Biking: Salt Lake to Park City

October 1st was one of the more unreasonable days of my life.  I decided to ride my bicycle from Salt Lake to Park City.  By highway (I-80 E), this 30-minute/30-mile trip is a frequent daily commute for residents of either city.  By bike, though, it is a treacherous affair…especially if the rider decides to use a non-road-specific cyclocross bike, outfitted with knobby tires, and loaded touring panniers full of unnecessary weight.

I set out from my house (AKA uninsulated RV in driveway of aforementioned “house”) in the blazing noon sun, destined for a day of mountainous scenery.  A full hour later, I found myself 15 miles away, entering the base of the notoriously rocky Big Cottonwood Canyon.  From here, I had an 18-mile climb from the Salt Lake Valley floor to the base of Guardsman’s Pass road.

Those 18 miles lasted forever.
I passed familiar parked cars, the owners of which were spending the day climbing.  I drank an entire Camelbak of water.  I passed climbing crags at a staggeringly slow pace.  I envied the people I saw on the rock and the families picnicking at roadside stops.  I jealously watched as cars flew by me, staring at my loaded bicycle and wondering why, oh why, I would be riding such an impractical bike up a typical road-cycling route.  I was passed by men old enough to be my dad, biking at twice my speed, with their bellies hanging out of the bottom of their SPONSOR X, SPONSOR Y bike jerseys.

Within 20 minutes of turning on my iPod at the base of Big Cottonwood, I was completely sick of the lack of diversity in my music, and removed my Skullcandys for the rest of the ride.

At least it was scenic.

Argenta Slidepath in all of its autumn glory. Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. 2011

I don’t like skiing lame-o Argenta during the winter, but it sure does look pretty in the fall.

The climb seemed to last forever.  I’d pass familiar landmarks and think “wow, this is much, much longer and slower than I’d expect.  It sure does go faster in a car.  Biking really DOES suck.”  But, like my cross-country bike ride, I find that moving at a slower rate of travel allows me to more fully appreciate every inch of the land I’m traveling over, instead of the more popular style of movement: Point 1 to Point 2.  Landmark 1 to Landmark 2.  On your left to on your right.  Skipping the infinitesimal locations between them.

I rode past a modified Jeep parked on the side of the road, with a few guys sitting around it.  70 (uphill) yards later, I heard a whistle, and turn around to see the guys waving their arms and yelling at me.  Reluctantly, I turned around and coasted back downhill…knowing that I’d have to repeat that distance…for the 3rd time.

“Oh, we weren’t yelling for you.”


“But, you can give us a hand pushing this guy back downhill.  I fixed it all up, but forgot that the fuel gauge doesn’t work.”

I remained silent.  And when I went to help push the vehicle, I barely had to touch it.  The muscle of the 800+ combined pounds of the 3 men was more than sufficient to push the car.  Back on my bike without a glimmer of appreciation, I returned to my climb.

Far, far later than anticipated, I passed my first ski resort, Solitude.  Less than an hour more, and I was finally turning off the wretched Big Cottonwood Road and onto Guardman’s Pass.  I thought the worst of it was over.  It wasn’t.

Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. 2011

Guardsman's Pass. Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. 2011

Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. 2011

Guardsman’s Pass road proved to be, if anything, steeper than the previous 20 miles had been.  I was already 4 hours into my ride.

a mile into Guardsman's. Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. 2011

nearing the top of Guardsman's Pass. Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. 2011

I really wasn’t complaining about the ride.  It was precisely what I’d set out for, and the scenery was stunning…as was the number of people out enjoying it.  Cars, people, and hikers were everywhere–well, everywhere for Utah, at least.

At the summit of Guardsman’s Pass, I enjoyed the last sips of my water and the orange that I had struggled not to eat for the previous 30 uphill miles.

summit of Guardsman's Pass. Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. 2011

After calling mom and dad, the ride down the other side of the pass was nearly as tough as the way up.  The dirt road resembled this guy’s stomach, and my hands ached from squeezing my over-used, weight-bearing brakes for the next 10 miles.

the eastern side of Guardsman's Pass. Park City, Utah. 2011

I could have easily set the land speed record, if I didn’t fear the erasure of my braking abilities, during my descent from the top of Deer Valley to the town of Park City.

Only did the sight of chairlifts, and the reported incoming snow storm, cheer me up.

Park City Mountain Resort, 2011

Deer Valley resort, 2011

PCMR, 2011

All in all…yeah, not a chance I’ll do it again.
Until I convince myself it’s a good idea…and do it again.

Elevation change: around 10,000 feet.
Ski resorts passed: 5
iPod songs that all sounded the exact same: 1,040
Miles: 39
Energy bars: 2
Water: 100 ounces
Breaks: 4
Jeeps pushed: 1
Pictures taken: 11
Pounds of extra weight: 34
Excitement to mountain bike the next day: 10
Excitement to see rain falling and 40-degree temperature on the day I intended to ride back to SLC, eliminating chances of riding: 100000000


About @brodyleven

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3 Responses to Biking: Salt Lake to Park City

  1. Pingback: Kayaking When I Should (Not) Be Skiing | brody leven

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