Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Alpine Loop

Last Tuesday while we were in Utah I woke up and my legs and lungs were feeling good so I decided to conquer the Alpine Loop ride. The Alpine Loop was the reason I brought my bike to Utah because The Fat Cyclist called it a little slice of heaven. With a description like that there was just no way I could pass this ride up. Besides that, when I researched the route I found that it passed a couple of blocks away from where we were staying.

If you ever get to Utah you’ve got to do this ride. It won’t disappoint.

Before I got to the actual Alpine Loop road I had to ride down Provo Canyon. From my ride the previous day I knew there would be a huge headwind I’d have to ride into but I only had to endure it for 5 miles or so. Headwinds and I really don’t get along. As I made my way down Provo Canyon I rode up to a tunnel which worried me a little until I saw a large bike lane which encouraged me to give it a shot.

About half way through the tunnel I started hearing a horrendous sound barreling down on me. As the adrenaline shot through my veins I kicked it into gear for fear I was going to get hit by whatever it was that was making all of the noise. A second or two latter a semi passed me. Although I didn’t need to change my shorts after this fright the sound of a semi in a tunnel heading right at me sure scared the heck out of me. As I exited the tunnel I noticed that there was a road that went around the side as an alternate route. Of course I didn’t notice that until the semi-truck version of Steven King’s “Christine” chased me through the tunnel. Next time I’m taking the alternative route.

I was relieved to pull off of the Provo Canyon highway and onto the Alpine Loop. Even though I knew the road was going to shoot straight up for 8 grueling miles it was a lot better than battling a headwind and semi trucks. As I started up the hill I found a comfortable pace that I could sustain for hours if needed. Since I didn’t know what to expect I chose the conservative mountain turtle speed because I really wanted to make it to the summit without blowing up. As it turned out the ascent wasn’t as steep as I thought it would be. For the most part the grade was just in between being able to sit and peddle and needing to stand which was fine with me. I sat and pedaled for a majority of the ride but did my fair share of standing to give my back muscles a break.

The scenery was incredible on the ascent starting with being surrounded by pine trees and mountains peaking out in between them. After I had ridden 5 miles of the ascent I rode into an incredible grove of aspen trees and I felt like I was the only one around for miles. This was probably because I was the only one around on a great one lane road.

Honestly, for a one lane mountain pass road it was the most well maintained road I’ve ever seen. Kind of weird but very nice. There were absolutely no signs or indications on the loop that you were nearing the summit so when I reached the top I breathed a sigh of relief.

As I started the descent I spotted some signs on the road that I had heard about. I rode this ride the day after Susan’s funeral so seeing these signs brought a lot of emotions for me. I know it’s only some paint on the road but for a cyclist this is an incredibly thoughtful gesture. The Fat Cyclist has some good friends!

The descent was just about the most incredible 10 miles of riding I’ve ever done. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun flying down the side of a mountain before. I do wish someone had been at the top of the mountain to hand me a newspaper to put in my jersey though because the air was freezing cold on my sweat covered skin. For a good 10 minutes I didn’t pedal much at all as I negotiated all of the high speed turns so when I started pedaling again my legs were amazingly knotted up. After a couple of pedal revolutions they loosened back up and I was in business again.

The ride back to the start took me through multiple cities but the roads were mostly down hill. As I walked into my in-laws house I was really glad I had got up early and done the Alpine Loop. Next time I visit Utah I’m definitely doing this ride again.

Mileage: 39 miles
Elevation Gain: 4000 Ft
Photo Ops: Countless


Jenny-Jenny said...

Beautiful. I can't believe how good those pictures turned out. Next time, I'm coming with you.

Buttsy said...

Count me in...sounds fantastic...oh that is when I get to the states....No immediate plans.....want to get to France first....of and vietnam and everywhere....Did go to Utah in 92....

Linda said...

Great shots, Mike. It's like you go to ride on a piece of cycling history.

jeff said...

"Is this Iowa"? "No. It's heaven". At least a little slice of heaven. I drooled over the blacktop, one-lane mountain pass with no traffic. Great pictures!

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that the 'WIN' chalk was still there, I remember Fatty posting a picture of it quite a while ago!

Mike J said...

Lizzylou, those signs on the road are done in paint. They are going to be there for a while.

Dawn said...

Beautiful pics! Larry and Jill are driving the loop today. Much easier than pedaling but probably not as exciting, right!