By Tyler Burgese · Originally published in Shut Up and Go November 2, 2018
I never thought I’d set out in the morning with a light jacket, spend the day sweating in the sun, then go to sleep by a fireplace with snow on the ground. It was like stepping into a time machine and pressing fast-forward to experience all 4 seasons over the span of 3 days. And where, you might ask, did I do such a thing?
Leave it to Utah.
Now, if you’re anything like me, your geographical awareness of North America borders on embarrassing. I have met several Europeans who seem to know it like the back of their hand.
My knowledge of my own continent is more like the bottom of my foot.
I had a geography exam as a freshman in high school that made me so nervous that I pretended to be sick to get out of it. While I used to think the joke was on my teacher (he totally forgot to make me take it), the joke is really on me because at the age of 21, I still couldn’t point out Utah on a map.
So when I got the opportunity to take a 3-day bike tour of the Beehive State (???) with Escape Adventures, I realized there was no better time to shut up and know some more of my pretty lil’ United States. (I’ll be here all week.) Little did I know that covering 80 miles of southern Utah over the course of 3 days would leave me speechless (and sore) in so many new ways.
I’d also like to point out that we weren’t just riding any old tricycles through the desert. I got to try out a brand-new line of eBikes for this journey! In case you don’t know what that means (I certainly didn’t before getting on one), an eBike is essentially a hybrid between a motorized bike and a traditional, self-powered one. That means that my own pedaling gave power to an internal motor that gave me a (much appreciated) boost. That way, I wasn’t doing all the work, but also wasn’t just sitting pretty and pressing a button. The eBike gave me the best of both worlds – a true Hannah Montana of bicycles.
And thank goodness I was putting in at least a little bit of work to justify the amount of Clif Bars I was eating.
Another thing I love about eBikes is the accessibility they provide. You truly can’t feel the difference between riding on flat land or going up a steep hill, so they are not just for fitness gurus. Young children, retirees, and everyone in between can still hop on and go on a one-of-a-kind adventure.
I woke up in Vegas, and lucky for me, I was in a much better situation than Katy Perry circa 2009. After taking a quick tour of Las Vegas Cyclery, a LEED-certified, solar-powered bike shop that runs on all of its own power (hooray for sustainability and no energy bills!), I set off with a group of 7 merry ladies in the Escape Adventures van for Utah.
About three hours later, we found ourselves in St. George, Utah, where the weather was MUCH warmer than breezy Vegas. Thank goodness I took the time to dig up my summer shorts & sunscreen!
While I love taking trips to new cities and popular destinations as much as the next guy, I think there is something to be said for a walk on the rural side. The peace, quiet, and lack of cell-service from spending time where some might call “the middle of nowhere” presents a breed of scenic all on its own. I found myself able to appreciate the beauty of the nature that was surrounding me for the first time in what felt like forever. Especially as someone who lives in a city, this was literally a breath of fresh air!
We biked down into Snow Canyon, the ancestral land of the Paiute People, where our tour guides prepared us a nourishing and energizing picnic lunch consisting of salads, hummus, pita, and fruit (and possibly a few Oreos).
After lunch, we carried on through and out of the canyon, and uphill all the way to Gunlock Reservoir. The last stretch of this day was a bit stressful for me, as I had burned through almost all of my eBike’s battery by getting a little too accustomed to the power boost. I definitely broke a sweat in the last 15 minutes as my final bar of battery was blinking, practically teasing me with a “good luck without me, buddy!”
To keep you off the edge of your seat, I did make it, but with literally seconds to spare.
All things in moderation, I suppose.
We settled into our rooms at the lovely snow-covered Cedar Breaks Lodge for the night, perched on top of a mountain with a beautiful view of the stars. I definitely wasn’t sweating anymore.
After some more riding the following morning, my merry little internet family and I spent the afternoon hiking the Queens Garden trail of Bryce Canyon, native to the Anasazi people. While it was only about 3.1 miles (or 5 kilometers) long, this took us about 2 hours to emerge from the canyon victorious. This is, in part, because it was a steep climb and the switchbacks were treacherous, but also because the magnificent views had us stopping every few minutes to snap photos and admire Mother Nature.
There is a joke somewhere in here about the number of selfies it takes for a group of travel writers, bloggers, and Instagrammers to screw in a light bulb.
This was one of those hikes where you start bundled up for fall, end up stripping down to your skivvies at the toasty center of a canyon, then re-bundle as you climb back to the top!
After finally being able to give our legs a rest, we planted our booties in some folding chairs and enjoyed our second picnic lunch – taco salad, baby! With myself being vegan and others with more specific food allergies and intolerances, our tour guides took special care to make sure that we all had something to eat. My tummy and my soul greatly appreciated this. Shout-out to Merrick, Troy, and Jen!
I would pretend that after lunch, we were all refueled and ready to roll on another leg of the bike tour, but we’re all about honesty here at Shut Up and Go.
We were beat.
So, we cut the afternoon short and traded the ride for a relaxing few hours back in our hotel in Panguitch. Definitely worth it, considering the evening we had ahead of us.
Showered and recharged, we all hopped back in the van to see the pièce de résistance of Escape Adventures’ Utah tours – the Hatch Hut. This baby is essentially a tricked-out “glamping” site where bikers can spend the night in up-cycled Chinese shipping containers. And just in case I lost you at the phrase “shipping containers,” hear me out. They have been fully renovated with functioning kitchens, bathrooms, and bunks to accommodate a cozy night’s sleep between rides.
Our darling Troy grilled us up a beautiful meal of salmon, asparagus, and potatoes (with some veggie stir-fry for my special self) that we enjoyed around a campfire as the sun went down. Under the stars that I can’t normally see at home, red wine flowed discreetly into mugs and we settled into some deep conversation that really cemented the bond between the eight of us. As someone who typically lands closer to the introvert side of the spectrum, I’m amazed that this felt so easy with people who I had only known for 24 hours.
Something about the campfire, I suppose… and maybe the Pinot didn’t hurt.
Our last day together was short and sweet, but breathtaking all the while. We embarked on a short (and thankfully, downhill) bike ride to the entrance of Zion National Park. That’s as far as we were allowed to go, due to a new rule prohibiting eBike-riding inside the park. It’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder what doofus managed to eff that up for the rest of us.
I said a tearful goodbye to my beautiful $2,000 chariot and strapped on my hiking boots once more to explore Zion. I feel hesitant to even attempt putting the majesty of this hike into words, because I know that while I can be quite poetic, it would be a terrible injustice. Hopefully, these few photos will suffice. If you ever get the chance, this is absolutely something you need to see for yourself.
We loaded up the van one last time to begin our 4-hour trek back to Las Vegas. I lucked out because there were no cross-country red eye flights, meaning that while everyone else was heading home, your boy got an extra night to himself! I fully intended to sneak away from the hotel for an evening of debauchery on the town (I already had an outline for a post called “One Night in Vegas”), but by the time I got back, I practically collapsed into a bowl of Thai food, then into bed shortly after.
So blessed that I needed to rest.
If you’re someone who travels exclusively to places from dreamy listicles or big-name cities, I urge you to take a step off of the beaten path for a moment and plan a trip to somewhere you would never imagine going. That’s exactly what I did this week with Escape Adventures, and I’m writing this today with a camera roll FULL of beauty and 7 new, inspiring lady-friends that I could never have predicted when I decided to go to Utah.