I’ve been in Utah since Tuesday last week. It has been wild!
Since Chicago, I left in baking heat of Illinois, flew 3 hours south and arrived in a turbulent, blizzard filled Salt Lake City, after a minor confusion with waltzing straight out of the plane into the car-park (almost) I was somewhat confused with the arrangement out here in the USA. After locating my luggage, I soon found my wonderful host (Damon); whom, I had rudely walked straight past in my glorified stupor. Before I knew it, I was in his pick-up driving through a blizzard. Thankfully, owing to a packing error (and many self-made gifts via Amazon) I was now having to wear excess clothing to board the plane, which turned out well.
We first hit a steak house to have the most unlikely meal on the menu: fish! My word, it was divine, I went for the Tilapia shrimp with sweet potato with cinnamon butter; finger kissing good! Then rolled up at Damon’s house after a minor tour of his neighbourhood which I recognised from videos he posted on YouTube, despite the snow. Surreal! We stayed up late waiting for the Oregon/Maui crew to turn up in the RV: Ryan, Curt and Levy turned up just past 2:30 am, we hit the hay shortly after.
At this point, I should point out, Damon, had been looking after my prize motorcycle in his garage, and without me and my signature I was not able to get it road taxed/registered or whichever you wish to call it. So the following morning (bright and early), in a heavier blizzard we headed out to the DMV, happily acquired the paperwork and paid my dues and was out in under 10 minutes. Cue: breakfast with the boys, a quick pack (I had ordered many more extra toys to be delivered to Damon’s house, plus all my camping gear I had sent that way also). By midday we were on the road in the RV heading down to St. George!
I have to digress here and point out, meeting these people I have only ever seen on YouTube and communicated with on social media is a surreal situation when such hospitality and welcoming arms are there to hug and great you. I haven’t felt so welcome ever! After a long and yet uneventful trip south from the snowy roads of Salt Lake, the crew and I emerged at St. George in a fine warm evening, in a landscape not dissimilar to where I grew up in, in Andalucia, Spain: mountainous, dry and barren.
A day after making this video, I went riding with Tyler and his brother Jae, we had a great time just the three of us. However, after a hill climb in a sandy rocky slope I failed on two attempts, the last attempt I rolled the bike back to try again but slipped and fell and landed sideways onto a rock into much chest, I believe this is the beginning of the end for my ribs (more on this later). We rode a while longer but I had to get back as I had made plans with a new friend. I was rather sore but that didn’t stop me from going mountain biking with a my new friend Jamie to photograph the cacti in bloom at sunset. It was a little unfruitful but we found a few nice cacti in bloom.
I’m not sure if it was the morning after or the day after that but I woke up, stretched as I yawned where my ribs crunched inward, I suddenly couldn’t move my arms momentarily as the pain was so acute. I took various pain killers that day but nothing seemed to shift the pain that much. I rested up that day and planned on leaving St. George the following day. I lazed around the rest of the day, packing my bike up and doing some odd’s and sods to the bike before deciding I wasn’t going to leave. Eventually with sheer stubbornness I left the following day with an escort to Veyo with Tyler, we did a dual vlog and he interviewed me about my journey for his video channel.
I rode a further hour alone before finding a little spot to camp, the weather was looking a little threatening but thought I’d pitch my tent on a flat spot of land, which I later discovered was a dry river-bed, given the rain clouds and knowing a little about the area, I didn’t think pitching a tent in a river bed before a storm was wise. I rushed and picked up my hammock (which I’ve never used before), and tried to find two trees the right distance apart to hang the hammock. With a bit of a struggle I managed just in time for the rain to give all that it had and I managed just fine. Slept better than I have ever slept before outdoors. The soothing sound of a rain storm on my rain-fly was so soothing that I fell asleep in moments.
The next morning at 5:30am, I woke up to the sound of Ursula my bike falling over (the rain had softened the sand) and in my half-awake stupor I tried to lift the bike full on brute style, using my arms and bending my back (that rupturing sound happened again)…. I instantly knew that was a mistake and soon turned around backward and lifted the bike up with my legs.
I continued with a very very slow preparation that morning, with it being dry and all and having not done the changes to the hammock I had intended. It was a very very slow start (I mean it), I continued on through the prairie type land, flat long roads, with little and nothing to be seen. I loved it! I continued into Cedar City, found somewhere to have breakfast and then continued up into the mountains toward Bryce Canyon, the temperature continued to drop and the weather continually got worse, about 20 miles after Cedar City, I started riding past snow drifts and decided to put my rain-suit on. While I was getting geared up a car coming down tells me to turn around due to the snow being 5 inches deep on the road, and the snow plough wasn’t out plus heavy fog. I wondered if he was exaggerating but after looking at alternative routes to Bryce Canyon a while a police office came and told me to turn around.
I had to consider my options given the mountain range was the same elevation all the way along down to St. George. I decided to ride down to Zion National Park instead; However, this involved (if following my rule of not riding motorways/interstates/highways) I’d need to return the road I had ridden this far all the way back to St. George. I was so disappointed in this decision but seemed like the only option. As I left Cedar City again in direction for Enterprise when the rain became ice rain, as I continued further my boots started to leak. My feet soon became numb, after another hour or so I became so uncomfortable I decided to pull over and do some excises to warm up. Unfortunately, this didn’t go well for me, given the slope of the area I pulled over at, and the way my panniers were packed I couldn’t clear the floor well enough to prevent myself from falling as a strong gust threw me over.
I spent a few minutes hauling the bike, but with the broken ribs and my back pain I didn’t have the strength to lift the bike. With fuel spilling out, in the middle of nowhere I was going mad, my flimsy little bike that I couldn’t pick up. A few trucks drove on past, but eventually one pick-up pulled over and the kind man helped me up. I was incredibly thankful. I had been stuck there with no way to lift the bike up and no way to move.
I continued on my way, and as I approached St. George I wondered with my back pain how much further I could go and where I would be camping that night. The hauling of the bike really didn’t work too well for me and eventually a few miles out-of-town I decided to call on Tyler again (I was so humbled at this time)… I needed help again and I was asking the same guy who helped me out just a few days before putting me up in his house with his family.
Anyhow I’m sat here in St. George feeling rather useless everything hurts, and I feel like a mess. 🙁
Neil, please don’t beat yourself up about the series of events that have lead up to you being unable to continue – for the moment. Remember Africa & what happened to Matt & Karen (sorry can’t remember her name) but she broke her wrist/arm going over the desert. Unforseen mishaps. You’ll get better soon (but rest with gentle exercise & yoga) is what is needed.
To coin the phrase made popular by Halfthrottle, “It wouldn’t be an adventure if everything went right”. Take your time, let your body heal, you will know when it’s time to forge ahead again. Delay if you can, it will improve our chances to hook up and make it to the cabin. It’s still pretty gnarly up in the mountains. Maybe a short trip South before coming up North again is an option?
Wow. A great post. This is like a real adventure story. Now we need a happy chapter where the hero beats the odds and gets the girl. Well gets back on his bike anyway. Go for the yoga!