Day Seventeen: Orem, Utah to Coalville, Utah - "Vibes" - CycleBlaze

From "Vibes"

By Jeff Lee

July 1, 2024

Day Seventeen: Orem, Utah to Coalville, Utah

This was, somewhat unexpectedly, the hardest and most unpleasant day of this tour, one in which my Vibes approach to doing things failed me. The first few miles of the day, and the last twenty, were nice, but the long middle portion was a hilly, trafficky nightmare. It didn't happen  until the seventeenth day, fortunately, but I finally experienced some really bad traffic on this tour.

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I was up before everyone else, although Bosco heard me moving around and soon joined me.

Later Christa got up and made me a great breakfast of eggs from their chickens, and some honey, from a few years before when Bob did beekeeping, on an English muffin.

Ellie had decided I was not a threat, and hung around while I got things loaded on the bike.

Ellie.
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I was riding out around 7:30. I used the last part of yesterday's route in reverse to get back on the Provo River Parkway Trail. 

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These things, and the same company's scooters, littered the bike path.
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This morning I took the trail all the way through the canyon. When I lived here I rode it all the time. Traffic on the adjacent, highway, US-189, was very, very busy this morning. From time to time the trail was far enough from the highway that the noise wasn't too bad, but it was almost always audible.

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The trail ends at Vivian Park. I turned onto ultra-busy US-189. I used to ride on the shoulder of this highway years ago, but my tolerance for riding with traffic has declined over the years, probably since I've lived in places (rural Illinois and rural Kentucky) with lots of empty country roads to ride on.

I groaned when I immediately saw construction warning signs, but this time the construction actually worked in my favor for a while, since I had the entire right lane to myself for a few miles.

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After several miles riding on the shoulder next to countless vehicles flying by, I exited the highway. I was attempting to find the trailhead of an unpaved bike path that would get me all the way to the town of Midway without riding on the busy highway. It was confusing. I rode past multiple "No Trespassing" and "Government Property" signs. I'd ridden on this rough path once before, in 2010 - maybe it didn't exist anymore?

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After a few wrong turns, I finally found the entrance to the path, a cracked-open gate:

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The trail was very, very rough. I didn't remember it being this overgrown 14 years ago, when I'd ridden it on a touring bike with much skinnier tires than I was using now on my mountain bike.

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I passed a sign that said "Gate Closed." Was the trail not open anymore?! Not long after that, though, I met a 71-year-old man on an e-mountain bike, who'd ridden all the way from Midway on the trail, so the sign was obviously wrong. I talked to him for a while, then continued, very slowly. There were three steep sections with loose gravel that I had to walk. I remember walking one short section back in 2010. This was disappointing. Obviously I'm not in the condition I was in when I was 44.

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Maybe I needed calories. I stopped and ate a chocolate pie I'd been carrying with me for a few days.

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As I neared the trailhead in Midway, population, 6003, the condition of the trail improved.

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I stopped for a while at a brand new-looking park near the trailhead. The new bathrooms, with running water and flush toilets, were some of the nicest park bathrooms I've ever seen. None of this was here when we lived in the area.

According to Wikipedia, the population of Midway has jumped from 3,845 in 2010, when I rode on the trail, to over 6,000 today. As I'd found to my great dismay later today, the growth of the entire region around the touristy Park City area has exploded.

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I arrived in Midway and immediately went into a 7-Eleven convenience store to buy a fountain Diet Pepsi and snacks. I stood inside the store and contemplated my route.

Last night I'd worked out a route that had me doing a huge, steep climb, to over 9,000 feet, on a presumably lightly traveled mountain road, and then dropping down into Park City, winding my way through the busy town, and getting on an unpaved rail trail for 26 miles to my day's destination of Coalville.

Now, though, I doubted my ability to do this climb. I'd done it in 2009 or 2010 on an unloaded touring bike with a triple chainring, and had found that some of it was so steep that I could barely ride up it. Now I was old, tired, and riding a fully loaded bike with only a double chainring. I didn't think I could do it.

So I made the fateful decision to detour around the Park City area, doing extra miles in the hope of avoiding a super-strenuous climb. While standing in the store I quickly read part of an old journal of a short tour I'd done in 2010. At the time I'd not mentioned anything about bothersome traffic, nor tough climbs on the route I was now contemplating doing.

The Vibes said do it. Unfortunately this was a time when my Vibes approach failed me, very badly. The first road on my new route was terribly busy. And then the next one. And the next one. Ugh.

Just before getting on the busy, unpleasant River Road, leaving Midway.
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I remembered UT-32 as a reasonable highway. Today thousands of cars streamed past my as I slowly climbed on the shoulder. Who were all these people, and where were they going?!

The answer was clear as I passed several new, ugly housing developments along the route.

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I arrived in Francis, population 1,722. According to Wikipedia, it has more than doubled in size 2010.

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I remembered spending a pleasant time at a country store and cafe in Francis back in 2010, but the place was different now. The owner had an elaborate display of his political ideology on and around his business. 

One of my most deeply held beliefs is that it is a big mistake to mix business and politics. This guy, to be blunt, is an idiot for alienating at least half of his potential customers.

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Kelly IniguezPresuming his politics are what I suppose they are, he probably isn't alienating many people in that area. Tourists passing through, possibly.
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2 weeks ago
Jeff LeeTo Kelly IniguezYes, I assume a large number of local residents agree with him, but there aren't that many of them in total. And lots of them moved from other states in recent years, specifically California. And this is a very touristy area, with people from all over the world visiting.

I just think it's terrible practice to mix politics and business, especially so blatantly.

During the 20 minutes I stood outside, none of the hundreds of cars passing by stopped at the store, for what it's worth.
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2 weeks ago

I stood outside the store and looked at the map on my phone. I was trying to find the easiest, lowest-traffic way to get on the bike path to Coalville. There appeared to be a few country roads that generally went in that direction, so I took them.

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New housing development. None of this was here in 2010.
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I flagged down a local roadie, and asked his opinion. He confirmed that I would need to take the super busy UT-248 almost all the way to Park City in order to get the bike path to Coalville. There just were not any other options.

The next few hours were, by far, the most unpleasant of this trip. The highway had a wide shoulder, at least. But my least favorite thing to do on a bike is ride next to fast, noisy traffic. All along what used to be an empty highway, I saw ugly new developments of mountain homes:

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Finally - finally - I turned onto the Historic Union Pacific Rail Trail for the last twenty miles of the day.

It was so, so nice. I had to open and close a few gates, each of which, annoyingly, had a different mechanism for unfastening and fastening, but it was so much better than riding with all the fast traffic.

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It started to cloud up, and spit rain. I stopped and put on my rain jacket. It was chilly now.

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I talked to a few friendly mountain bike riders. I enjoyed the scenery. The trail was mostly downhill all the way to my destination. It was a very nice, fast ride.

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The trail was next to I-80, but surprisingly it wasn't very noisy.
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It stopped raining. I took a picture of a rainbow.

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The sun came out for the last few miles to Coalville, population 1,524. I'd booked at a room at the Best Western there last night, for a surprisingly reasonable price. I liked the look of the motel, decided I needed a rest day after today's difficult time, and reserved another night.

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Babs NashSorry about those miles of traffic! Glad you are taking a rest day.
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2 weeks ago

Today's ride: 76 miles (122 km)
Total: 1,067 miles (1,717 km)

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