Whooosh. A car passes at 70 miles per hour. Ten minutes go by. Whooosh. Another car passes at 75 miles per hour. From where I’m sitting beside the highway, I see faces inside, looking at me as if I’m some sort of alien. Twenty minutes. Whoosh. I wave, but get no response. The first nail in the coffin of interpersonal interactions must surely have been enclosed cars. How did I come to be sitting in the middle of the Burr Desert, perhaps 20 miles south of Hanksville, in two inches of shade from the pole of a stop sign next to a pile of pea-gravel destined for chip-sealing Utah Highway 24? This tour, of course, had its beginnings in a completely different world
The Islands in the Sky Cruise is a 51-mile out-and-back ride over undulating terrain between and through Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park. The elevation ranges from 5,639 feet at Upheaval Dome, in Canyonlands National Park, to 6,184 feet on Big Flat, on State Highway (SR) 313 between the Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point Parks.
So what makes this such a great ride? First and foremost is the almost sure bet that there will be great weather. Unlike the spring edition of the TdSG, which has been held as early as February and most recently in April, the fall version has an impeccable track record for featuring warm (but not too hot), sunny days. The past four years temperatures at the start have been in the high 50’s and somewhere in the 80’s by early to mid-afternoon when most riders are cruising across the finish line. If you’re like me, in mid-October you’re not quite ready to give up the freedom of warm weather bicycling to don all that thermal gear colder conditions require. The Tour de St. George has become my way of prolonging summer.
Given the tenor of the times, the bicycle program-killing surface transportation bill in the House is officially called the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012. Yes, every bill it seems these days is touted primarily for its job-creating capacity. But if Congress wants to create jobs with its transportation bill, it might want to consider a new report from the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The report says that Transportation Enhancements projects create more jobs than any other category of road work, at least in the short term.
The great thing about bicycles is that they can last a long time. Old bikes come into the shop all the time that look like they haven’t had a day of maintenance, chains rusty, wheel bearings dry and grips falling off that are being ridden every day. On the opposite end of the spectrum, race bikes are replaced once or twice a year, get washed and tuned after every race and have their cables and chains replaced each week. Now as much as we’d all like to, most of us are not going to get a new bike every year; probably not even every other. There is, however, something we can do to get our trusty steed riding like new again: an overhaul.