Rod McLaughlin

Dinosaurs (06 may 12)

Me near the 'top' 

In Manila, the lady in the gas station told me about the ascent out of the Gorge. She told me about the descent on the other side. Both are a series of switchbacks which go from about 6500 to about 8500 ft. I found the best way to take long hills is not to go at it full on to start with, then end up stopping every inch (vertical) toward the top. The best way is to start off by stopping every couple of miles (horizontal) or so, take a good five minute break and breathe a lot, then continue in low gear. This worked very well.

Another thing not to do is look up at the switchbacks a thousand feet above you. Do it one pedal at a time and don't anticipate - each yard (horizontal) or centimeter (vertical) isn't difficult - you just do them one at a time. A convoy of Halliburton trucks overtook me. They go from Green Wiver WY to Vernal CO in both of which places there is oil - for some reason they have to take the hard way, on highway 44. Following the 'war for oil' theory, no doubt the air force will soon bomb the area. 

Soon I was near the 'top', with the road snaking away below me. An old guy in a Ford copy of the VW Eurovan took this picture. 

The problem is, what the gas station lady in Manila, who looks like she'd never ridden a bike in her life, didn't tell me, is, between the ascent and the descent is 20 miles of false summits. Even when you get to the 'real' summit, which is marked, there are still a dozen ups and downs before you start descending. I kept wrapping up and stripping off to avoid being too hot or too cold. Eventually, I reached the descent switchbacks. These are interrupted by regular ascents - nothing in a car, something on a bike, when you're tired and the sun has gone down. The moon rose, I do have lights, and there was very little traffic. Besides, I could do 50 mph. if I wanted to. 

However, after the bottom, there were still dozens of 'little' hills to go over. The countryside looked gorgeous, even at night - huge red and yellow rocks, one of which looked like it had a multi-pitch crack climb on it - undeveloped. That was just by a little river by a lawn, which looked ideal for camping. Except it was downstream from 'Simplot phospate plant'. So I continued.

I saw a sign for Red Fleet State Park, with a picture of a boat. This, I surmised, means water, which I needed - I had enough food, but no water. So I camped. I was too tired to cook, but in the morning I used my 'emergency supplies', and made a 'Mountain House chicken and rice' instant meal. Normally, I don't like Mountain House, but I was hungry. But not as hungry as I get at home. Mega-workouts are good for you in two ways - they give you exercise, and they reduce your appetite. After a marathon, you don't want fish and chips followed by trifle, washed down with a milkshake.

I've discovered why 'Welcome to Utah' signs have a picture of a dinosaur. There's lots of road signs indicating digging for dinosaurs, and even dinosaur footprints visible on the bank opposite the campsite.

On the way out in the morning, I saw a blue bird attacking a chipmunk. I rode out along the pristine highway past fishermen and more gorgeous lakes and mountains and stuff.

It's easy to think you want to live in Utah for the rest of your life. Any day of the year, somewhere in the state has whatever climate you are looking for. Unless you like rain.

Then I reached the town of Vernal. Everything was closed except a coffee shop. The girl in the coffee shop said it was closed because it is Sunday and this is a Mormon town. You lose track of days when you're bike touring. It's a shame because the museum is closed, but I'm heading toward the entrance of the Dinosaur National 'Monument' (I don't know why the US govt. calls parks 'monuments').

In Idaho Falls, I saw a paleontologist scraping dinosaur bones out of fossilized mud. In Wyoming, I rode past 'Fossil Butte National Monument' but didn't go in because all I could see was a road leading into a desert, which could lead to a 40 mile detour. In the Flaming Gorge, I read numerous signs at various altitudes saying what age the rock is and what type of creatures infested it. I'm going to a town called Dinosaur. This is turning into the 'dinosaur tour'.


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