Have we got views for you!

We set off from Moab and headed South towards Arizona. One of the first things we noticed was the complete lack of internet signal. Other than the rare opportunity to access free wifi, which was generally so slow it wasn’t really worth for the next 6 days we were without Google, WhatsApp and all those other 21st century essentials that we have come to rely on.

We passed through a couple of small towns positioned the usual 60 to 70 miles apart where we could buy fuel (almost always), coffee (sometimes) and size 8 thin running socks (never). Steve has worn his out and has resorted to stealing Sarah’s.

On the road to Monument Valley

Our first stop after Moab was in Monument Valley. Anyone who is a Western movie fan will have no doubt seen Monument Valley many times as some of the greatest Westerns ever were filmed here. The valley floor is a vast, flat expanse in the desert with a series of huge red rock stacks which are scattered across the landscape. It is also the place where Forrest Gump ended his run across America in the movie. The part of the highway leading down into the valley has become known as ‘Forrest Gump Hill’ and there is even a sign by the side of the road identifying the position where he stopped running. Sometimes we have found that in many places the lines between fact and fiction become a little blurred. Forrest was a character in a movie? Right? 🙂

Steve has run for most of his life, that’s a lot of miles and without doubt the line most shouted at him from the side of the road (either for encouragement or sarcasm) has been ……yep, you guessed it ……”RUN FORREST RUN” and so he felt almost entitled that he should get out of the car and run straight up the middle of the road on Forrest Gump Hill.

“Run Forrest Run”

We continued into Monument Valley which is actually in a Navajo Indian Reserve. Several months ago we had managed to secure one of the 30 pitches at a campsite right in the valley itself, in some sand dunes overlooking the rock stacks (or buttes) as they are called. We pitched our tent with what was an unobstructed view of a classic Western film set and then set off to drive a 17 mile dirt road around the valley bottom. There were plenty of signs advising against driving in low clearance vehicles and motorhomes were banned. There were tours available for people with those vehicles, but in a four wheel drive vehicle we were able to explore on our own. We had a great time driving in an amazing location on the dirt, gravel, rock and sand. We did get stuck a couple of times in the deeper sand but got out without too many problems.

“You drive. I’m fed up of getting it stuck. It was never like this for John Wayne”!

Back at the campsite we noticed the majority of other campers were equipped with tripods and big lens cameras as were many of the other people who had paid to enter the reserve for the day. As sunset approached we understood why. Utterly amazing. Our 8 megapixel cameras were woefully inadequate for the task but the memory of it will well and truly stay with us forever. On top of that we were also treated to a full moon rise! Something you don’t see that often.

Not a bad place to pitch your tent.
Even better at sunset.

The following morning Steve was up at 5.30. He was off for a long run into the valley at sunrise, he stuck his head out of the tent and immediately went back in and dragged Sarah out of her sleeping bag. “You have got to see this”. Sunrise was equal if not better than Sunset. We couldn’t think if we had ever seen green mixed in with the usual orange and reds. Steve set off into the valley as the sun emerged and Sarah continued with taking some photographs. Two hours later Steve returned a big smile on his face and some great photos too. “I’m so lucky to get to run in these amazing places”.

Here comes the sun!!
Not a bad place to go for a morning run either.

We left Monument Valley and headed…… somewhere! We hadn’t made any plans for that night and without any internet we set off with open minds. We headed towards The Grand Canyon but were not due there until the following day. A couple of hours drive with no real towns of any size along the way brought us to Page, a good sized town with the Golden Arches!!!! a McDonalds! We were not excited about the prospect of a triple supersize cheeseburger with a bucket of fries and a barrel of coke, but the chance of some wifi was more than we could resist. The wifi was super slow but it gave us enough information to identify a first come, first served basic campsite about 50 miles away. Off we went. It turned out to be an amazing place in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Glen Canyon is a little bit forgotten about as it is off the route towards it’s big brother The Grand Canyon. It has some fabulous scenery and when we were there it was pretty much deserted so we had a fabulous site for our NEW tent which was overlooking the Colorado River.

Life on the edge at Horseshoe Bend, en route to Glen Canyon.

Ever since we cycled into San Francisco we have discussed many times about how we could cut back on weight for the next section of the cycle. Our red tent has been excellent and served us well over the last couple of years and has always kept us dry. It is, however, heavier than we would like and, having packed it away several times on some damp mornings in Washington and Oregon, it has left signs of damp inside. This can’t have helped when we have been suffering with colds, so we decided to give the inside a good clean with disinfectant. Off we went to Walmart, Sarah’s new favourite place in America, however, once there we saw tents for sale!! “Sarah, twenty quid gets us a new tent that’s over a kilo lighter than our current one”. “Sold” came the reply and just like that we bought a new house!

Our new one bedroom detached residence.

We walked for a few miles along the side of the river at Glen Canyon and then went paddling at Lees Ferry which is the very start of the Grand Canyon which then stretches for the next 277 miles to the Grand Wash Cliffs. The following morning Steve couldn’t resist it and was off early again for a run. It had been almost 40 degrees the day before and it was soon heating up again. We are starting to run out of the fantastic wipes Erin gave us back in Washington State, surely showers would be readily available soon!!

Sarah dips her toe in the Colorado River at the very start of the Grand Canyon.

We had managed to book 3 nights at the campsite in The Grand Canyon National Park. As you can imagine this is a popular place to camp and the pitches are released on a monthly basis, 6 months in advance. It’s a bit like trying to get tickets for a major festival or sporting event.  You have to be there, logged in, finger on the “Buy Now” button when the sale begins.

We have been lucky enough to visit The Grand Canyon before as we visited there a few years ago after Steve had been racing in Utah, just a few hours drive away. We had walked the 10 mile South Rim Trail and had a fabulous day, but Steve had seen a trail, twisting and winding its way down and out of sight into the canyon below. “I wonder where that goes” was his initial question. After a little bit of research he discovered it was The Bright Angel Trail, a 9.8 mile route into the very bottom of the canyon across the Colorado River to Phantom Ranch Campsite. It was immediately added to his bucket list and we had returned here primarily to tick this one off the list. The information at the Visitors Centre said in red letters “Do not attempt to hike to the river and back in one day, this is dangerous”. Steve’s response was “They always exaggerate things here, I’ll be fine”.

Sunday, 15th September 2019 was a bucket list day for Steve. The alarm went off at 5 am and we both got out of bed. Sarah had offered to drive the 2 miles to the start to save Steve’s legs a little bit. We parked up and had some breakfast. It was still dark as Steve packed his food and drink and we walked together to the trailhead where we were met with another sign,“Do not attempt to hike to the river and back in one day, this is dangerous”. Steve’s response was, “I’m not hiking I’m running, I’ll be fine”. As the first rays of sunlight filtered over the eastern edge of the Canyon Steve set off, 9.8 miles and almost 5000 feet down and then turn around and come back 9.8 miles and almost 5000 feet, back up to the starting point.

The Start. Steve is there if you look closely.

An entire post could be written about Steve’s run to the bottom of the Canyon. The views of the canyon as the sun rose, the twisting winding, dirt, uneven track, the people he met along the way, the temperature changes between the top and the bottom, the altitude effects of running up a 10% gradient at nearly 7000 feet when you are exhausted, the view of the Canyon from bottom to top.

Still a long way to go.

Steve emerged back at the top of the canyon after running for less than 5 hours. “I told you I’d be fine, I could have done it loads quicker if I hadn’t stopped to talk to people along the way”. Everyone Steve saw on the route that day was taking two days to do it with a camping stop overnight. He made it back for a well deserved mid morning ice cream! He’d never say it but he is quite proud of himself, sometimes he forgets how old he is!

The End….now for ice cream

The rest of that day was spent relaxing in the Grand Canyon Village (and having a lovely hot shower!) before sitting by a campfire in the evening. Sometimes we do have to stop and take a few minutes to remind ourselves where we are and what we are doing and then absorb it all.

Time to relax.

The following day we did the same walk along the South rim that we had done the last time we came here. It’s a relatively flat walk but gives some outstanding views of the Canyon. We took it nice and slow and Sarah continued her new hobby of finding some of the best locations in The World to stop for lunch!!

Nice spot for lunch.
I told you I didn’t want any mayo!

If we are honest we both left the Grand Canyon feeling pretty exhausted. It’s been almost non stop since the beginning of August. We had planned down time at Lake Tahoe but we were both under the weather there and didn’t really benefit as much as we had wanted. Our next stop was in St George, Utah, a place where Steve raced a few years ago and we loved it there. We had a one bedroom apartment on a residential complex with a pool, close to where we stayed last time. Our intention was to slow down, put our feet up and relax a little.

It was unbelievable, one of the best most unexpected nights we have had. We laughed until our sides hurt. We sat open jawed in amazement at some of the things we saw and we “Yee Haa’d” with the best of them. What a night. Bucking Broncos, Barrel Racing, Bull Riding, Lassoing cattle, kids riding sheep and monkeys riding sheepdogs, while rounding up sheep onto the roof of a HGV cab????? (That last one was just plain weird).

What made it even better was that particular night was in support of breast cancer and all the Officials including the local Police were wearing pink shirts.

Sarah with two of St George’s finest!

As we were queuing to get into the arena a huge guy dressed in full cowboy outfit, Stetson, cowboy boots, pink embroidered shirt, the whole 9 yards stood next to Steve. “Nice outfit” Steve said without thinking. Luckily the guy was pleased with the compliment and asked Steve our names and where we were from. As the evening progressed in between the different events an announcer was thanking sponsors and people in the local community who had helped in some way with the show. Then he announced that there were 2 people in the audience all the way from England attending their first rodeo. “Stand up Sarah and Steve” he called over the tannoy. Up we stood and 3000 cowboys and cowgirls were cheering and clapping at us. It turns out the big guy in the “Nice outfit” was the event announcer!!! “Keep your mouth shut in future Steve”, Sarah mumbled!

So now we have a few more days in St George to relax……Let’s see if that one works out!!

Lake Tahoe to Moab.

We left San Francisco all loaded up in our shiny SUV headed for Lake Tahoe. We drove across the Bay Bridge with not a cloud in the sky and headed East. Unfortunately things started to go “south” pretty quickly. We think Steve had pushed on a bit too far with his cold. He had put it to the back of his mind as we were enjoying the cycling so much and were so focused on getting to San Francisco, but now with that behind us it really came to the fore and by the time we had made the four hour drive to Tahoe he was absolutely wasted.

Steve recovering on the balcony
Then admiring the view.

The next couple of days were spent doing not much at all, a couple of hours sleep in the afternoons and a good 10 hours at night did start to improve things. Luckily we had anticipated needing some sort of recovery time and had consequently booked a lovely ski apartment in the mountain a few hundred feet above the town of South Lake Tahoe. It was a fabulous location and probably the best accommodation we will have on this trip. If you are going to be ill … this was the place to do it. Sarah was also appreciative of the relaxation and was more than ready. Lazing around, admiring the view and popping into town for a coffee was just what she needed. On our third and final day we ventured out of town and drove around the lake. Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place, a view at every turn. Yes the town does have the obligatory Nevada casinos but not on the scale we expected. On the whole it’s a good town and we left feeling we had been cheated by Steve’s cold as there is so much to do there, but we were unable to take advantage. A return trip is a definite possibility in the future.

Looking good…Lake Tahoe not us!

We left Tahoe and began a journey further East, our destination was a small town in Utah called Moab, almost 800 miles away! We planned to do it in 2 or 3 days with our first stop being almost half way in a place called Ely. We knew nothing about Ely other than it was the place with the biggest lettering on the map and bookings.com said it had 6 places to stay! Sounds great!

Thirty minutes out of Tahoe we drove through Carson City, a decent sized town but it sounds a lot bigger than it is. Steve said “enough is enough”. His cold was not going away very quickly at all and so he decided to go to a “walk in clinic”. We found one in Walmart, of all places, and off we went to book an appointment. After a couple of attempts with the computer saying “No” as we had ‘foreign address’ the receptionist resorted to pen and paper and soon Steve was sat in an office with the doctor while Sarah stocked up on a few supplies in the store. All very convenient!

An unusual Doctors waiting room!

A few questions, a few tests and a few more questions later and Steve was diagnosed with sinusitis! The doctor issued a prescription and emailed it straight to the pharmacist (also) in Walmart. Steve sat in line and 10 minutes later he collected his antibiotics and his bill and almost needed a paramedic with the shock! $130 for less than 10 minutes with the doctor and 20 tablets.

We resumed our roadtrip and drove out of Carson City with Steve still muttering something about Obamacare. We picked up Highway 50 which also has the title of “The Loneliest Road in America”. We have done a few roadtrips in the States and been on a few lonley roads so we thought this should be interesting. We found it a fantastic drive, all at between 6000 and 8000 feet, through unbelievable desert scenery with long, long straight roads sometimes stretching 20 miles ahead of us. We drove through the mountains and hills and then down into huge flat basins, which must have been 70 or 80 miles across, then back through the mountains and down into another basin. Each one was slightly different from the previous one as the light from the sun and the rock formations gradually changed. Every so often a vehicle would pass in the opposite direction and remind you there was life out there. At one point we drove 210 miles and passed through two towns, that’s if you can call 20 buildings and a population of under a hundred a town. It really was desolate. We later found out that the road got its title after a magazine in the 1980’s ran an article saying how desolate it was and had no points of interest and recommended people not to drive it unless they had good survival skills!! We didn’t think it was that bad but thankfully cars have improved considerably. Steve said he wouldn’t fancy driving it in his Dad’s old Austin Maxi from the 80’s.

The lonliest road in America.

We arrived in Ely….now there is a place!! We still don’t really know what to make of it. We stayed in the Nevada Hotel and Gambling Hall, which was proud of the fact that at 6 stories high it was the tallest hotel in the State of Nevada for 10 years after it was built in 1929. It seemed even more proud of the fact the plumbing hasn’t been changed since, even to the extent there are plaques in the rooms explaining this and saying that hopefully the experience of the water swinging between hot and cold while showering enhances the authentic experience!! It was definitely one of the strangest hotels and towns we have stayed in. It was trying to maintain a feel of a late 19th century cowboy town with saloons and hotels and to some extent was succeeding, but with the addition of neon lights and the card tables replaced by gaming machines, it probably lost some authenticity. Did we like Ely and the hotel? I think we did. Our room was modern and clean with a great selection of movies on the TV which was a real treat. We also got a free frozen margarita each and on top of all that there was a free breakfast of pancakes, bacon, eggs and coffee all for just over £50. These days in the States thats a real bargain!

Our hotel in Ely.

We left Ely to continue along Highway 50 with full stomachs and a smiles on our faces. We crossed the State line into Utah and very quickly the scenery began to change. We had spent some time in Southern Utah a few years ago and it had been one of our most enjoyable trips. The scenery had been like nothing we had seen before and now our drive through the centre of the state was not disappointing. In many ways the road was even lonelier than the previous day but with no one else on the road, the sun beating down, the dramatic red rock landscape and imense canyons getting ever bigger and “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC belting out of the speakers, we were having a ball.


After another overnight stop in a pretty non descript town we arrived on the outskirts of Moab. We have been trying to get here for years but it really is a long way from anywhere. It’s a small town, one street, and not very long but it sits close to two National Parks and one State Park and they are in our opinion amazing.

Dead Horse Point State Park is elevated above the Colorado River which continues on South to carve out the Grand Canyon. The Park is mainly about the views rather than hiking and anyone who has seen the end of the movie “Thelma and Louise” this is where they drive the car off the cliff.

Dead Horse Point….No Thelma or Louise though!

Canyonlands National Park is a huge expanse of jaw dropping views and hiking trails and a 100 mile dirt track loop which you can drive in a jeep, ride on a motorbike or even cycle. Steve wished we had more time here as the activities are endless!

Sarah stops for some lunch……We have stopped for lunch in some amazing places this year!

Arches National Park is in many ways the most impressive with strange red rock formations filling the park and natural rock arches have been formed by the weather. In this Park you get up close and personal with the features and the hiking is brilliant. On one of the days we did an 8 mile route on a primitive trail. It was marked by cairns and dead branches and involved some hard going through sand and over some big old boulders. Hands and feet contact were required on many occasions but it was a fabulous walk, well worth the effort.

Part of Arches National Park

We could go on forever about Moab and the Parks but we could not do them justice so we will post a selection of photos but even those go only a short way to showing the vastness of this incredible place.

Almost at the top Sarah.
Come back down NOW!
Time for another selfie.

We feel we should give a quick mention to our campsite in Moab, located on the edge of town, it has great pitches, the most incredible setting and a huge pool with a hot tub!! A long way from some of the State campsites back in Washington….  No hole in the floor toilets here! We are leaving Moab tomorrow and heading South towards Arizona and Monument Valley. Steve’s antibiotics have kicked in and we are both pretty much back to normal.

Someone is enjoying themselves.

“Sarah, we really should put the bikes together and go out to turn our legs over”…….”Sod that, I’m off to the hot tub again”…..Life is good!

Heading to the ‘Frisco Bay!

Just a short final post for this section of the trip covering our final stint into San Francisco.

After an extremely relaxing time in Fort Bragg we were loaded up and back on the bikes. When we pulled into town two days earlier we were feeling pretty tired, so we had set ourselves a target of 41 miles to a State Park near a small town called Manchester for this next leg out of Fort Bragg. The morning flew past and we arrived at Manchester State Park just after midday so we stopped in the town store, bought some lunch and sat outside to eat it. We felt good and so we decided to press on to the next town of Gualala just over 20 miles away. Whilst eating our lunch Donni (a guy from the Philippines), and Lauren (from Hawaii) cycled past. We had met them a couple of times before and they stopped for a chat. They too were also headed for Gualala. We have both really enjoyed meeting up with like minded people on this trip, staying on campsites with them and exchanging stories and ideas and then crossing paths with them on the road during the day or bumping into them a couple of days later.

Getting ready to leave our airbnb in Fort Bragg.

We pressed on to Gualala and we were both feeling quite strong.  The scenery was incredible, some of the best we have had, and to make things even better a tail wind was building! Into the town we rode (63 miles done) and it was mid afternoon. The town had a good selection of stores and we stocked up for food for the evening. There was a barbeque on the go outside the grocery store and we found Donni tucking into a whole rack of ribs!! Everyone is doing the trip slightly different in length, time, type of bike and how much they are carrying. Donni is at the extreme end of weight, he has everything super lightweight, he is carrying no cooking equipment and eats when he can. His bike fully laden is as heavy as our bikes with nothing on.

Sarah is feeling strong today.

Once loaded with groceries for dinner and breakfast, we looked at each other and said “lets go on to the next campsite after Gualala”. Steve looked at the map and found the next site was another 20 miles away “Lets do it”. The next 1 hour and 20 minutes was some of the best cycling so far. We had smooth asphalt, rolling hills, blue skies and a tail wind. We pulled into the campsite tired but extremely satisfied with our days work.  We pitched the tent, showered, made dinner and had a fantastic nights sleep. 83 miles, our longest day yet!

The views were amazing all day.

The next couple of days were much of the same…..but not as long.  It was a holiday weekend so the roads were a little busier near the small towns but most of the time we had the road to ourselves. The views were of steep, green pine forests to our left, a strip of asphalt winding its way like a long black ribbon into the distance, to the right was a couple of hundred metres of grazing farm land before a steep cliff fell into the blue ocean. It was great cycling.

Coffee time!

Because it was holiday weekend we had pre booked a couple of commercial campsites six months ago as we did not know what the situation with space would be like. One night we stayed at a great site in Bodega Bay with a pitch right by the water. We were the only tent on the site in the middle of some monster caravans and motorhomes. When we arrived our ‘neighbour’ started laughing, “twenty years I’ve been coming here and seen people turn up in everything, but never on bicycles”. Everyone was really friendly and offered us food ….. they must think we need feeding up!  One lady saw us struggling starting our campfire and came over with some amazing gel sachets which took seconds to get our wood roaring. She then came back with 8 more sachets to keep us going for a few days. People have been so kind and generous it’s really taken us by surpise.

Lost in a forest of motor homes.

After Bodega Bay we set off to our next site and saw a couple we had met before at the side of the road, Sylvia from Spain and Danny from Israel. They are cycling indefinitely so when they get to the Mexican border they are turning left and cycling across Mexico! We ended up staying at the same campsite with them that night and enjoyed chatting around the campfire together, talking until way too late! It was strange, but lovely, to hear them say exactly the same things about life as we have said and how their reasons for travel are very much similar to ours.

Also, when we arrived at the campsite we decided to have a sort out of our gear as the first leg of the trip was coming to an end. Sarah started to lay things out and pretty soon it was looking quite impressive. We decided to seriously look how we can cut down for the last 650 miles. One thing for sure, is that we are disposing of the cycle tops which we wear every day and consequently feature in every photo! We will treat ourselves and buy a new one each. Clothing doesn’t feature much in our equipment!

How do we get this in our panniers?

Also that day we had bumped into Donni from the Philippines and Lauren again. We found a bench and Steve and Donni started chatting about bikes and training.  They began making plans about doing a fast, long distance cycle together in a couple of years but with no camping, no carrying of food, just a couple of weeks of hard cycling.  Sarah said she could drive the route as support crew and all of a sudden a gesting plan started to to become serious. It ended up with them agreeing to train together for a few weeks in the Philippines (in 18 months time) and then do a ride together in the summer of 2021. Lets see how that one pans out!!!

Our final day into San Francisco was a 37 miler and was an absolute unexpected pleasure. We had visions of stop/start traffic chaos and it was nothing like that. We didn’t even hit a sizable town until 20 miles to go. The cycle friendly city guided us with bike lanes, multiple signs along residential streets, and cycle paths with people shouting “Where are you headed?” and “Good job”. It had been another beautiful day…..until….we climbed over Marin headland and onto The Golden Gate Bridge. We were greated by thick fog and only glimpses of the iconic structure. As soon as we descended off the bridge and made our way along the bay to Fishermans Wharf the fog lifted but over our shoulders the bridge was still clouded in fog!

There is a bridge there somewhere.
This is what it looked like when we were here 4 years ago!

We had set off from Roche Harbour on San Juan Island 29 days and 1174 miles ago. We had booked our hire car for 12 noon that day and we arrived at the rental agency at 12:01 “I knew we shouldn’t have stopped for that last photo” said Steve…..if anyone knows Steve, he judges his cycling times to perfection and this was no different!!!

Come on Sarah we are going to be 1 minute late.

We now have taken a month off from our route with the bikes. We still have 650 miles of cycling to get Mexico but we are both extremely proud of what we have achieved so far and to be honest we are both excited about getting back on the bikes and finishing it off.

The blog will continue whilst we are taking time out in Nevada, Utah and Arizona so you can follow our antics!