After thinking I had actually managed to get caught up with all my entries, I noticed that I hadn’t posted anything about my first day back on the bike after returning from India … you know, the day that ended up being my last day on the bike after returning from India. I doubt anyone noticed but I will remedy that now. I’ll put this update in chronological order later – for now … I’ll treat it like “today’s” update.
August 30th – Back on the Bike (Murray, UT to Nephi, UT)
Warning: If you’re not sitting comfortably, you might want to do something about that before reading any further – this is likely to be a long update.
After a 17-day pedalling hiatus in Philadelphia and India, it was time to get back on the bike and close the gap between me and the Grand Canyon – a gap which was now less than 650 km (620 km, to be specific). If all went well, it would be less than 550 km by day’s end. Spoiler Alert: It was in fact much less than 550 km by day’s end … but all did not go well.I was a bit sluggish (perhaps even a bit “off”) when I first arose this morning but didn’t make too much (or anything) of it. I figured it would pass. So, I finished gathering my gear and lugging it out to my bike in preparation for my departure. Joe and Christy were once again very generous in providing breakfast provisions to fuel my ride. It really has been great (and fortuitous) that I got to meet and spend time with them.
After a quick photo with my hosts (and new friends), I was on my way. The goal for the day was Elberta, a small town … actually, technically it’s not even a town – apparently it’s a “census-designated place” (CDP), I didn’t even know that was a thing! Anyway, Elberta is about 90 km south of where I was starting (i.e., Murray, UT) so it seemed like a natural place to stop. Well, except for the complete lack of services in the CDP of 256 people (as of 2010). Despite the lack of services, the map indicated there was an LDS church in Elberta and I figured/hoped I could do some wild camping near there.
The first 30 km of my ride was on the nicely paved Jordan River Parkway Trail which took me as far as Highway 68 near Bluffdale. From there I continued south on the highway for another 15 km or so before I had to part ways with the highway because of a “Bicycle Detour”. I’d never seen such a sign before but when I looked ahead, the sign made sense. Somewhat. The shoulder on which I had been riding was about to vanish due to construction that was now visible a few hundred metres ahead. I suspected I could’ve successfully manoeuvred my way through said construction but since the signs were clearly instructions for cyclists, I figured such a manoeuvre would’ve been frowned upon. So, I took the detour. Fortunately, the detour didn’t add TOO much distance to my ride – only a few kilometres – but there ended up being a detour within the detour. As I followed the road towards Lehi City, I could see the flashing lights of emergency crews up ahead. As I got closer, there were police vehicles serving as road blocks. However, given the lack of an actual police officer in said vehicles, the limited auxiliary roads, and my not really knowing where I was going, I pedalled through said road block in the hopes that someone could direct me to a new alternate route. As I neared a bevy of officers, one approached me and very sternly said, “Hey, you can’t be here.” I say he said this sternly (which he did) but he actually seemed more shaken up than stern. The reason was pretty obvious. About 150 metres ahead, paramedics were tending to someone in the middle of the road. It was clearly a cyclist and, even though I didn’t look closely (I didn’t need to see details), it was clear that it was a pretty serious situation. I explained that I was simply following the “Bicycle Detour” signs on the highway at which point the sternness diminished and I was given a new course to follow. I did. Side note: It was about 15 minutes later that I saw an air ambulance heading towards the scene. I made my way back to the highway where I was now about 40 km from Elberta. I should probably mention at this point that, despite it being September, Utah was going through another heat wave. A record-setting heat wave. While temperatures in this area at this time of year are typically mid/upper-20s (low 80s °F), today was in the mid/upper 30s range (upper 90s °F). That said, it was very much a dry heat. Side note: I’ve never given much credence to the disclaimer about dry heat – I mean, dry or humid, 38°C is hot! However, growing up in southwestern Ontario’s humid summers, I didn’t have much experience with actual dry heat. I can know say that it’s definitely different. Yeah, I know … I’m not very bright sometimes.
The lack of humidity really made the heat less noticeable. The headwind which the daily forecast had led me to expect didn’t in fact materialize and the wind wasn’t much of a factor – if anything there was a bit of a tailwind again. This also made the heat less noticeable. And so, I happily pedalled along. I wasn’t even sweating. Or it didn’t seem like I was. Either way, I also wasn’t drinking as much as I should have been. And still I pedalled on.
I was about 10 km from Elberta when I started to fade a bit. My legs were getting tired and my energy was simply getting low. I attributed it to this being my first day back on the road in 17 days. Attributions aside, I should’ve known better. However, on all of my cycling tours I’ve always been a believer that “you can always do ten more kilometres”. Of course, that only applies once per day but since I was only 10 km from Elberta I figured I’d be ok.I did in fact make it to Elberta but I was definitely feeling the effects of the day. The last 10 km were a bit rough. However, there was a pavilion and a water spigot across the parking lot of the LDS church I had targeted as a potential wild camping spot, so things were looking promising. The same could not be said for how I was feeling.
I was pretty drained as I leaned my bike up against one of the pavilion covered picnic tables and promptly made my way to the water spigot for a drink and, well … a dousing of my head to cool off. It was becoming clear that I had really underestimated the heat of the day. With my energy level pretty low (Gross Understatement Alert) and my body feeling more than a little warm, I laid down on the concrete floor of the pavilion to cool off and have a quick power nap.
Said “quick power nap” ended up being a 90-minute sleep on my concrete bed. And when I woke I really wasn’t feeling any better. In fact, I felt worse. This was a problem. I proceeded to will myself upright and headed over to my bike for some sustenance other than water, specifically, some fruit and a couple of peanut butter slathered bagels. The food certainly helped but I knew I wasn’t in an ideal situation. For a few reasons. Obviously, I wasn’t feeling well. And my currently location was lacking in any sort of facilities. Well … there were washrooms beside the pavilion but, sadly, they were locked. I don’t know why. But I did know that I needed a plan.Essentially, I had two options. Neither particularly good. The obvious option was to wild camp at the pavilion to get some rest and start my recovery from the rough day. However, the way I was feeling was VERY reminiscent of my dehydration experience in Halifax back in 2014. As such, I wasn’t entirely optimistic that I’d be feeling a whole lot better in the morning. The other option was to continue to the next town which actually had a plethora of services (relatively speaking) including motels. The problem with that plan was that the next town (Nephi) was another 40 km away. Considering I had already used up my “you can always do ten more kilometres” in getting to Elberta, I knew it would be a tough ride and it would likely push me over the edge physically.
It was essentially a lose-lose scenario. It was also nearing 4:30 PM so a decision had to be made sooner rather than later. I opted to get back on the bike and head to Nephi. Based on my aforementioned Halifax experience, I figured there was a decent chance I would actually feel worse in the morning – regardless of where I was. If that played out, then I really would’ve been stranded in Elberta in the morning. If I could get to Nephi at least I would have access to essential services even if it meant more punishment to my body.
Whether it was will power, the not-so-brief nap, the peanut butter bagels pumping through my body, or a combination thereof, I convinced myself that I could pedal for another three hours. Side note: Typically I could do 40 km in two hours but clearly this was not a typical situation.The next 30 km actually went surprisingly well – again, relatively speaking. I certainly wasn’t setting any speed records but I was steadily moving along. The end of my day was in sight. The final ten kilometres weren’t as kind. Almost as if mocking my “you can always do ten more kilometres” mantra, my energy level completely dropped during those final ten kilometres. Without any exaggeration, I was willing myself through each of those last kilometres. In actual fact, I couldn’t think about doing 10 km. I started thinking of it as 1 km, 10 times. The mind works in funny ways sometimes.
My new goal for the day was the Economy Inn in Nephi and I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more relieved to arrive at a motel. On the upside, I had arrived before dark. On the downside, I was spent. When I arrived in my room, I leaned my bike up against the wall and promptly laid down across the bottom of the bed. That’s as far as I made it. And that’s where the bulk of my night was spent. I woke a few times through the night but didn’t have the energy to properly crawl into bed. Well, not until about 3:00 AM at which point my relocation to under the covers wasn’t due to new found energy but motivated by the chills I was now experiencing. It was clear I wasn’t going to be doing any cycling in the morning.
The long day was mostly spent in bed, drifting in and out of sleep. In those in-between times, I did my best to consume liquids (including some rehydration salts that I had with me) but the chills, sweats, headache and lack of energy, were clearly very much committed to sticking around. Around 6:00 PM, I mustered up the energy to stagger across the street to the convenience store in the hopes of getting some electrolyte filled beverages and some fruit. It was a successful endeavour – but I was still back in bed about 30 minutes later.
I’m not sure exactly when I thought that actual medical attention might be in order but it was sometime through the night. I’m certainly not one to readily seek out such attention but something told me this situation was a bit more serious than I wanted to admit. With the undesired prospect of heading to a hospital in the morning, I did my best to will myself back to health before then. I was unsuccessful.
When I woke in the morning, there was definitely an improvement in regards to the chills and fever but the headache still remained. Oh, and did I mention the light-headedness? Yeah, I think that’s what finally convinced me that a more official diagnosis was in order.
Given my recent experiences with Uber in India, I figured that might be the best way to get to the Central Valley Medical Center which was only a couple of kilometres away. That planned proved to be a bust when I discovered there was no Uber (or other taxi-like services) in Nephi. With my options limited, I decided to go with what got me this far. I unloaded my bike and pedalled to the hospital.
With my hospital experience already somewhat documented, I think that pretty much gets us caught up on the details of what would end up being my last days on the road for this trip. Definitely not the finale I was hoping for.Although, I should mention that everyone at Central Valley Medical Center was great. From the moment I arrived to the moment I was discharged. They even helped arrange my shuttle transportation to Las Vegas, helped me build a box for my bike to put on said shuttle to Las Vegas, and even drove me from the hospital back to the Economy Inn to pick up the rest of my gear before taking me to the shuttle pickup point.
Distance: 133.13 km
Ride time: 6:32:07
Average speed: 20.37 km/h
Maximum speed: 52.03 km/h