It’s been five years since Mags and I dipped the back tire of our tandem bike into Puget Sound and set out eastward for a zig- zagging tour across this great country. To celebrate that anniversary we loaded up our acoustic motorbike again on Friday morning for a two day tour around the central Wasatch Mountains. Would it be possible to replicate all of the experiences of our twelve week cross country tour in just two days and 120 miles? Nope—we checked the weather forecast Friday morning before we departed: Thunderstorms Ominous. A flash flood was one experience we didn’t want to repeat. We decided to postpone our departure one day.
Just five miles into our ride we did replicate one of the most common feelings of our cross country tour—the feeling of being stared at when arriving at a social gathering in stinky spandex. Mags’ cousin was getting married on Saturday, and while we hadn’t planned on attending the wedding breakfast, our unplanned route through the maze that is SLC’s southern suburbs took us right past the park where it was held. Mags’ parents were arriving at the same time we pulled in, and they cajoled us into going in and saying hello. I was just a little self-conscious about my odor as I hugged my mother-in-law, but much more so when I hugged some of my wife’s cousins whom I hardly know. They say the further you are from your bicycle the more ridiculous you look in cycling clothing. A wedding breakfast is about as far from a bicycle ride as you can get.
Our route took us over Suncrest to American Fork Canyon, up the Alpine Loop to Cascade Springs. I knew we’d be climbing slowly, but climbing American Fork Canyon was a little too similar to hauling our fully loaded tandem over the Cascades, the Rockies (three times), the Appalachians, and hundreds of other mountains along the way.
The climb from Cascade Springs to Midway was similar to riding the Mickleson Trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota, only steeper, but the reward of fajitas and mole from Tarahumara in Midway was far better than the Chinese buffets that were all we could afford five years ago.
We camped outside of Midway behind some scrub oak that protected us from view from the roadway. Nothing about that experience has changed. With a bicycle, you can camp just about anywhere.
From Midway to Park City via Guardsman Pass was more grueling climbing up a steep gravel road, but this time with washboards. We bought lunch at the grocery store in Park City, and remembered how, along with a public library, a grocery store was an oasis in the desert that is the American highway. They offer air conditioning, clean public restrooms, friendly faces and a chance to rest in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
From Park City we continued north to Jeremy Ranch and the gravel East Canyon Road. Mags replicated her perfected back-seat driving here as I leaned deep into some of the sandy corners on that road. From there, it was another grind up Big Mountain Pass, punctuated by chubby guys wearing dew rags and goatees riding Harleys waving to us as they blasted past us.
There are two kinds of bikers: Leathers ride loud, stinky machines powered by fossil fuels and adorned with chrome, tassels and American flags. Lycras ride silent, emission-free machines fueled by Mexican food and Power Bars and encumbered only with water bottles and a shiny coat of paint.
There is a Brotherhood of Bikers that Leathers share with one another. Some Leathers include Lycras in that Brotherhood, especially Lycras with panniers, what Leathers call 'saddlebags' because Leathers have an aversion to all things French. Leathers figure there is a connection between anyone who chooses two wheels over four. Lycras generally don’t feel the same way toward Leathers, but don’t tell them so because Leathers are mean. Or maybe they just look mean, whereas Lycras look like fairies with their tights and shaved legs. We saw two Leathers wearing skins and furs, with horns. Now that's mean.
From Big Mountain Pass it was a quick ride to Emigration Canyon and to our home in Salt Lake City. Total distance was 122 miles ride time was just over 11 hours.