Summer Sunday: Bike Trip
I am not supposed to be riding a road bike through remote Western Utah right now. In fact, there are a hundred, no probably a thousand things that need my attention, namely parenting, working, or writing short stories for the rigorous graduate writing program I enlisted myself in this past winter, a program that is at once uplifting me and demolishing me, depending on the hour.
Yet, a few months back at the Telluride Mountain School annual scholarship fundraiser, I found myself raising my hand to bid on a Lizard Head Cycling trip through Utah. I knew nothing about road biking and had neither time nor money to be auctioning away. Still, something in me wanted to wind through Zion, Bryce, and the remote canyons surrounding Boulder, Utah, places I’d visited only briefly a decade ago. Something in me rebelled against a summer that was too responsible. Too planned. I wanted time with Andy, time away from my computer and my phone, and knew that the cell-free land of Western Utah was the only place I was going to find it. This was God’s country. The Ed Abbey heartland. And come hell or high babysitting prices, I was going there—my name on the auction slip ensured that.
For those of you who don’t know about Lizard Head Cycling Guides, it’s like summer camp for adults. All day, every day you ride your road bike. Except that all of the support work is done for you. They tell you where you are riding that day. They stop the van and provide snacks and water at perfect intervals along the way. They make you an amazing lunch. Carry your luggage into your room at night. Buy your dinner. For a couple like us, who has always done everything on the trips we take, this was a revelation. I didn’t have to think about what I was going cook for dinner that night or where I was going to sleep. All I had to do was pedal.
And so here I am pedaling on a remote stretch of Highway 12. Sometimes, I feel like there is no quiet place left in the world—this is particularly the case at my house where there is construction going on next door—and then I go to remote Utah where there is so much quiet, it’s almost eerie. As Andy and I pedal from Zion to Bryce and from Bryce to Boulder, I have to, at times, stop my bike and just listen to see if anything has changed, if there is anything interrupting that silence.
There is, of course, the occasional car, the occasional airplane, but for the most part, it is quiet save the sound of our bikes clicking through gears, the sound of our breathing as we work up and over hills, and the sound of ravens calling to each other overhead. There is little to no cell service and no internet. Other than this road bike that gets me from place to place, there is little to remind me of what decade it is. I am thinking a lot about the Mormon pioneers, who first settled these valleys. We hear a lot about how intimidating the land was for them, how hot and dry it was, how they gave it scary names like Hell’s Back Bone and Death Hollow. But I am wondering if there weren’t a few who were swayed by the beauty of the place. I imagine them stepping out—after the chores were done and the children scrubbed—to take a moment to look around. I imagine that they, too, might have been impressed by the color of the rocks when the sun started to set, those yellows and peaches, and that they might have wondered at the vastness of the sky, at the vastness of place, everything feeling possible, just as we do.
I am so grateful for the irrationality that placed me here on this bike trip. Pedaling through red sandstone canyons, swimming in rivers to cool down, listening to friends tell stories until late in the evening has felt like freedom. Like August. Like summer once again.
Emily Brendler Shoff
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