Day Thirty-one, Date Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Time in Saddle: 5:20
Distance for the Day: 41.29 miles: From Zion Nat’l Pk To Kanab, UT
Accumulated Trip Distance: 1225.4 miles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 3886’/4633’, Highest: 6482’, Accumulated: 6421’
Speeds: Avg: 7.7 mph, Max: 43.0 mph
Weather: Clear skies, slightly below freezing in the AM, warming to low 60s
We got up at dawn, and used our camp stoves to make hot drinks, and I warmed up a can of lentil soup. A group of four turkeys wandered through the campgrounds a few hundred yards away while we were eating. We cleaned up, broke down camp, and left at about 8:30am. This was the day of the dreaded Switchbacks; a road that went out of Zion Nat’l Park through an eastbound route (we arrived from the south), climbing more than a thousand feet up the face of a mountain, with a 1.1 mile tunnel at the top which is part of Hwy 9, and cannot be traversed by bicycle – cyclists must “hitch” a ride from vehicles that are passing through. The Switchbacks, themselves weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be, and both C&E and myself found willing drivers to carry us and our cycles through the tunnel almost immediately. Sweet! Once through, we continued on into the mountains, going up, and up until it crested at 6100’. Along the way, we stopped at a touristy place to rest a bit, check maps, and get something to drink. I bought some gift items and had them mail them to Oakland ($100), and lo and behold: Martin and Nadine showed up! We traveled together a while, stopping to look at a herd of buffalo, but when we descended down to the junction of Hwy 9 and Hwy 89, they took their final leave of us, heading north, while we headed south, toward the town of Kanab, UT, which we made pretty quick, it still being mostly downhill.
Once there, C&E were keen to do whatever it took to see the Grand Canyon. For the last several days, they’d ask whoever they could find to see if the road from Jacob Lake (the usual cycling route to the North Rim) might be passable. Everyone they asked said it didn’t open until May 15th, and that it was probably deep under snow, still. Eusebio is very persistent, though and came up with a plan. We could rent a car in Kanab, go visit a lower, snow-free north rim view point, via a 61 mile dirt road out of Freedonia, and then go see some of the regions other sights, including a drop-in at Jacob Lake before returning to Kanab with a clear idea of which directions our routes should take. So, we went to the visitor center, found a car rental place, and rented a car. Had a bit of trouble with the rental: they required a US driver’s license *and* proof of insurance. Well, I didn’t bring proof of insurance with me on this trip, but, aha! I could log into my carrier’s website, access my account, and show them I had insurance. So, borrowing their office computer, I logged into my account, and said, “here’s proof of my liability insurance,” to which they said, “we need you to have full coverage.” Oops. Hmm, I wondered if I could upgrade it online, so I got into a chat session with an agent, explained my situation, and found out I wouldn’t be able to upgrade to full just so I could rent a car. Bummer. The agent then asked for my identification info so she could verify what kind of insurance I had, and son of a (betcha thought I was gonna say a bad word) – I had full coverage! I thought I changed it from full to just liability years ago. So, we were on, again! We rented the car, and struck out for Freedonia, and the 61 mile dirt road to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The car rental was on my name, so if I thought the road was too rough for the car, I could abort the trip at my discretion. We found the road, and it was very well-graded, but I knew that could change. Generally, the road allowed speeds between 25 – 40 mph, and it went up and down, this way and that, over cow gratings, etc. We saw cows, horses, rabbits, a deer, and the evening deepened into night, and still we drove on. The quality of the road began to get more erratic, with steeper hills and rougher spots, but still nothing an experienced hang glider pilot dirt road driver couldn’t navigate. We eventually came to the place where the map said the road split into a Y-intersection, with each arm going out to the canyon rim. At this point, though, the road had definitely become un-passable by an ordinary passenger car, so we stopped and camped right there, thinking we could probably hike the rest of the way the next morning to see the views. It was about 9pm before we set up our camps and went to sleep. The evening was cool to cold, and not so bad.