shaded, and of course had spectacular views. My mom picked me up down the road and we went back to the room for a little bit while my dad painted. Later on, we all went to one of the lodges to meet up with some of the other artists for pizza.

Right around sunrise on Tuesday I rode south toward Flagstaff, to the Arizona Snowbowl, which I had briefly stopped at a couple of years ago (but didn't hike to AZ's highpoint). It felt like a decent temperature standing in the parking lot in Grand Canyon Village, but I was soon glad I was wearing my chaps and heavy jacket- a sign in Tusayan said the temperature was 47, which I didn't entirely believe, but it was pretty cool. It warmed up as I went south and into slightly lower altitude, but it started cooling off again as I climbed again into the San Francisco Peaks. I arrived at the trailhead parking area (around 9,000 ft elevation) and changed from riding gear to hiking gear. The very start of the trail crosses a clearing that, in the winter, is a ski trail, then it goes through the woods up to tree line. My first stop was in a switchback right next to a very rocky slope that might have been a nice ski run except that the ski area is on Agassiz Peak, and I was climbing Humphreys Peak. My second stop was right at tree line, just before the trail reached a saddle, where in one direction the trail went to Humphreys and in the other direction went up some subsidiary peaks. I had passed three people who were also going up on my way up, and just above the saddle passed a woman descending from the summit. The end of the trail was all rocky, and in a couple of places a bit hard to follow. The air was thinner up top, but not nearly as bad as Elbert was (being almost 2000 feet shorter at 12,633 ft). However, right at the summit the strong wind brought a lungfull of smoke from the many (hopefully) prescribed burns in the area, which was rather unpleasant. Fortunately it didn't stay too smoky, it was mainly that initial blast right as I summitted. I ducked behind the rock wind shelter, where there were already two women from Indiana resting from their climb. One woman was a fellow highpointer, and she had done some I haven't yet, and she hadn't done Rainier yet, so we chatted and traded notes. It was her friend's first highpoint, and had been sort of dragged along for the trip. I took some pictures from the summit (and had the women take one of me), but visibility was pretty low because of the fires, then started down just ahead of the two women. They caught up to me when I took a long break partway down to air my feet out, retape my blisters (from Elbert), and put on clean socks. Feeling refreshed from the break, I started jogging down, at least over the dirt sections of the trail, and slowing down over the rocky sections. I passed the women again, as well as a number of people going up, and made it back to my bike around 1:30, roughly 5 and a half hours after I had started. I changed back into riding mode, and headed on my way- but naturally I didn't take the most direct route back to the Grand Canyon, I went through Flagstaff and stopped at the Harley shop west of town for a t-shirt. They also had a roadhouse-style restaurant on their property, and since I was hungry I went in for a hamburger. The place was almost deserted and it was "grill your own" meat, but it turned out okay. I got back around 4, got cleaned up, and a little later went to dinner with my parents at the El Tovar Hotel in the village. It was a really nice place and the food was delicious- I had a pork chop, my dad had duck, and my mom had a shrimp dish. After dinner we met up with some of the other artists in the lounge area back at the training center. At one point, it was like back in school with yearbooks, with the artists passing copies of the event catalog for the other artists to sign by the work they submitted for the show.

Wednesday morning I went with my parents to Yaki Point to watch the sun rise. The Grand Canyon is pretty spectacular from pretty much any point and with any light, but it felt extra special at sunrise. We went over to the South Kaibab trailhead, where my dad set up to do a painting and I started on a hike down into the canyon. My mom went with me a very short ways down the trail, then watched as I shrunk away down the switchbacks. It only took me about 25 minutes to get down to Cedar Ridge, which I had confused myself into thinking was as far as I had intended to go. When I realized I had confused the 3 miles roundtrip to Cedar Ridge with the 3 miles one way I had intended, I continued down into the canyon until I got to Skeleton Point, 2,000 feet vertically below the rim, around 8 am. Just below that point was the first view down to the river. There are rapids at the point of the river that is visible, and I could hear them 2,500 feet below. The view was spectacular, and a completely different perspective than looking down from the rim. I probably would have gone a little further down, but I didn't want to keep my parents waiting since they were expecting me to take about 3 hours. I probably wouldn't have tried to go all the way to the river, since it is highly discouraged as a day hike, and the temperature that far down was still over 100 degrees, even though it was so pleasant on the rim. When I started planning this trip, I briefly considered doing a "rim to rim," hiking from the north to the south rim, but what I read didn't recommend it, and the high temperatures down in the canyon dissuaded me. It will remain on my list of things to do "some day" for now. I started back up the trail charging hard, until I had to stop to catch my breath. I took a longer break once I got back to Cedar Ridge, then started the charge back up to the rim. There were quite a few people coming down in the other direction, which made me think "if this is the less popular trail, I'd hate to be on Bright Angel Trail." I got back up to the trailhead around 9:30, just as my mom was coming over thinking she would see me coming back up the switchbacks. We loaded up and went further east to Shoshone Point, which is sort of a narrow peninsula into the canyon from the rim and giving a panoramic view. I of course rushed out to the end, while my mom could barely stand to watch me. It was a really nice spot, and hard for most tourists to get to, so it was quiet and not surprisingly there were a few artists set up in the area. We headed back to the village from there, and after lunch I zonked out and had my only nap of the trip. That evening I went with my parents and the other artists to dinner at the park superintendent's house in the village, along with some other park employees and sponsors of the event. It was informal, with heavy hors d'oeuvres instead of an entree. I enjoyed the whole thing, but especially getting to talk to the superintendent and assistant superintendent. Being pretty high up the food chain of the parks department, they've both traveled all over to various National Parks and I always enjoy talking about the parks. The Grand Canyon superintendent, Steve Martin (no relation), was previously superintendent of Grand Teton National park and has climbed Grand Teton several times, so I was able to talk climbing with him as well. I really could have talked to him all night, but obviously he had to socialize with everybody. Later on, back at the training center one of the artists gave me and my parents a preview of the work he'd been doing as well as that of his roommate. It was all spectacular, and I arranged to purchase one of Cody DeLong's plein air paintings he had done that week. If I had stayed longer, I might have purchased some from other artists as well, but the road she is a harsh mistress.

I got the bike all packed up and left Grand Canyon right at dawn on Thursday. I was dressed warmly at first, and it was cold again in Tusayan, but it warmed up quickly and I packed away the chaps and jacket at the first gas stop, somewhere on I-40 east of Flagstaff. I cruised along the interstate all the way to Albuquerque, NM, where I made a little stop at Isotopes Stadium. For anyone not a big Simpsons or baseball fan (myself being the former), the name for the team (unofficially) comes from an episode of the Simpsons, where the Springfield Isotopes threaten to move to Albuquerque. My favorite thing about Albuquerque (and I can't say I know much about the city) is that the people chose the name Isotopes. I've always thought about going to a game when they're visiting the Round Rock Express, but never have, so since I was already going through the area, I decided I'd stop in for a visit. Since their season is over, the place was practically shut down and I had to find somebody to sell me a t-shirt, and they didn't have much selection in my size. I took I-25 from there to Santa Fe, where I got the coveted picture of my bike with the Capitol. I went in to look around, even though I had already seen the inside in February. When I got back on the bike, it was not happy. It was popping, sputtering, and just plain running like crap. I tried pulling over and shutting it off, to see if maybe it was just in some funky mode and needed to be reset or something. When that didn't work, the only thing I could think is that maybe it was overheated, so I pulled over and parked under a tree for fifteen minutes. I was really worried, and was thinking I might have to get it towed to the local Harley shop or something- but at least I was in a major city and close to a shop. I tried starting her again after 15 minutes for both of us to cool down (it was actually not that hot in Santa Fe, it was hotter in Albuquerque), and whatever Gremlin had been fouling things up had moved on, and the bike ran just fine. I headed a pretty good ways north from Santa Fe, almost to Colorado, before turning east toward Texas. When mapping out the route, I found that if I just added a minor detour, I could add a few new New Mexico counties, so of course that's the route I took. This would have been a perfectly fine strategy, except that it was getting dark, and this was a rural area. I was pretty relieved that I was able to get gas in the tiny town of Roy, even if it was low-grade. It was really dark when I headed out the small road back to the US highway. It wasn't long before I saw one of the most dreaded country sights: the glow of reflection of an animal's eyes. First, there were a whole bunch of deer, and later I saw a solitary deer. I almost locked the wheels up stopping for the first bunch from ~50 mph, but kept my speed down closer to 40 after that. I was glad to make it back to the highway intact, and even though traffic was very light, a few cars felt better than no cars. I stopped for the night just short of the Texas border in the town of Clayton, some time after 9.

I got going a little after sunrise, had the pretty decent breakfast, and headed for Texas. As ever, I didn't take the direct route home, I wound my way through the last 5 counties in the panhandle I had yet to ride through. The riding was pretty standard for a second straight 700 mile day- my back was not happy, I was pretty much sick of my iPod, and I mostly just wanted to be home already. There were a lot of clouds in the sky as I approached Llano and the sun was setting. I could see there was rain in the area, so I pulled over and got on my rain gear just outside of town. Fortunately, I didn't run into any actual rain, but did go through some spots of wet pavement, so it was definitely nearby. I got home around 10 but didn't wind up going to sleep until almost 1. I didn't do much of anything over the weekend, just tried to get caught up with the postal mail and my work email. I would have mowed the badly overgrown lawn, but it sprinkled on and off both days.

The final tally for the trip is 3866 miles in 10 days. Good trip, but too much in too little time, as always.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Road Trip 2010, Part 1

On Wednesday, September 8, I set out on my first long motorcycle trip of the year. I've been doing so much cycling and so little motorcycle riding, I'm pretty sure up until this trip I had put more miles on the bicycle than either motorcycle in 2010. I had originally planned on leaving Tuesday, but I wound up having to do something Wednesday morning, so I left as soon as that was done. It's just as well I had to wait, the whole region was getting lashed with rain on Tuesday from Tropical Storm Hermine. I rode just to the corner station to fill up with gas and check that the bike was running well, and got wet even with my rain gear on. It was a lot milder in the morning, but I still got rained on steadily from Austin to Lampasas, then off and on for the rest of the day. I went through a few areas where it was actually sunny, and as soon as I thought that maybe the rain was done and I could take my rain gear off at the next stop, I would hit another patch of rain. My rain gear didn't do the best job of keeping me dry, the top and bottom of my shirt and the bottoms of my pants got wet. The sunny stretches allowed my shirt to mostly dry out, but my pant legs, and worst of all, my socks, stayed wet the entire day. I finally stopped in Guymon, Oklahoma and got dry and a decent night's rest. On the positive side, I did ride through 7 Texas counties and one OK county I'd never ridden through before.

I got packed up and moving on early on Thursday, and got to the Kansas line right around sunrise. I headed north along the western end of the state to its highest point, just east of the Colorado line. The biggest challenge in getting to the highpoint was riding on gravel roads, but that's not exactly anything new. It was the Fat Boy's third actual highpoint (NE and OH the others), so at least that's something. While I was there a man and (I'm guessing) his two sons drove up, who were fellow highpointers. I took a picture of them in front of the highpoint marker, which is kind of a neat metal sculpture, including a sunflower (the point is called Mount Sunflower, even though it's not a mountain). I rode a gravel road from there to the interstate, and headed west to Denver. The weather had been pretty pleasant, but it was hot in Denver. I went to the Capitol, but there was no place to stop for a picture in front, so I had to get one around back. I parked and went inside for a look around. I climbed up into the dome just as the woman was getting ready to close it down for the day. The view was really nice and the breeze up there was great. I hit some traffic on my way out of the city, but fortunately it was just rubberneckers, and not the multi-car pileup in the other direction. The temperature dropped, from quite nice to downright chilly, as I climbed into the mountains, and then it would warm up again descending from the mountain passes. As I have previously, I went through the Eisenhower Tunnel, the highest (and longest) in the US, at over 11,000 feet above sea level. On the way down, I was chasing a semi that seemed to be on fire, as it was spewing foul smoke. I eventually got off of the interstate and headed to Leadville (the highest city in the US). I gassed up and headed just outside of town toward the Elbert trailhead. I found the turn I somehow missed when I was there in 2008, and found myself a campsite in the National Forest campground. I would have just stayed put for the night, but what I didn't realize at first is that the campground was effectively closed for the season- the restrooms (pit toilets) were locked, but there was no fee at least. The manual water pumps (if they were operational at all) had had their handles removed, so there was no water. I set up camp and rode back to town to get water, and I also picked up some cookies and other carbs for the hike the next morning. It was starting to get dark as I made my way back to camp, which is exactly what I wanted to avoid. That wasn't the real problem, though. I realized, after it was already dark and I had no interest in going back to town, that the batteries in my headlamp were nearly dead. I also searched everywhere and didn't have a backup flashlight anywhere. I used to keep a mini-maglite in my backpack as a backup, but I probably took it out to fly somewhere. Of course there was no moon out at that point, and after a little while the headlamp was putting out only slightly more light than the stars. I managed to prepare and eat dinner, and did find a lighter for emergency lighting. On the positive, I did see more stars that night than almost any other time in my life.

It was still dark when I woke up Friday morning. I fumbled about for a while getting stuff sorted out for the hike. It started getting light as I was packing the bike back up, and the sun was rising by the time I got to the trailhead. The toilets there were not locked, so I availed myself of one. There was a pretty big group of guys of various ages (mostly 10+ years older than me) that left a couple of minutes before I did, but I caught up with them in less than 10 minutes. I passed most of them before catching up with the youngest at the front. He must have thought I was with his group at first, because he seemed surprised when he turned around and looked at me. After a little ways, there was a flat traverse section, and I decided to jog a little bit. In retrospect, I probably should have saved my energy, but I was feeling strong. I passed an older guy by himself just after the trail started climbing again. He caught up to me when I stopped for a 10 minute break not long after, and he said he was from Nashville. I think he must have turned back before the summit, because I didn't see him again. It was only about 15 minutes after my break that I reached tree line (around 12,000 ft), and took a quick break to put on sunscreen and sunglasses. It started to get steeped from there, and the air was definitely getting thinner. I met a couple coming down who had been at the summit for sunrise. The air was getting really thin by the time I got to the first of several false summits around 14,000 ft. I would only go about 50 feet before having to pause for breath, and every time I restarted from a stop I got a head rush. Fortunately, the trail from 14,000 to the summit (14,440) was not very steep. The wind, which had been blowing pretty good all the way from tree line, was particularly strong at the summit. Thankfully, there are several low rock walls for shelter. There were two people at the summit when I got there. I had them take my picture before they started back down. I didn't stay very long at the summit, mainly because it was cold and windy. I passed a number of people on their way up as I was descending. Some of them were not exactly thrilled to hear how much further they had to go. I passed the big group I had passed in the beginning just before I got back to tree line. I was feeling pretty tired when I stopped for a break just below tree line. I took my boots and socks off for a while, ate something, and relaxed for a few minutes. I was a bit more energetic after the break and clean, dry (but thin) socks, but it wasn't long after that I was feeling pretty sapped again. I pushed myself for a while, but ultimately decided that I didn't really have to rush and took my time. Ultimately, it took my almost 3 hours from the top to the bottom, and it had only taken me 3 and a half from the bottom to the top. I had to do some rearranging of the bike before I could head back down the gravel road toward town. I rode south and then west to the town of Gunnison. For whatever reason, the first chain hotels I tried were full (or only had an expensive room available), so I wound up staying at a small family-owned motel. It wasn't much and the room was very tiny, but it had what I really needed- a shower. I had dinner at the place the clerk recommended, but it was not very good and the steak prices were significantly higher than Austin's. After dinner I used the motel's curious hot tub in a little wooden house in the middle of the parking lot. It felt pretty good nonetheless, and soon after I was socked out in front of the TV.

It was very cold Saturday morning- the local weather was saying 26 degrees, which was pretty much confirmed by the frost on my bike and the several other bikes in the parking lot. I brushed the ice off and packed the bike anyway. I had breakfast along with the owners of some of those other bikes. We chatted a bit about our rides in the area until I finished and got geared up for my morning ride. I had every piece of warm riding gear with me on, and I was still freezing. The temperature had started to rise, but I had not yet begun to thaw when I got to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park about an hour away. I started to warm up in the visitors center, and moreso when I walked down to a view point and back up. Since a ranger program was starting soon, I rode down to the river to the East Portal ranger station. The road down might just be the steepest paved road in the US at 16% grade. The bike wasn't entirely happy, it was backfiring the whole way down. I found the talk interesting- it was about the Gunnison Tunnel, which at the time of its completion was the longest irrigation tunnel in the world, and is now a National Civil Engineering Landmark. Unfortunately we didn't get to see the tunnel itself, since it is still in operation, providing water for the area's fruit trees and other crops. After the program, I rode back up the steep road and checked out the vistas along the canyon rim. It was pretty impressive- very tall and quite steep. I don't have a great fear of heights, but there was one view point in particular where I had a hard time getting the proper perspective, and it kind of made my head start to swim. At another view point, there were rangers who were checking up on two rock climbers who were coming up just across the way (but still on the same side of the river). That was pretty impressive to see, but even more impressive would have been to climb the Painted Wall, which at 2300 feet is not quite El Capitan, but is the tallest in Colorado. It had warmed up by the time I headed out of the park around noon, and since I still wanted to go a pretty good ways, I got back on the road. The sun was getting close to setting as I was riding pretty much due west into Capitol Reef National Park, so I was having some trouble seeing, but fortunately there was very few other cars. When I got there, the park's one campground was already full, so I went on 10 miles further west into the town of Torrey and got a site at a commercial campground. I had a nice little campfire going and had even picked up some new batteries for my headlamp, even though I didn't need it nearly as badly as I had in Leadville, since there was a big artificial light in this campground.

Sunday morning, I had some breakfast, packed up, and headed back into the park. Since my legs were still sore from Elbert and I wasn't really geared for hiking, I mostly just rode to the various view points, even a couple that were down dirt roads. The one hike I did do was to a natural bridge. It certainly wasn't Arches NP with its dozens of arches and bridges, but it's always cool to see those weird formations. I paid the $3 and took the scenic drive, which honestly wasn't that much more scenic than the main road through the park, but it did offer some spots to pull over and take a few nice pictures of my bike. I headed out of the park around noon, and passed through lots more beautiful landscapes. I particularly enjoyed passing through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which is rated as one of the most scenic roads in the country. I would definitely agree, it was pretty spectacular. It would have been nice to be able to explore it some, but that will have to wait for another trip. I did stop and check out Kodachrome Basin State Park, mainly because of the name and that once I saw it on the map, I couldn't get the Simon and Garfunkel song out of my head. It wasn't a particularly large park, and I didn't think the formations looked all that different from the others I had passed, but it was still a nice place. It sucked to pass right by Bryce Canyon NP and Zion NP and not have enough time to stop, but I have already seen them and really want several days to explore them some day. I headed east toward Page, AZ as the sun was setting, and was treated to a typically gorgeous desert sunset. The hotels in Page seemed to be pretty full and while I might have found a better deal elsewhere, I checked in to the Best Western. After dropping my stuff, I went out for food. For as many foreign tourists as there were in my hotel, the town seemed to be pretty dead. I had a pretty good dinner, then headed back. It wasn't too late, since I had gained an hour by crossing the UT/AZ line, so I went for a swim. The heater for the hot tub was broken, but the pool was open. The air was cool and the pool wasn't especially warm, but it was fine once I eased my way in, and I started swimming laps despite it being an irregularly shaped pool and the lights (in the pool) being off.