Tag Archives: utah

Dodging Tumbleweeds

Yesterday, I had intended to leave Salt Lake City at 9am, but, per usual, took my time taking off and left just before 10am.  Leaving the valley was as beautiful as it was coming in.  I had never realized how large the whole of Salt Lake City was until I had gone sixty miles north on interstate 15 and still wasn’t out of it.  The sun was trying to come through, but I had checked the forecast several times in the morning and knew it wouldn’t last for me the further north I went.

For the most part, I didn’t get in trouble with weather as I thought I would.  I had some sprinkles of rain, but not enough to chill me.  The most intense weather we the high gusts of wind between the Idaho border and Mountain Home, Idaho.  Gusts would blow me clear across my lane, even if I was bracing for them.  It was raining a bit, but I was more concerned about the tumbleweeds that kept popping out of the ditch and racing across the interstate.  Deer are much easier to predict than these things; at least with deer you can somewhat read their scatter brained fight or flight decisions.  With tumbleweeds, you can’t read the wind, not in the middle of a flat interstate, anyway.  I only hit a very tiny weed, and I was behind a car when it his a decent-sized weed, though it shattered into a million pieces and didn’t bother me; other than that, the ride went without incident.

The way that interstate 84 is set up running through the middle of many mountains and hills, it seems like it funnels win a little too well.  I guess Idaho and Oregon have learned to take advantage of this because both states have put up hundreds of wind turbines to generate power in the last ten years or more.

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Looking back toward Idaho City to see the fog creeping up the valley.

When I took my exit for Idaho City, just before Boise, I got gas and called my grandpa.  Where he lives there is very little chance any cell phone provider will have decent service.  From interstate 84 I was about 39 miles from his house.  Taking Idaho highway 21 North was beautiful, even in the light rain.  The roads are well maintained, the curves are wide, and the scenic view was amazing.  The first part of the road is even with the water of a river running along side of it.  The water is on the lower side of the damn and there is a sufficient barrier between the road and river, so it’s not dangerous, but definitely something to look at.  As I got deeper into the mountains, fog and clouds were hanging around, making everything look so majestic.  All of it really took my breath away.

I got into Idaho City then followed my grandpa’s instructions to take a dirt road a couple miles to his house; I didn’t follow the instructions very well because I couldn’t find his place and had to ride around in the mud for a while.  My new tires are awesome for rain, but a little iffy in the mud and sand.  Fortunately, I’ve got the balance thing down – Annie (my bike) and I are on our own wavelength these days, and we had no incidents.

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All mucked up after about 5 miles in the sandy mud. The front is even worse.

My grandpa lives in an awesome cabin-type home.  I’d say it’s the closest thing anyone lives in these days to a real log cabin, but with all the great amenities and luxuries of a modern home.  I’ll take a picture of it for the next post.

After settling in, we headed back into town for some dinner.  My grandpa’s favorite dinner spot is called Diamond Lil’s.  They served a delicious open-faced prime rib with mashed potatoes, corn, and a spicy horseradish that I loved.  It was a home-cooked meal without all the clean up.  The restaurant, as my grandpa said, is like a museum.  All over, different denominations of various currencies are either hanging from the rafters, framed, or taped to the walls.  I found a rack of old beer cans, funny old war posters, and historical maps.  Holly, the woman running the place, gave us a grand tour and told us that the building was built in the 1800’s and the few brick walls in the place contained brick that was created not far away.  Idaho City was birthed during the age of the Gold Rush and at one point had the largest population in the northwest, even bigger than Portland.  Of course, that was only 7,000 people in 1864 (thank you Wikipedia), but that was huge back then, and certainly bigger than the current population of 500 or so.  I like the town.  The old buildings have character and exude history.  Grandpa and Holly said that many of the bricks in the building and rocks in the area still have gold in them.

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Can you spot the little snow ball?

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Canned beer, in real cans.

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View of the Diamond Lil’s Bar.

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Let’s have another war because it’ll be cheaper than the first…

imageAfter dinner, we grabbed some ice cream and beer from the small store on the corner and headed home.  We called it a night pretty early.

Today, we may go try to hunt some deer or elk because it is the last day of the season.  Yesterday I saw a nice doe from the side of the road, but we were occupied with going to dinner.  Maybe I’ll bring some luck today.  It is pouring buckets outside, which will make it fun to try to stay dry, but it’s supposed to clear up tomorrow and Wednesday.

We will make the best of the day 🙂

H

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The Great Salt Lake

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Snow coming down over my family’s back yard in Salt Lake City.

For not planning a stop in Salt Lake City in the first place, I sure have stayed longer than I planned.  When I showed up to Salt Lake City on Thursday, I met my aunt and uncle at the local high school gym where my cousin, Kiera, was playing on the varsity volleyball team and my uncle Steve was helping coach.  Eventually my youngest cousins in this family, Alek and Austin, showed up after their football practices.

Uncle Steve is my mom’s brother and in total him and aunt April have six children.  Josh, Aaron, and Mandie are the three oldest.  I haven’t seen most of them for ten years, and I think it’s been longer since I saw Josh; I was 16, Aaron was 22 I think, Mandie was 20, Kiera was 6, Alek was 3, and Austin was 1, so the youngest three didn’t remember me.  I enjoyed spending time with these guys so much that I stayed an extra day, all of Saturday, to see Alek and Austin play, and win, each of their football games.

The funny part about me showing up on Thursday was that uncle Steve forgot to tell everyone that I was coming to visit until that morning.  Kiera’s volleyball team didn’t win, but the community around the team was still friendly and cheerful.  The people surrounding my family in their sports life is very supportive and encouraging; it is a welcoming environment to anyone.

Friday, the kids had the day off and I had to scramble to find a motorcycle place to get me a replacement front tire.  I found a parts dealer that would install the tire for me for a little extra, which was no big deal.  I followed my uncle in the rain to the shop and dropped it off, just before the snow started to fall.  While my bike was at the shop, we all went off to a funeral, the grandmother of my cousin Aaron’s wife, whom the couple had been living with to help her as much as possible.  While it was weird for me to go, no one seemed to mind, and I was happy to get to see Aaron and meet his wife.  I figured the funeral would be dull and sad, but the family did a great job telling the story of the woman’s life and her commitment to her family and personal values – something everyone should strive for.

After the funeral, we visited a friend of the family that just had her gall bladder removed.  What a tough girl!  During this time, the shop called to tell me that my back tire was worse than my front and that I should probably replace both.  I agreed, thinking I could spare no expense to keep me safe during my last legs home.  I know I’ll be hitting rain most of the time, so safety is necessary.

After grabbing dinner to go, the family dropped me off and I followed them home.  The new tires look sweet (see photos below).  I opted for Pilot Road 3s (“PR3s”) By Michelin because of the extra siping on the tires (small cuts), that help to wick away as much rain as possible and improve the traction of the bike in all conditions.  My friend Brian says these tires made him fall in love with his bike all over again.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Friday night, the high school football team had a home game just around the corner, which none of the kids play on, but is still a good community event to attend.  I hardly watched the first quarter of the game because my aunt and uncle introduced me to homemade scones, not like the kind you buy at the donut shop, with this stuff called honey butter on them.  They were delicious and my fat kid side totally thanked them.  The other big distraction for me was the sun setting on the eastern mountains of the valley.  From the stands, we could see the mountains in all their glory.  Actually, there is hardly a place in Kearns, UT, a suburb of Salt Lake City, where you don’t have a good view of a few of the many mountains.

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Pink skies provide a heavenly backdrop for the mountains east of SLC.

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Another beautiful glimpse of the mountains… and high school football.

The football game was a dramatic game, from being down by three touchdowns, to up by one point with 12 minutes left in the last quarter, then down by six with 3 minutes to go, then up by one again with one minute to go.  It was intense, but so fun to watch!  The temperature in the stands was around 50 degrees and we were all huddled in heavy blankets to keep warm.

Saturday, the forecast was 70 degrees at midday, completely opposite of the night before.  I was planning on watching both boys play each of their football games, then heading out around noon.  The games ran long due to injuries, but both boys won their games by quite a few points.   By 1pm the games were over, but my uncle and I discussed the different options and he said they would be happy to host me for another night.  For me, staying was the easy choice because I love hanging out with these guys and seeing all the kids grown up, it’s an opportunity no one else in my family back home has gotten to enjoy.

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The day time view of the mountains west of SLC from my family’s back yard.

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My new rear tire, siped and ready to go!

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My new front tire. I get to break these babies in today!

Another thing the Perry’s (my family in Salt Lake City) said I needed to do before I left was go to a restaurant called Leatherby’s.  They had wonderful homemade food and enormous dessert orders.  I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and shared a banana split with Mandie – which, even together, we could not finish.

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Bacon cheeseburgers and cheese fries at Leatherby’s, banana split in the background.

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The most intense banana split I’ve ever seen.

Today, the high temperature in Salt Lake City will be 80 degrees, but it’s been raining all night and morning at my destination of Idaho City, Idaho.  I will go there to see my mom’s father, Grandpa Richard, and possibly go hunting with him.  I’m not excited for more rain, but I am excited to break these tires in, finally visit my grandpa after years of telling him I would, and get a little closer to home!

H

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The Perry’s from left: Mandie, Alek, Uncle Steve, Aunt April, Kiera, and Austin. Yes, they’re all taller than me… even Austin, barely. No, they didn’t dress up just for the picture.

Little Laramie and the Road to Utah

When I first arrived in Laramie on Tuesday afternoon, I parked in a parking lot on the University of Wyoming campus to give Tucker a call.  Coincidentally, I saw the backside of the UW chapter of Chi Omega across the lot.  I had to walk around to the front to snap a picture.

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University of Wyoming’s Chi Omega.

On Wednesday, Tucker worked until the afternoon, so I ventured out into Laramie.  Last I wrote I was in a coffee shop wrapping up my master’s degree.  After finishing up all my necessary tasks, I headed back to Tucker’s house and threw on my workout clothes and running shoes.  Randomly, I had the urge to go for a run and geocache to get out some energy – I must have had too much coffee or something.  As I ran, I quickly became exhausted.  I didn’t remember ever getting out of shape this quickly before and was momentarily upset at myself for not working out more during the past few weeks.  Fortunately, I quickly remembered that Laramie sits higher than 7,000 feet in elevation, while Beaverton, where I live and train, is just under 200 feet in elevation.  Oops.  My lungs were not happy.  For the rest of the day I periodically coughed and sputtered as my lungs protested my attempt at cardio.  The outing was not a total bust, though.  I wandered around Laramie attempting to find caches, with no success on my own, but I did manage to spot some antelope grazing in the area and found a great overlook of Laramie.

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Kind of difficult to see, but there are two antelope in this photo.

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Two more antelope in the distance, this pair let me get closer.

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Grand Street in Laramie with the Snowy Mountain Range in the background.

Around 5pm, I headed back to the house to shower up and figure out the rest of the night.  Tucker came in soon after me and we headed out to attempt some more geocaching, I figured I could do better with help, and then on to dinner.

Geocaching was a success!  We found three caches out of the five we searched for; we think the two failed attempts were lost to recent construction.  That or we are just terrible beginners.

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My first successful geocache find! Thanks to Tucker for helping!

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My second successful geocache find. I had searched for at least half an hour on my own and came back later with Tucker.

After a wonderful dinner at a local joint called McAlisters, we called it a night.

The next morning, I had planned on getting up before 7am and leaving early, but slept poorly and woke up around 8am.  I went to prep my bike and found frost on my seat, so it was a good thing that I waited until later, anyway.  I left Laramie right around 9am and it was cold out.  I had mapped out my journey to Salt Lake City, but found an alternate route through the mountains and down into Colorado.  This alternate would add two extra hours and 70 miles to my journey, but it seemed worth it.

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Found the first frost on my bike on Thursday morning.

Within the first hour of my ride, I was grateful to have chosen a route other than the interstate.  The winding, sloping roads of the smaller Wyoming highways were much more fun.  Since it was still very early in the day and I was continuing to climb in elevation, the temperatures stayed cold.  Had it not been for the chaps given to me by Roxanne and Chip in Iowa and the fleece the hood from Ron in Pittsburgh, I’m sure I would not have made it through the day, no joke.  The only cold thing on me was my fingertips, but I persevered, at least until I found good stopping spots with things for me to photograph.  The wildlife on the journey was incredible.  I saw what I thought was a majestic black eagle, I had forgotten that juvenile bald eagles are completely dark until about two years of age.  I saw many little prairie dogs or groundhogs, whatever they’re called out here; most of them held a regal stance as they soaked their faces in the rising sun just outside of their holes.  I also saw many more antelope.  I can recall at least three giant herds of 30 or more just grazing in large fields.  I will admit, I did honk my horn and wave at them out of excitement… yes, I am a dork.  At the edge of Wyoming, just before the Colorado border, I began to notice yellow and red leaves in the trees, the most changed leaves I have seen yet.  I’m not sure if autumn is starting all at once and I missed it by a week back east or if it is starting out here because the cold is already hitting the higher elevations, but it was beautiful.

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I stopped to warm my fingers up a bit and get some pictures of the coming autumn.

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The views riding through northern Colorado were breathtaking. I stopped more times than I ever do just to take pictures.

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It was neat to see all the ranches from the main roads in Colorado. The view from this driveway looking back east was phenomenal.

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The view looking east from Grizzly Ranch.

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The view looking west behind the ranch.

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Just beyond the cars in view is a rock feature on top of the mountain. I didn’t get to stop to take a picture other than this construction break. In Colorado.

Riding through Colorado was breathtaking.  With each straight stretch, I was acquainted with views of brilliant mountain ranges extending for miles and miles.  The valley floors had grasslands populated by cattle and horses.  I caught up to highway 40 heading west and had the ride of my life. The smooth, sweeping curves were meant for riding and the rise and fall in elevation made the ride all the more entertaining.  The views were spectacular as the highway took me up to the top of the Rabbit Ear Range and back down into the valley where Steamboat Springs lies.  Another motorcyclist trailed me the entire decent to Steamboat Spring.  The only thing I would change about the decent would be the wind; gusts hit me from time to time and would scoot me across my lane, but my bike handled it all well.

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Catching glimpses of mountains and rock formations between Colorado and Utah.

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More mountain ranges coming into view.

After Steamboat Springs (a gorgeous little town, by the way), the scenery turned to much flatter ground, though still accompanied by mountain ranges in the distance.  After a while, I arrived in Dinosaur, Colorado to refuel and get some snacks.  Within a couple of miles, I was in eastern Utah.

The flat lands went on, then began to ascend into the mountains.  I realized that the temperature was dropping as I climbed and feared I may hit rain.  I did.  For ten miles I rode through mild rain, after which I chuckled and said, “is that it?”  It wasn’t.  I was in the clear for a few more minutes, but then I would ride through another 45 miles of rain, stopping for gas, seeing the rain turn into snow for a bit, then back to rain as I dropped into the Salt Lake City Valley.  Fortunately, the snow didn’t stick, thought I did have a mild heart attack from the freezing temperatures.

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Temperatures began to drop so I took a scenic view break to warm my hands up. I found this awesome little river.

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SNOW?!? Uh oh!

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Just rode through the neighboring clouds, on to the next one.

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Salt Lake City, just behind those cloudy hills.

Though the cold weather was terrible, it reminded me that I would soon be safe and warm.  As soon as I was back on interstate 80, I knew I was close enough to stop stressing.  I met my uncle, aunt, and cousins at their local high school to watch one of my cousins play volleyball on the varsity team that my uncle helps coach.  It took a bit for me to get warm and dry, but I eventually did and looked back on the day with pride that I made it through.

-H