The climb to Soldier’s Summit

Provo, Utah. 5:20pm

Bacon sundaes aside, what’s been happening on the bike front?

Well, yesterday evening started with Daniel and I being woken up briskly by some church group who decided that they had to have their yearly piñata-bashing session 15 feet away from where we were sleeping on the city park lawn. There were literally 30 trees – all equally fit to hang a piñata from – in the park, and they had to choose the one right next to us. The adults had what felt like 5000 screaming kids in tow and they bashed the shit out of that thing until the candy eventually came falling out of it and the kids all piled up on the ground fighting each other for the last pieces. Great way to wake up. I was pissed.

Before taking off we thought we’d make some food. I’d bought some Hamburger Helper at Walmart earlier in the day. Word of advice: stay away from Hamburger Helper. Actually, stay away from all the Rice a Roni, Ramen Noodles, Tuna Helper, Pasta Sides, Rice Sides-bullshit. It’s all crap filled with sodium and it makes you feel like shit. I’ve tried all of them and they all suck.

After a huge portion of Hamburger Helper, we took off at about 7pm. A guy who seemed to know what he was talking about had told us to stay away from route 6 – the main route from Price to Provo – at all costs. That road was apparently very steep, difficult, had no shoulders and was generally impassable. It would take us over Soldier’s Summit at 7500 feet before dropping down the other side to Provo. He instead told us to take a detour that was 30 miles longer but much easier.

From the get-go, I could tell Daniel was not into it. He was riding really slowly, his eyes were kind of drooping and he didn’t seem to be enjoying the ride at all. He was stressing about the uphill riding we would inevitably have to do – and neither of us had really gotten much sleep during the day. After 10 miles of slow riding we eventually got to the spot where the detour veered off of route 6. We stopped. It was already almost 10pm and we talked for a little while to try to regain our strength. Daniel had some instant coffee, a glucose tablet and half of a Colossal 100.

That’s when something switched inside Daniel’s brain. I’ve seen it happen a few times before, and it’s always amazing. He looked at the road the bike dealer had recommended, and then looked up towards the really, really beautiful canyon that route 6 ran through – straight up the mountain.

“We’re doing route 6,” he said.

He’d mentioned earlier that he’d done route 6 twice before and that it’d taken him 2 days to get to the top (hence why it was such a big deal that his other route was closed). For some reason, he just decided then and there that he’d rather do a route he’s familiar with than something completely new.

All of a sudden – it was on – Daniel was on his A-game. While he went about his final preparations for the 25 mile night climb to the top, I took a few pictures.

 

Before leaving the guardrail we’d made our base for the last 20 minutes, we both each downed one 5 hour energy drink – and off we went.

In a way, it was a pity we did it at night, because the surrounding must have been just awesome. We were riding constantly slowly uphill, through a dramatic canyon with hills on either side and a river on the right side of the road. Traffic was moderate. Daniel was on fire. Usually, he doesn’t enjoy climbing at all. Last night, his little rear tail light just took off. I laughed as I saw it disappear in the distance, his legs flying up and down like the pistons of an engine. The miles went on, I was really enjoying myself in the dark. It’s such an awesome feeling just riding along in the cold brisk air with a new found friend, through beautiful surroundings and with not a worry on your mind.  I caught up, and it got colder and colder. It was midnight and we were halfway to the top – doing really well. Daniel smoked a cigarette and talked about how ridiculous it felt that we were about to do in one night what usually takes him two full days. We were both happy to have taken this route as opposed to the detour. The guy in the bike shop obviously had no clue what he was talking about – or he was a very weak climber. It really wasn’t that bad.

We kept riding. Slowly, the canyon disappeared behind us and we started riding along the ridge of the mountain. It was really getting cold now, probably close to freezing. We both thought we were at the top, but in truth we had about 5 miles left. Finally – at 2:00am, we crested Soldier Summit.

At the top was a cozy little gas-station. Closed of course.

 

The plan of getting all the way to Provo didn’t work out. We busted down the hill about 10 miles before finding a decent rest stop to get some sleep. It was still freezing out but we had no choice. Found some picnic tables and just fell asleep. A great night.

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