We finally did it. Team Moose went on that often talked about but never materialized hiking/ biking vacation. To the bottom of the Grand Canyon, through the Hoo-Doos in Bryce, and The Narrows in Zion followed by riding parts of the Hoo Doo 500, RAAM, Trans Am Bike Race, and Natchez Trace routes. Needless to say our legs are trashed but we are already planning for Road Trip 2.
Just as in any adventure there are lots of lessons learned and this trip was no exception. Below are some of our after biking thoughts:
The little Honda Element proved to be a perfect vehicle for the trip. Packed with two Cruzbikes, camping gear, food, and enough clothes to support Ms. Daisy on a round the world trip it completed the journey without a hitch. It was tight when both of us were in the car but the concept was to “team tackle” the route. Often times one would be riding the route while the other Sagged. When in the National Parks we would ride together.
Grand Canyon: There is biking along the upper rim and a short bike path coming from the city just outside the Park but due to the large crowds it wasn’t appealing. During less crowded periods I could see wanting to bike along the Park rim but during our stay it seemed much too crowded and besides the Canyon is for hiking. We choose to leave the bikes in the car and hike to the Colorado River. As Grand as the Canyon is from the top it is even grander inside the canyon walls.
Bryce Canyon Utah: Bryce Canyon has connected a bike trail from Red Rock Canyon State park to the Bryce Canyon National Park. This is a fantastic trail that runs 18 miles end to end or 36 miles round trip. Stunning views in Red Rock Canyon. We met an REI bike adventure group there and got a glimpse of how the experts eat on the trail. Yes, the trail is good enough you could just ride back and forth on it all day. Bryce also allows bikes on all the vehicle park routes. A great Park for cycling.
Zion National Park: There is reportedly some great riding here but not on the 4th of July weekend when we were there. It was one huge traffic jam. There is a one mile long tunnel where bikes are not allowed to go. Riders must find a vehicle willing to take them through the tunnel. That said, this didn’t look like a difficult task. We skipped the bikes and explored the Narrows. Maybe some other time?
HooDoo 500: We chose to ride the Kanab to Escalante and Cedar City to St George legs of the Hoo Doo. It was enough. This was the first time I was scared to turn Vamoose loose. Here you can find some steep grades that will allow you to go as fast as one pleases. The road surfaces were decent but changed enough that I wasn’t comfortable to go full gorilla down an unknown lane. This is a great route. Why anyone would want to ride it in the dark and miss the views is beyond me. I believe the Hoo-Doo Stage race is an excellent choice for first time Hoo-Doo racers.
RAAM SR 160 route: The RAAM route took me through the iconic Monument Valley, Mexican Hat, and over famed Wolf Creek Pass. More great scenery but the road shoulder quality was a mixed bag. It changed from excellent to bad and did so often. Traffic was aggressive and I was hit by “rolling coal” three times. Wolf Creek was a tough climb. In fact a new word was coined. “Hike-a-ling”, That’s when one takes their bike on a long walk.
TransAm Bike Race: No one was cycling the RAAM route. The TransAm route was a completely different story. Immediately upon connecting to the TransAm route in Colorado I saw cyclists. A trickle of cyclists riding Westward as we went East would continue to pass us well into Kansas. This route was excellent with good clean shoulders and considerate drivers. When riding the grass desert enjoyment is dependent upon the weather. Luck was with us as we had a tailwind all the way to the famed Newton Bike Shop in Kansas.
Natchez Trace: Rated as one of the top ten best bike rides in America. Four hundred forty-four miles of non stop highway. No stop signs, red lights, or commercial vehicles with possibly the most courteous drivers per mile anywhere in the world. You have the right of way from Nashville Tn. all the way to Natchez Ms. Camp grounds, bathrooms and water stops galore, this is a cyclists dream. The Park Headquarters in Tupelo is about half way along the Trace. They told us we could park our car in the headquarters parking lot while we ride an hour or several days. If we don’t return when planned they will come find us. This route lacks the “wow” scenery as seen in the West but from a pure cycling point of view the Natchez Trace route can not be beat.
Oh my! This trip is going to be hard to beat. Whats next?