Getting ready for our next ride

Some people commented that our Iceland blog ended abruptly. Sorry about that. It was an amazing experience and we love looking back at the photos and remembering the beauty of the country. We are so glad we did it.

We returned home, moved into a different home, and got busy with life. Our new home is minutes from the Jordan River Parkway trail and we love being able to ride so easily.

This year’s trip will take us back to Europe. We fly into Gothenburg Sweden and will make our way to Amsterdam over the next 3 weeks. We haven’t fully determined our route — we’ll make it up as we go, giving us maximum flexibility. We plan on riding about 1000 miles and mixing up tent camping with Airbnb for accommodations along the way. Unlike 2 years ago, we don’t have a single reservation — only a plane ticket there and a plane ticket home.

We are a lot more confident (overconfident?) about our ability to figure out the logistics as we go. We will have access to more resources than we had in Iceland, so we won’t be dragging a trailer with food and water. We will fit our sleeping bags in our panniers (cutting down on our already limited space) and attach our tent below our bike to keep the center of gravity low.

We can’t wait to hit the road again.

Wind at our backs

Our stay at the mansion in Nephi was just what we needed: an outdoor pool to cool off in, hot tub to soak sore muscles, big meal from random Mexican restaurant (mostly rice and beans), comfy bed (we sleep well when exhausted), and a spinach smoothie for breakfast to fuel our ride.  The ride out of Nephi was beautiful – we’ve always been on I-15 for this section of Utah and had never taken the time to be on the smaller roads to the west. We rode down through Goshen Valley with the wind at our backs, then worked our way around the west side of Utah lake, finishing our ride where we started 3 days earlier in Sandy. Our total was a little over 200 miles and 6000 vertical feet.

Some of the things we learned:

  1. Headwinds with panniers create significant exhaustion.
  2. Hills on a heavily loaded tandem recumbent hurt – we already knew this, we just relearned it really well.
  3. We can do this – we just need to accept a slow pace and churn out the miles.
  4. We need a lot of water – we came super close to running out on our first day and that seemed to effect us a lot.

We highly recommend the route. On a road bike it could be done in one long day (especially if you start closer to Eagle Mountain). The shoulders are reasonable for much of the ride and for the parts where a shoulder didn’t exist the traffic was light.

Next big ride: Europe.


Day 2 was so much better

We both slept really well last night. Our camping spot was perfect. It was a small park on a ranch. We put our tent near some big trees to block the wind, cleaned up, ate, and passed out.

This morning we left a little after 8, because that is when this small gas station opened and we were committed to packing more water and Gatorade this time. We loaded up with lots of ice and hit the road. We probably should have left about 2 hours earlier, because there wasn’t wind until around the time we left. It wasn’t head on for much of the ride and we seemed to tolerate it better. About 40 miles into our 60 mile trip today we turned from riding South to riding North-East. Having a side wind and tail wind changed everything. We went from having to pedal to go downhill (seriously) to riding a good pace uphill. The wind hitting a bike with big wide panniers makes a huge difference.

We are now in heaven, sitting poolside and eating chilled watermelon at an outstanding bed and breakfast in Nephi. Who knew Nephi had such a place?

That hurt

Today we started in South Jordan and rode to Vernon via Eagle Mountain. The ride was about 70 miles and a little under 3000 vertical feet.

We had a big headwind the last 30 miles. It was a ride-at-6-mph-in-first gear headwind. By the time we made it to Vernon I collapsed on the floor of the small convenience store and cafe and let Natalie feed me fries and root beer. Then I collapsed some more. #bonk

Update: laying in tent in an awesome campsite, ate a late dinner, feeling much better.

Still riding

It has been more than a month since we last posted. We have been riding every weekend, but nothing seems exciting enough to justify a post. Today isn’t different, but I’ll at least write about what we are doing to prepare for this trip.

Based on what we’ve experienced on our preparation rides I am now much more aware of hills for our route planning. I spend about 3-4 nights a week working on a segment of the trip. Unfortunately I haven’t found good route planning software which takes into account hills, so I kind of hunt and peck to find the path I think I want to follow, contact hotels along that path to see if they can securely store our bike, make reservations, then realize I’ve got it all wrong, cancel the reservations, and start over. It is a blast. Today I was working on our route from Bastogne to Paris and I finally gave up on the hotel shuffle – we are just going to camp on that segment and figure it out as we go. 🙂

We rode on Antelope Island today and the bugs were amazingly thick for about 5 minutes. So thick they looked like dark columns extending about 20 feet into the air. We had our shirts covering our faces while we rode, but we were still inhaling gnats. Luckily it was only for a short section of the causeway. Right after that we hit a section that smelled like an outhouse that needed attention. Seriously. Luckily that was short too. Most of the ride was beautiful, clear, and flat.

We are getting stronger. I try to ride a recumbent at the gym 3-4 days a week, Natalie either runs or rides her road bike in the basement every morning, and every weekend we ride 40-50 miles together on the tandem. We have a 3-day 180 mile trip in early June. It is hard to fit a lot of training into our already busy lives, but we feel like we are are doing an adequate job. Today we were able to make it up a short hill with a 10 percent grade that had stopped us 2 months ago.

I think one aspect of our tandem that has surprised us the most is how easy it is to talk to each other. Unless there is a headwind, we talk for most of the ride. The topics are super random – especially when we are gassed, but this is proving to be a great way to spend time together.

We have less than a month before we leave.  A few more weekend rides, a 3-day ride toward Nephi, and then we box the bike up and head for the airport. Bring it.

Day two

We actually got to wear our shorts today and, halfway through the ride, our short sleeves! Beautiful day, nice temperature. Pete managed not to get his lips sunburned this time. (He always took my chapstick when offered, this ride.)

We were riding an out and back, so yesterday’s tail wind was today’s headwind. We seemed to do fine with it. It probably slowed us less than one mile per hour. The bigger challenge today involved about 500 more feet of climbing, with the steepest climb right at the end. We made it fine, but pretty much collapsed after getting off the bike at the end of our ride.

We probably won’t do this ride again, mainly because there was little to no shoulder most of the ride. Some cars gave us plenty of room, some not so much, and some had no choice due to oncoming traffic. Moving uphill at 6mph on a road with vehicles zipping by at 65mph or more, feels a little sketchy.

I think our biggest mission for Europe is to keep the mileage short enough each day to have left over time and energy for sightseeing.

Second multi-day ride

Last night we drove to Cedar City and stayed at accomodations booked via Airbnb. First time experience with Airbnb. The host family was a young couple with two small kids and were welcoming and easy to work with. We didn’t know what to expect, but so far so good.

This morning we left around 9 and had a completely different experience than our last ride. For starters we had a strong tailwind for most of the day. Although we’re going to tell you some things we think we did better, all credit might go to the wind.

In addition to a great tail wind, the weather was great. It was probably in the upper 30s when we started and warmed nicely to 60 degrees by the end of our ride.

We rode 70 miles with 2700 feet of elevation gain. We selected this route because it has many similar characteristics to our days planned for Europe.

We did a much better job of pacing ourselves on the hills. I selected this route specifically because it didn’t have many segments steeper than 5 percent. The few that exceeded that were short. We had a better understanding of what to expect because I wrote some software to analyze the route in a way that makes it easier to compare to other rides we were familiar with. It helped to know in advance that every hill was within our reach.

It really helped to not push for speed – not even a little. We had plenty of time, so we took it. 

Finally, we were a little lighter today as we are not carrying camping gear – just camp food.

For lunch today we ate at a little diner in Enterprise. Classic diner. Not many vegan choices, no surprise, but we had a big fresh order of delicious fries and a salad each. It was yummy and a good break.

We are staying at another Airbnb tonight, and in this case we have the whole house. There is no restaurant – not even a gas station – so we are cooking a backpacking dinner tonight. Nothing says romantic dinner like Mountain House.

We are tired but happy. This is an out and back, so tomorrow we retrace our steps with slightly more vertical gain.

Day 3

Last night, after soaking in the hot springs, we thought we’d sleep well and be plenty warm. Not so much. Pete did seem to fall asleep pretty quickly, but I was sleepless until about 2am, I think because I was too​ cold. I was sure the temperature must be in the 20s, but when I checked my phone about 7am it was it the high 30s! We must be getting old. Our tent and sleeping bags were comfy, and the campground was practically deserted — except for an owl or two — but I just wasn’t warm enough.

After oatmeal by our campfire, we bundled up and headed​ out. The day began with thick cloud cover but warmed and brightened nicely by afternoon. For the first 10 miles we were on a stressful busy highway, but we able to finish most of the rest of our ride on farm roads, some of which were dirt. The dirt roads were slower but peaceful. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was honestly ideal. We had a little headwind but it was the least of the three days.

We finished in Logan about 3:30, with a total mileage of about 188. We were able to spend some time with our grandkids, which was delightful and rejuvenating. 

It was a great adventure, we learned a lot, and we enjoyed being with each other. We are better prepared and even more excited for our Europe trip!

I do think we’ll sleep well tonight! 

Day 2

Last night we stayed at the Largilliere Carriage House bed and breakfast in Soda Springs. We slept great and had an amazing breakfast of grilled vegetables, potatoes, vegan gluten free blueberry muffins, and fresh fruit. Thanks Robbie! By last evening I was questioning our choice of hobbies, but by the time breakfast was over we were all in once again.

Today was much better. We rode 62 miles from Soda Springs to Downata, a lot of it downhill (only 700 feet of climbing). We rode on old highway 30 which added 10 miles but bypassed a big hill and avoided a lot of traffic. Easily worth the extra miles. We had a tailwind for the first 20 miles and a headwind for the rest. The weather was at least 10 degrees warmer today. We also paid much better attention to our nutrition and pace.

Downey Idaho has no grocery stores and no restaurants. Luckily a kind lady at a Phillips 66 with a deli made us awesome salads using sandwich fixings. We also had fries and a Mounds bar.

We are camping tonight at Downata hot springs, posting this from the hot pool. :-):-):-) 

Headed toward the mountain in the distance
Idaho colors
Our hosts
Inside the bed and breakfast

First day of first multi-day tour

We loaded up our bike with about 60 pounds of gear (clothes, food, tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, bike tools…) and left from 5 miles above Garden City headed for Soda Springs Idaho. It was a slog! We had a powerful headwind for 90 percent of the ride. The high temperature for the day was about 35 degrees F. I used a German route mapping program to set our path. I thought I had a route with minimal hills and all pavement. We ended up climbing about 1700 feet over 67 miles, with about 20 miles on a dirt road.

The fully loaded bike is heavy! It is probably about 150 pounds. That isn’t a big deal on the level, but the hills are punishing. Maybe I shouldn’t have changed the gearing to give up better speed… The hills plus the headwind were exhausting! This was far harder than the centuries we’ve ridden on our road bikes.

We are exhausted but happy.