It was hard to leave Ely. One hell of a headwind. And with bad weather, in the way of snow, forecast it would have been easy to stay. But we are on a budget and can’t wait for the sun to shine while locked away in a hotel room. Especially when winter is just round the corner. Not even the cheap Nevada Hotel, which includes a free beer in the price.
So we pedalled out of town. Slowly. So slowly, through the Steptoe Valley. No steptoeing for us though. More like crawling. With the wind blasting our faces and carrying our curses back up to Idaho. The biting wind chilled the inhaled air and burned deep in the lungs.
With it’s winding road and high-sided shelter, the penultimate pass in Nevada provided some respite from the wind. But not the cold.
From the top of Connors pass it was all downhill to the next map marker, Majors Place… Nothing but a pub. But a pub with more life and community spirit than most small towns in the UK. More trophy elk heads decorated with bandanas, cigarettes and shades than all of small town America combined.
A roaring wood burner to warm up and refreshing beer to cool down. A friendly owner and an invite to join the bbq. The perfect refuge.
The following day, following coffee and breakfast by the fire, while Lars fixed another flat tyre, it was a reluctant return to the road.
This time the wind was in our favour. This time it was a race to beat the oncoming ominous clouds.
We sped away from our only shelter in this open valley towards the next mountain range with it’s peaks already hidden in menacing grey clouds. We sped away from the approaching wall of white that had descended from the sky and obscured everything in it’s path as it marched on without restraint.
The first flakes of snow floated around us, mocking us, as we slowly pushed our bikes upwards. But we crested the hill and pedalled fast into the next valley that lay spread out ahead, like a blanket laid smooth and fresh on an inviting bed.
We arrived at Border Inn safely before the snow flurried. On the border with Utah. An inn, and nothing else. But a place to keep dry and warm. And by the time it came to camp, the snow had stopped. And by the time we emerged in the morning, the sky was blue and we saw the mountains, freshly covered in snow, through the crisp, clear air that froze our hands but warmed our hearts.
And back on the road. Highway 50. America’s “Loneliest Road”. But not lonely enough.
Desert silence beckoned. And gravel roads. And that feeling of not knowing what lies ahead. That sense of adventure that starts you on a journey summoned us forth into the yellow grassland and towards distant peaks and the emptiness beyond. And so, as the snow sparkled in the winter sun, and slowly melted on the southern slopes, we ventured on alone.
Past Crystal Peak, a white rocky protrusion, which stands out alone in the surrounding Great Basin greenery. Formed during volcanic activity some 34 million years ago, at the centre of a blast. The magma rapidly cooled to price, which over time has eroded away to leave a pockmarked surface.
The desert track continued down to Sevier Lake. Significantly reduced, we could not see water. Just dry gulleys carved in the flat land.
In 24 hours just two vehicles past us. We camped in solitude. Just us and the stars. It was great.
The bright clear morning soon brought a bitter wind and the clouds gathered as we past the ghost town of Black Rock. Nothing now but a farm with frisky horses in a padlock and cattle by the farm road.
Eventually we arrived at Cove Fort as the snow began to fall heavily. We sheltered at the gas station and slept in an open barn.
Morning arrived and the snow still fell. Everywhere was white. Our tyres left a telltale track that two cyclists were determined to continue despite the cold and wet and white.
The interstate was quiet. We slowly pedalled uphill, thankful for the energy required to keep our bodies warm. And slowly pedalled downhill too. The faster we went, the more my hands froze. Feet too. Numb blocks.
We defrost at a truckstop cafe. A hot coffee and delicious burger. The locals ask where we are going. Soon everyone is discussing the best route. Or perhaps only route. Rumours of closed roads and too high passes abound. Everyone has an opinion. Mostly they differ. They all seem agreed that we are a little crazy to be out in this weather. I’m inclined to agree.
We cycle on to Richfield. The closest town with a motel. Our reward for persevering. The motel owner also thinks we’re a little crazy. Her suspicions are confirmed when we decline a lift the following day.
And so we cycle on towards Torrey. First a couple more big hills. The sun is out but biting cold. We meet Sean, a Croatian cyclist who has been in touch and is riding a loop through Utah. We talk briefly while downing gloves and hat and fleece until we have no more clothes to add and then we wave farewell. Would love to talk longer, but it’s just too cold to stand still.
Before reaching Loa, we camp for the night under a tree among rocks. A fitful sleep of turning and twisting between the bed of stones and stretching stiff limbs and watching exhaled breath freeze on the tent.
But morning arrives. And the sun. And an easy ride to a pancake breakfast. And on to Torrey, where we have a place to stay. Somewhere warm. And a shower. And soon we forget the cold and only remember the rest. The good bits.