Hanksville to Capitol Reef - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

July 1, 2014

Hanksville to Capitol Reef

Onwards and westwards
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YOU, BEING OBSERVANT, not to mention plain nosey, will notice that this story doesn't pick up where it left. We were in Hite and now, magically, we're setting off from Hanksville. How can this be, you ask.

Well, part of being judged against my will to be too feeble to continue was that Karen found that Melissa, the shop manageress I mentioned yesterday, was driving into Hanskville, the next town. Superior minds decided it would be a good for us to go with her, away from the heat bowl of the campground at Hite.

So, my friend, this morning we set off from Hanksville and the day was calm and the wind blew gently behind us and contour lines maintained a sensible distance from each other and we rolled contentedly through the loveliest scenery the area offers. It's rocky, of course, and it's striking rather than beautiful, but it's a treat. We were heading for Capitol Reef national park.

I've no idea what this is about but I'm sure it is or was important
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Somewhere along that road is a village that doesn't exist. It's marked on maps as Caineville but either time dealt it a blow or the geographers felt embarrassed if they didn't write something in the space. In the way that map-makers of old filled spaces with whales and messages that Here be monsters.

Randy: "I've been here for 20 years but they thought I was crazy when I came"
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Just before you get to this place, if you can get somewhere that doesn't exist, there's a café and bakery on the left. Adventure Cycling, which does show the phantom village, doesn't show the café.

Randy's café: a little gem not shown on the ACA map
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Which is a shame because Randy has been there for 20 years, a little, wiry man alternately smiling and serious. He is there with a hundred goats, all female, and a buck (it's not good form to call a male a billy-goat) and one wife. Everything is home-made and produced organically.

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"The locals thought I was crazy when we came," he said. "This isn't the sort of area where people think about producing things organically and they thought we were hippy idealists who wouldn't survive the first six months."

He came from South Dakota, he said, in search of the desert - "I like the desert" - and he set to work. It's a simple place, as befits the project, with simple ideals. Someone wrote that it was a must-stop venue, and we agreed.

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The road, which had been open and dusty with flat-topped, low mountains on both sides, changed as we took a bend towards Capitol Reef. We rode to the foot of rearing cliffs and then pitched off to left or right like an old-fashioned ghost train. Water gurgled back the other way to our right, splashing over stones, confirming that our front wheels were higher than our back.

Beware animals having a bad hair day
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And water formed this whole area. Not in the last week, of course, but over millions of years, settling, freezing, cracking rock, wearing away debris and then all but vanishing. Because, whatever the happy waterway suggested, the canyon is one of the driest areas of the country.

Ten people lived in this little cottage in the 19th century
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We passed a cottage from the days of settlers and explorers, a place now deemed too small for even a lawnmower and a wheelbarrow but which then housed ten.

"And to think," Karen observed, "that these days two people in a single house would demand four bathrooms."

We passed, too, the single-room school in Fruita, named after the orchards that settlers established and which still exist, most with the name of the original families. The school served until America caught up with the rest of the world and joined the war.

And finally, a few kilometres of deer-lined road later, we settled in the most picturesque campground of the trip. Not the most luxurious, because there wasn't a shower, but the most breathtaking with its lining of high, pale red cliffs. Quite a place to end quite a day.

Today's ride: 63 km (39 miles)
Total: 4,566 km (2,835 miles)

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