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May 14 — Moab to Monticello, 55 miles

Tough day, but a good one. It was nearly a nonstop climb to Monticello after Hole ‘n the Wall at mile 17 or so. The day started out very warm, so I was glad to see a cloudburst up ahead and to feel the wind that came with it. When the wind strengthened and started to push us back, I was less glad. Be careful what you wish for. At mile 30, with the biggest incline of the day still ahead, I realized I should have filled another water bottle for this ride. Oh well. Swallowing my pride, I begged an eighth of a bottle of water from two gentlemen fixing a truck on the roadside. They were Brad and his son, Brad Jr., and that’s all they had with them. An hour and a half later, down to 4 ounces of water, we were laboring up the last big climb to Monticello. That’s when Brad Sr. pulled up in his truck with 1 1/2 gallons of cool water he had driven out of his way to get just for us. I offered to pay him but he wouldn’t take anything for it. Brad works for a carnival outside of Salt Lake City, over 280 miles away from Monticello. One traveler helping another because he thought it was the right thing to do. Don’t tell me people aren’t awesome.

Brad knows the way to a thirsty dog’s heart

May 12 — Green River to Moab, 54 miles

The first 21 miles out of Green River were a little loud, but easy, since we rode on I-70 all the way to Crescent Junction. The pavement was smooth and the shoulder was wide, keeping us well separated from the Sunday traffic. At Papa Joe’s Stop & Go (home of alien jerky), a young man told me he had been one of the people who beeped their horns at us a couple of days before. He hoped he hadn’t startled me and had only meant to send me good vibes. As we talked, I discovered he had just ridden part of my upcoming route, not on a loaded touring bike pulling a trailer, but on a bike, nonetheless. He warned me that I had days of bike-unfriendly Utah roads ahead. Sure enough, when we turned south on U.S. 191, the shoulder narrowed and the drunken rumble strip maker’s handiwork was in evidence once again.

But closer to Moab, there was a nice bike path leading all the way to town. Of course that sweet, smooth path was where my rear tire went flat. No problem, that gave me the chance to meet cyclists Don and Coylene, who kindly stopped to see if I needed assistance. After I put the tire back on, Jax got to run for several miles before we entered Moab, where our amazing hosts, Terry, Julia and their amazing dog Freddie awaited.

Jax doesn’t really need a path.
Julia and Terry, Freddie and Jax. Freddie, a stately 13-year-old, has a good thing going in Moab and let Jax know right away that no stinking German Shorthair was going to mess it up for him. Jax got the message and they coexisted peacefully for the two days we were there. 😊

My apologies for delays in posting. I’ve been spending a lot of time reviewing and revising our route and calling ahead to make arrangements for the next week’s travels, based on the advice of people who know more about this region than I do. I won’t change the “planned route” map on this site, but the paw prints that show where we are will sometimes be off the originally planned course.

May 11 — Price to Green River, 66 miles

As I loaded the bike to leave Price, a man leaned in our open motel room door and said, “Tell me you’re hauling a dog with you in that trailer!” “I am,” I said, and that’s when we met Bret and Charlie (https://thecharliebravostory.com), a man and the dog he found, left to die in a crate by the side of a road. They travel around the country by motorcycle (seems like cheating to me) spreading their “No dog left behind” message. What a great story they are writing and living!

The ride from Price to Green River was uneventful. After Wellington, which is right next to Price, we encountered 60 miles of barren, high desert with views of bluffs and snow-capped mountains so far away they could have been on another planet. Green River (pop. 952) seemed like a bustling metropolis after all that emptiness! I managed to steer Jax away from the river, only to have him jump into a water hazard on the golf course. Sleeping in a tent with a damp German Shorthaired Pointer wasn’t on my bucket list, but I got to check it off anyway. Next stop, Moab.

Jax and Charlie

May 8-10

Loaded up with dog food and spare thorn-resistant inner tubes for Jax’s trailer, we set out for Provo, with a special stop at the Utah Central Association of Realtors headquarters in Orem. My colleague, Aaron Drussel, owner of BHGRE Influence Partners, arranged for us to share information about K9s For Warriors at a Women’s Council of Realtors luncheon there.

We nearly missed the meeting. When we were only 7 miles from UCAR, weird things started going wrong with the rear end of the bike. One at a time, the rear brake stuck, the rear fender dragged and the rear derailleur threw the chain off and stopped shifting. Each time I tried to make little adjustments that would at least get me there, which would last maybe a mile. Finally, I dismounted, unhooked the trailer, took off all the bags and sat down to get a close look at what was going on. Now I could see what all that gear (and my hurry to get somewhere) had been concealing: After about a thousand miles of hauling Jax, the trailer had begun to loosen the skewer that holds it to the back of the bike. That skewer also holds the wheel and everything else at the back of the bike together. All I had to do was put the chain back on, re-tighten the skewer, return the brake and fender to their original positions and Boom, we were back in business. We made it to the meeting, met some wonderful people and then proceeded to Provo without incident.

I was very glad we made it to the Women’s Council of Realtors meeting. Interacting with a roomful of awesome, community-minded professionals is way better than sitting on a curb with a greasy bicycle chain in your hands!

On May 9th, we left Provo and headed for Price, on the other side of the Wassatch Range, the western edge of the Rocky Mountains. It was a 76-mile ride crossing a 7,477’ pass (Soldier Summit), but still, it took way longer than I expected. Almost 12 hours, including stops to eat, let Jax out, etc. The problem wasn’t the climb, it was the road. U.S. Highway 6, according to a helpful man I met at a Chevron in Spanish Fork, just before I turned on to that very highway, “is one of the three most dangerous roads in the United States.” He went on to suggest an alternate ride route that would take us hundreds of miles out of our way. No thanks. Why, I asked, is it so dangerous? “People are stupid.” Hmmm, alright, it was nice meeting you. And then we turned onto the Road From Hell.

At first it was fine. The shoulder was nail- and glass-strewn for miles, but it was wide. One hint of what was to come was the way the rumble strip, the perforation in pavement meant to warn motorists when they wander off the road and onto the shoulder, itself began wandering all over the shoulder. Then at some point, the shoulder would completely disappear, then reappear with a rumble strip right in the middle. These strips that produce a sudden hum when a car drives over them make a Bam-Bam-Bam sound when a loaded touring bike and dog trailer stray onto them. Body-shaking and potentially spoke-breaking stuff.

On the right side of the shoulder, when there was one, there was often a 6-inch drop off to a gravel, rock and road debris-filled strip. For many, many miles, one wheel of Jax’s trailer had to roll either in that strip or on the rumble strip. That made us go even more slowly than normal… something I hadn’t believed was possible. But it didn’t stop us, it just slowed us down.

Maybe 9-10,000 cars passed us that day and not one showed any outward signs of having a stupid person inside. No one gave us an angry horn honk, though we did get honks of encouragement as we approached the summit. I even counted three separate “Beep, beep-beep-beep, beep, Beep Beeps” during the ride. That didn’t actually disprove the Chevron guy’s stupidity theory, but it was downright friendly!

But the road itself… it’s almost as though it was designed to force bicycles and motor vehicles as close together as possible. It isn’t just the narrow shoulders at various points, it’s a combination of elements that force sudden direction changes and increase the chance for miscalculation. I included a couple of examples in the video below, but they don’t do this road justice. For future readers/cyclists with trailers considering taking this road, I give it a grade of F-minus. For cyclists without trailers or with one-wheeled trailers, it’s a solid D. But Jax and I made it and we’re moving on now. Tomorrow, we ride for Green River.

The town of Price when we arrived

May 6

Rolled through Salt Lake City almost entirely on multi-use trails today, ending our day at the Lazy B Ranch in Riverton. On our way, we passed through affluent newer neighborhoods, well-kept older neighborhoods, industrial districts and a grittier part of the city, where I had a mildly tense interaction with two young men who appeared to have made some bad life choices. All ended well: “Nice bike. You have a nice day,” and “You too.” Moving on, we were stopped by a very nice woman and fellow cyclist named Cathy Price, and her son, Rylan. Cathy said she had seen “rollingwithjax.com” on Jax’s trailer, checked out the site and knew the area we were going to ride through. So she intercepted us to offer a bottle of water, give us route information (more goat head thorns coming) and cheer us on. We had a nice conversation, but the wind was coming up and it was threatening to rain, so we had to move on.

We arrived at the Lazy B, where our friends Lillan and Damien live, and are staying in the main house, thanks to the generosity of the owners, Bob and Tracy Brown. It’s looking like rain and thunderstorms for the next few days and my improvised rain cover for Jax’s mesh-sided trailer has disintegrated, so I’m taking a day to rig up a new one, clean and lube the bike thoroughly, buy dog food and look for thorn-resistant inner tubes.

Our awesome hosts, Tracy and Bob, along with Axel, Leo and Laila

Not pictured above are our equally awesome co-hosts, Damien Rome and Lillan Roquet!

May 5

Today was humbling, but not because of the ride; the route was easy and flat today. Today was humbling because I spent it in the presence of people who had been called on to show real courage, live with fear, face death and make tremendous sacrifices in service of the rest of us. And I met the people who love, advocate for and take care of these veterans. I spent my day in the presence of greatness.

Terry Schow, former Director of Veteran’s Affairs for the State of Utah and a key champion of this and other 5-star veterans homes in the state, and his wife, June
You should read every word of this — I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Terry and June, Marino Toulatos of BHGRE Franklin Group (colleague and organizer of this trip for me) and Master Sergeant Jack Verhaal, USMC, Retired
Kellie Adams, VA Nurse Manager. I ate lunch with Kellie and asked her what her job is like. She used words like “attachment” and “love” a lot. She loves her job and the people she serves, which is probably a big part of the reason this facility is so highly rated.
Debbie Tribe, her brother, Robert Charlesworth and Tex Crawford. Jax tried to horn in on a game of cribbage and I didn’t get everyone’s names.
Amber McCloskey graciously made sure I ate, showed me to the employee lunch room and told me about the home
Jax interrupted Ron’s physical therapy session, but Ron didn’t seem to mind.
I was honored that my new friends from BHGRE Franklin Group took time out of their Sunday to welcome Jax and me to Ogden. I hope to return and spend more time with them someday. From left to right, Marino Toulatos, Nico and CeCe (Anna’s nephew and niece), Anna Jensen, Shelly Russon and Cathie McGregor Critchlow. Not pictured, because he was the photographer: Cathie’s husband, Steve. I didn’t get the beautiful dogs’ names, but as you can see, Jax was in love with Anna’s poodle.😍

Despite the fact that warfare has changed and society has changed, we are still asking warriors to make life-changing sacrifices for us and they are rising to the challenge. They take care of us, so we should take care of them; that’s the deal. I hope you’ll spread the word about K9s For Warriors and consider making a donation. It will make a world of difference for a veteran and create a fulfilling life of purpose for their canine companion.

Postscript: Getting a flat tire right as we left the veterans home added to my overall sense of humility. I had 24 more miles to reflect on the fact that a flat tire on a beautiful Utah day is as trivial as a “problem” can be.

The Denver and Rio Grande Western Rail Trail cuts through much of the Salt Lake metropolitan area.
Movin’ On

May 3

As beautiful as it was, today was harder than most and I’m not sure why. We woke up to a centimeter of ice on Jax’s water bowl, but that’s happened before. There were 10-mile stretches with some headwinds, but the wind wasn’t terribly strong. The terrain was mostly flat and the pavement was mostly decent, but if you could “trudge” on a bicycle, that’s what I did all day.

“Tiger got to hunt, Bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’”
—Kurt Vonnegut

There were no stores, gas stations or services of any kind on our route from Snowville to Brigham City. There weren’t even many houses. Mile after mile, the few people we saw were in cars or trucks. Some of them waved or even leaned out their windows to give us an encouraging thumbs-up, which was nice. Then they were gone and not even the sound of their vehicles remained. It felt a little like being in outer space.

“Ground Control to Jax and John. Ground Control to Jax and John.”😊

During this trip, Jax has become somewhat territorial about his trailer. when dogs chased us during our training rides, I would speak to him in a calm voice, tell him everything’s all right and he would ignore them. But now, when a dog or dogs come shooting out into the road with murderous intent, zeroing in on my ankles, all Hell breaks loose behind me, the trailer shakes and I have to work to hold the bike steady. Every time (so far), the pursuers’ confident, predatory facial expressions change to an almost human look of shock and confusion. A couple of halfhearted barks later, they slink back to their yards. The first few times he did it, I gave the “Quiet!” command, but to no avail. And what was I going to do— stop the bike and discipline him in the middle of a pack of ravenous hounds? Later, I began to enjoy watching the pursuers switch from “Hey you, get off my turf!” to “So very sorry! My bad.” Anyway, that happened a couple of times as we approached Brigham City, which added a little pep to my pedaling. I hope I’m not completely untraining my awesome canine companion.

Continuing the Major Tom theme, out of nowhere sprung a Northrup Grumman space launch systems facility; and then we pedaled back to nowhere again.

Saturday, we will rest and resupply, then on Sunday we’ll head south toward Salt Lake City, hoping to meet and talk with some veterans and my BHGRE colleagues about K9s For Warriors and the amazing work they do.

Edit: I forgot to mention the plague of gnats! They came when I was slogging along through a section north of the Great Salt Lake, dotted with smaller lakes and migratory wildfowl habitat. For 15-20 miles clouds of kamikaze gnats crashed their little bodies into my mouth, nose, ears, and everywhere else. It was beautiful country, but I didn’t stop to take pictures.