By Roger Crandall — A Bicycle Tour Around the Oquirrh Mountains
Have you spent enough time staying home away from the coronavirus? Do you want to branch off on your bike because you have gone everywhere you can go; both north, south, east, and west in Salt Lake County? Do you want that out-of-town experience? It’s time to take the “Crown Jewel of Staycations” and make some memories on your bike expanding your horizons!
When my Cinco de Mayo was a no show bust, I took off on el seis de mayo for “El Gran Vuelta de las Montañas Oquirrh from right here in beautiful downtown Valle del Oeste, Utah. (Yes, old Spanish teachers never die, they just keep playing with words!)
I’d be getting a crown over my root canal job the next week, but before that, I wanted to do some bike touring around the Oquirrh Mountains which I had been planning for years. As I told my dentista, I told my Costa Rican wife, “yo quiero la corona, menos el virus.”
If you only have one day to “live”, just hop on the Frontrunner train and ride down to Thanksgiving Point. Then head east going up to the Murdock Trail passing over Orem, with views of the whole valley. Ride into exotic Provo for a good dinner, then you can catch the train for the ride back to Salt Lake City. At least you got out of town!
If you really want a trip and a half, or at least half of a trip, take the 3-night, 4-day loop trip around the Oquirrh Mountain chain and have a real bike touring experience that includes a little bit of everything!
On Wednesday, May 6th, I left my home in West Valley to ride the Jordan River Trail to Lehi, just 33 miles to the Willow Park campground, which the bike trail goes right through, so you can’t miss it. Though there was space for 12 thousand cyclists, I was the only one camping. It’s $20 per campsite for one cyclist or for a small group staying in the same site. There are no showers in the bathrooms but at least they were warm. If you don’t do your own cooking, you can get to the fast food joints just west a mile or two around Redwood Road.
Day two, I headed west toward Fairfield and Camp Floyd State Park. It was only 16 miles from Redwood Road, so I wanted to extend my trip by checking out Eagle Mountain and get on the old Pony Express Trail. There is a part just for hikers and bikers. The historical markers overlooking the valley to the west are first rate and a must-see stop that explains that period of our history. As a Spanish/History teacher I was déjà vu-ing big time. I mounted my trusty steed named “La Negra”, which is my Bulls Lacuba EVO E-bike, and rode like the wind to the next way station for another close encounter with history.
At old Camp Floyd in Fairfield, the Union Army built the largest encampment in the U.S. and it became the third largest city in Utah at the time. They were here to put down the Mormon Rebellion that never really happened, but the South’s sympathizing Generals were able to divert troops away from any skirmishes that would involve them in the coming Civil War.
The museum with its introductory video is a must see and the price of entrance includes a visit to the splendid Stagecoach Inn. Unfortunately, there is no camping for cyclists in the town of Fairfield, so I was told to head on up the road for 5 miles to Five Mile Pass Recreation Area where you have miles of wilderness stealth camping in the sagebrush. There is no water but there are toilets in various places. You must contend with the noise from the ATV crowd till at least sundown, but the camping was free, and peace reigned through the night.
Day three, I carried on from Hwy. 73 west, then north on Hwy 36. If you want some more fun, go east into the Oquirrh Mts. to visit the semi ghost towns of Mercur and Ophir. I just pressed on to Stockton, minus Karl Malone, and had lunch at their General Store where I spent my little “dollaritos” to help the local economy. The highways out there don’t get much traffic, and everyone was courteous and moved over when there wasn’t much in the way of a bike lane. The rumble strips were generally out of the way and I could ride around them fairly easily. A few climbs and some downhills and I arrived in Tooele “sin problemas”.
From there, it was all downhill toward Stansbury Park where my good friend, Paul McClatchy was giving me the first class WarmShowers treatment of a delicious dinner, breakfast, and the best camping ever in his backyard. After three days on the road, the warm shower was most welcomed and needed so that my hosts could stand me at their dinner table.
On day four, I sped around the Oquirrhs on I- 80, (yes, it is legal on that stretch of freeway) until I encountered the turn off to Hwy 201. The noise on the highway sucks, and you have to watch out for the rumble strips, but it all goes by in just 10 or 15 minutes so you can handle it. Take the first turn off Hwy 201 into Magna and then stop for a beer or sandwich and contribute something to help keep the economy of Magna alive; they can use it!
So, if the coronavirus has got you down, “toma la joya de la corona” and try this staycation as your highway to adventure and enjoy the ride of your life, or at least get some life back into your ride.
Two interesting side lines to my trip that I encountered and will pursue later was a visit to Electrify Bike Co. just west of Gardner Village. They can turn just about any bicycle into an E-bike; so that is something in the future for my tandem to help my wife and I get up the mountains. If you want to “cheat” your way into the future, check out www.electrifybike.com, 801-997-0550.
Secondly, for tired cyclists, I came across a most interesting Crystal Water Spa in downtown Tooele where you can soothe away your aches and pains floating in a “dreampod” and a whole host of exotic therapies. Crystal Water Spa, 40 West Vine Street, Tooele. 435-882-1339.