Welcome to a story, or stories I should say. A compilation of adventure tales. An ongoing itch to see, smell, and touch the world, or at least the deserted roads and rarely trampled mountains of America. Characters within the descriptive paragraphs of these stories carve out the coming and going companions in life; vital life people and pieces that parallel a universe for moments, days, years. And then spear off, leaving granules of magnificent memories of magical places. They leave a lasting trace, a gained sense of courage to stand tall on oxygen deprived mountains and shout absurdities like: I love you Ralph! Ralph is a teenage reindeer stuffed of the finest synthetic polyester fiber poof; he says made in Indonesia but really tells me he is from the North Pole. Delivered through a chimney one December night 20 years ago, we instantly became cuddle buddies upon that morning's sunrise. He is the instigator. The inspiration. And the imagination. He breathes creativity. Laughter. His is a dear companion. And yes, at 4lbs he tags along atop a pack or strapped to a rack. In delirium of 107 degree heat, the small possession of material belongings gain a persona. Innate objects become friends of the road and trails. And as for the humans who accompany, their presence reads priceless. Without O'Reilly, a 29 year old New Hampshirian with superior taste buds, the mathematical six foot four inch tall German, or handful of organic peanut butter and 99 cent jam eating munchkins, there would be a lot less excitement. The encounters we make with our specie, encapsulating the world with their awkward ways and over consumerist love, somehow we have managed to become overly adored creatures. Their generous hearts restore a faith that goodness prevails in the upheaval of a sometimes lost humanity. As for myself, I'm just the navigator, paddling up the stream of life munching on Clif Bars, with an iPhone documenting the frailties and goodies underneath all the simplified complexities in the world we reside. So again, I welcome you to get lost and dream a little through this typed text and your imagination. My name is Kristen Gentilucci. I live in Berkeley California and I love dogs.

UTAH - Tent, Reindeer, Bicycle 2014

9 months after hiking off the John Muir Trail and living a complacent life in the big city...

The sun rises and sets everyday and we continue on in this spiraling state if normalcy - and then, the itch starts again. To see something you've never seen before, a visual nirvana, to be taken away by nature, shrunk to the size of an ant speechless under massive prehistoric rock formations, where time ceases to exist in the forms we know it. To shed the constant routine that comes with the responsibilities of adulthood. The thought of making friends with complete strangers, and sitting in diners sipping on burnt black coffee at 8am on a road, in a town, you have never been to, and may never return, is too much to resist. Dreaming of seeing darkness so dark, the stars vividly come to life, telling ancient tales of war and love, the imagination twirls and fills dehydrated veins with excitement and glee. When the days events burn happiness into your skin and sore muscles produce sleep like a rum soaked pirate. 

That was the start, and so we, Bianchi and I that is, went from parked to D4. Just to get you up to date, Bianchi is a dear friend, born is Italy, raised in Rhode Island, we spent days and nights together under wet storm clouds in New Zealand and now reside in Berkeley; we are a duo. And the thought of loading up B's panniers with only the necessities of life, and milking the sharpest tan lines possible under the heat and rays of the desert Utah sun, the tale had been dreamt and the storyline set. Canyon Lands of Utah and once again a very special bicycle, drifting for days along barren red dirt roads, to find something not discovered or sought by the masses. 

As much as I would love to say, the journey through the desert with only my Celeste steel two-wheeled friend would be a mental and physical challenge of epicenes drifting within deep thought and sharing lots of conversations with strangers, I am happy to welcome the company of pals to this adventure. Let me introduce Mr. O'Reilly, born and raised in New Hampshire, at age 29, his blood is thick enough to withstand the coldest of desert nights. A good friend, he spent many long hours in kitchens across the USA, with superior taste buds and training he has culinary talent and impeccable knife skills, dicing an eye watering onion into precise geometric shreds without a tear in sight. He now resides as a bartender, at an upscale friendly restaurant, stocked with the ritziest of small batched and hand crafted liquors at his fingertips. He is famous for making the finest concoctions, potions, and elixirs and when not delicately measuring out spoonfuls of sugar, spices, or mind altering liquors, he is content with a book, a drum set, or a long bicycle ride. His dear friend, Action Boy, is joining us, and I am happy to welcome both of these guys to our posse. Just under a year old, Action is as crisp as silver coin, glimmering in the light, and although Bianchi has nearly 20 years of age over him, they compliment each other with their strengths and weaknesses. O'Reilly's dear friend is a true youngster of a touring bike, able to hold the finest equipment needed for the long haul and will be unscaled by mountainous climbs. And Bianchi, has seen it all....almost.

And so as the days dwindled till departure, among the light coral colored carpet lay the necessities of life:
sleeping bag + pad
apricot Clif bars
... and bike shorts

Suddenly, Ralph appeared peering over the side of the bed. Knowing those items all too well, excitement sparked him to his feet. For those of you new to the story, Ralph is a reindeer, stuffed of the finest synthetic polyester fiber poof; he says made in Indonesia but really tells me he is from the North Pole. Delivered through a chimney one December night 18 years ago, we instantly became cuddle buddies upon that morning's sunrise. He has seen a lot in his years, including the John Muir Trail and lots of airports, and tags along on most adventures as my hearty pillow. But little did Ralph know that O'Reilly may not have an imagination to bring him to life and unlike his friend of German descent, who fed him carrot cake clif bars, kept him dry from the rain, and carried him to the highest peaks in the contiguous USA. O'Reilly was not accustomed to such a vivid and childish creation of the mind. And myself, having spent 28 years growing up to uphold the responsibilities that comes with managing a wine bar full of hip youngsters and beloved customers, it was going to come as quite a shock that I may be lugging around a 4lb reindeer to help tell this story. I explained to Ralph that room was tight, and Bianchi, being a racing bike from the early 1990's, could only hold a minimal amount of weight unlike Action Boy. That her gears were not meant for 14% grades with 40 extra lbs of weight and as much as I loved his company, he did not know how to change a flat, a broken spoke, or pitch a tent. I reminded him he was from the freezing north, and we were headed to the hottest place in the USA. But I stood corrected, the hottest place on earth, was apparently, the dryer after his bath and he had seen it all. We argued like brother and sister as he insisted that he needed to come; there was no negotiating. So that's how we became a posse of five.

The route has officially been set. Zion to Bryce, up over Mt. Lion to Capitol Reef to Fish Lake and Otter Creek, then onto Cedar Breaks National Monument and back to Zion. 493 miles, nearly 40,000 ft of climbing, and 10 days on sore butts. If we managed 50 miles a day, we would be golden, returned home just in time for society to take grip on us again. I imagined Utah as a flat valley of heat where we could push 90 miles days and bake in the 100 degree oven. Very Very wrong, as this is what happens when one imagines and idealizes a place they have never been to. Bryce peaks at almost 11,000 ft, and last I checked upon sunrise it was 17 degrees F at Mt. Lion. Good news is Capitol Reef will dethaw our frostbitten toes and fingers as the heat of the desert I thought existed conjures in this reef below. Awaiting for us in this town's solemn post office, our 1/2 point, will be a package we hand crafted to ourselves, filled with the finest of whiskey and delicacies of non-melted chocolate espresso beans, really only the simplistic necessities that makes one happy in stories like these in a state opposed to alcohol and a desert so hot that it does not let chocolate exist in a solid form. It is no longer about how far we can go or making it from point A to B and instead of writing about the million of miles that would have been covered, this story and sweat may ultimately tie friends together through inspiration of vastness and the fearlessness of discovering the unknown.

If only I had known that the thought of blue skies and sniffing dusty red dirt air could cure all woes. As though my soul had been rejuvenated, pumped full of enough honey to power a mindset of complete glee. My consciousness is absorbed with Utah. You see, the past months, nearly year, has been ridden with heartbreaks, shattered to pieces by loved ones and left to stand face to face with a rawness, reexamine the pieces that make up wholeness, and staring in a mirror at a person who did not want to accept the flaws beneath skin and bones. It wasn't pretty, and Ralph can vouch as he nearly drowned in numerous puddles of tears. But wounds heal with time and the thought of spending day and night under the sun pulled the corners of my mouth high to the sky, wiped a smile across my face so big it could wash any desolations of life to the bottom of the sea.

All is packed, set and ready to go with 3 days left. With only the necessities, I questioned ditching the tent for lighter panniers and more starry nights. Without lip gloss eating black bears of the California Sierras, or bagel munching horned wild bores of the Oregon coast, our biggest disaster could only be a torrential downpour. But thank goodness for my intelligent company who reminded me of unfamiliar dinosauric scorpions and hairy poisonous spiders. So instead of leaving behind our zipper tight polyester home, we traded clean socks for a few ounces of space.

We filled the newly free empty crevasses with a supply of 200 ounces of water, a handful of Advil, and a small stash of enough mind altering substances to tranquilize a small guinea pig. And as long as there are no cliffs in sight, and we know the inability for humans to fly, the desert is the perfect place to test the limits of the mind. And you thought you were reading about a bicycle trip. You are, just with some distractions. In a total loss of connection to external reality and an experience of encountering indescribable spiritual beings and realms, indigenous Amazonian Amerindian cultures consume certain hallucinogenics for divinatory and healing purposes. The exact ones we plan to bring. It is short lived and just enough for a sunset transcendence into magical lands of enchanted vastness, where thoughts can drift to infinitely, and the stars open pages to maps of the best connect the dots puzzle ever imaginable. Maybe we only need too many miles and not enough water to truly bring Ralph to real talking and walking state, you never know. 

We were golden; too old to be stupid, young enough to be fearless, and in the grandest company of a trustworthy reindeer. No donut eating, ticket writing, blue uniformed civilians driving any zebra printed car, upholding laws set by a democracy of Mormons would find our magical treasure stuff within steel tubing of our great machines or interfere with a complacent stuffed reindeer encouraging us to keep pedaling. And in exchange for being hauled over desert mountains, Ralph has bravely promised to fend off any creature of the night smaller in size than his body of poof. 

But lastly, and more importantly we only live one short life. And yes, I want to be that old lady with enough wrinkles to tell a speechless story. A friendly face in a small town with long grey hair and turquoise earrings, having built enough character through a life of treacherous adventures and upheavals to chat up an evening with strangers. To be that elderly lady who can pull a pocket book of never ending unimaginable stories that keep the youngest eyes captured and ears tuned. Old and withered, when bodies no longer can physically take us to the grandest of places on the grandest of adventures, tired and worn from life's cumbersome truths, we can only hope to  have lived the life once dreamed in youth. About to be standing on Utah soil, excitement runs through veins like horse in the wild west movies and we grab summer by its rays and ride.

12 hours later we emerged from a time warp, having driven nearly a quarter across the continent, 4 big states later we entered a mars like planet. Plateaus flat like plates painted splatter tomato red by a spiritual goddess from above. They drop down a jagged cliff to a rolling rocky vastness. Lands are untouched by time. Royal blues and muddy browns highlighted these walls of great history. They tell an ancient tale of a time when the earth was quiet, land wasn't layered with black tar. Trucks loaded with the necessitates that drive a wasteful society didn't swarm corridors connecting inhabitors of desert  towns. We passed snake like railways, built at a time when telephones were only of the rich and famous, carving out tunnels in rocks, up and over mountains. 

It was quite the commotion, with mini forest green Honda filled with two rambling over caffeinated excited youngsters. Guzzling diet coke by the gallon, napping like narcoleptic babies, and doing sprints behind gas guzzling oil refuel lots, we were hushed by trucked Ralph after the camaraderie got out of hand. Throwing carrots at 18 wheelers was just too entertaining for our excited minds, but his wails from the back sank our hearts. Action boy and Bianchi got their first taste of the heat buckled atop 4 wheeled green, and by golly was it freaking hot. Ditching the down jackets, Ralph was happy to hear we had extra room to resupply with some fresh Colorado carrots. 

And there we lay, the night before it was all about to start. Eyes were worn from too many cars, too much AC, podcasts of fractals and man eating sharks, and a day of mesmerizing Dr. Seuss hair ball tree like forms. Our Bay Area skin experienced its first true days of summer. We strolled down the oven baked streets in search of a carb loaded snack in a town of little character except the magnetic scenery behind it, knowing Zion was just around the corner. 

Distance: 72 miles
Hours pedaling: 5 hours 36 minutes 
Elevation: a lot
High: 101 degrees F 
Low: 41

After hauling bikes as heavy as a scrawny 14 year old boy up a 22 mile climb, 8 water bottles later, Utah is not flat. It was a mile climb up a dirt trail to find a hidden treasure of a campsite. Scattered with brittle leg bones, sheep skulls, rifle shells, this day has a long story, Ralph, O'Reilly and I just need a nap first. 

Naps turned into hours of sleep, unwrestled by a sunset or sunrise. Morning, 8 am, it happen, we were in that town, drinking coffee, at that adorable cafe, with the friendliest of people, who's lack of culture and diversity produce an all too scary innocent ignorance. A town to never to be returned to, we sip cheap coffee and tea with oldies playing in the background thawing from a chilly desert night.

Miles: 53 
Altitude: 8,851 feet
Hours pedaling: 4 hours 29 minutes 
Elevation gain: couple hundred feet
High: 76 degrees F
Low: 40 degrees F

Bike touring: to sum up yesterday, and all the reason hearts lie is painstaking miles of awe inspiring scenery, we are the famous kids of whatever road we are on. Tenacity sparks conversations in any outgoing stranger. Meeting our Utahan mother, who fed us ice by the bottles at a gas station in Zion, she told us stories of her 7 kids and hugged us upon departure with the warmest wishes. Questions come in bounties: are we married, because God is watching; who's the teddy bear, they quickly stood corrected, reindeer, his name is Ralph; and no, we don't carry a gun. 

And then the magical land of Bryce, an underwater Red Sea, opened its doors. It is the grandpas of the rocks, forms that breathe energy from the depths. A village of cathedrals, sunset painted in stone, history of the planet written expressively in gains of canyon walls, as though a 3D imagine encapsulates memorized eyes. It is as if silence echoes here from all dimensions and calmness awaits as eyes try to grasp an expansiveness not known to any city dweller. 

It wasn't a day of making a destination. Instead Bianchi and Action Boy wandered like children with an unbound curiosity. Leisurely stopping at all vistas and view points, rocks that reach to the sky were climbed, tourists pondered our habitual roots. Without a sense of time, of days, we synced to the sun, devoid of anything beyond a scenic view, food, and sensations of the weather. With so much time and open space, the mind is free to wander, to the most creative depths of humanity and live without a worry in the world. 

Even with our stroll around the park, somehow Utah's hills found half drained legs and depleted any stored reserves. At the top, the view was a magical fairy tale book, colors that make one squint. The drastic change in landscape comes in horizontal crisp lines, a mind-boggling wonder of the earth. Reaching 8,851 feet, we weren't quite sure if the altitude or lack of sugar causing cravings for any type of beer. I'd take whatever this Mormon state would offer me, 3%, booze-free beer, or just a refreshing sparkling lemonade. Any cold refreshing carb-loaded drink would wipe away burning quads. A joy about bike touring is the combinations of foods that taste like a meal at the French Laundry. O'Reilly shared our condiment feast of peanut butter, jelly, cheese, honey, and jerky with Ralph, who hungry from cheering us up big grades, needed a reward. Drenching bagels in honey from a plastic bear container, a conscious state returned, and suddenly staring that golden viscous honey filled bear in the eyes, he became a very good friend, and he earned the name Henry. 

Home tonight was off another dirt road in the Dixie Nation Forest, surrounded only by friendly trees. There is something about pulling up to a stranger on a 75lb bike, tent atop a rack, asking where we can camp. Knowing we aren't here to cause trouble, or more so too tired, every stranger gives us golden directions to their secret local campsite. 

Two weak beers and salty fries drowning in ketchup later, we have a plan. Push the mileage tomorrow, to spend another leisurely day wandering this thing they famously call Capitol Reef. 

Miles: 80
Ride time: 6 hours 
Elevation gain: thousands of feet
High: 95 degrees F
Low: 31 degrees F

There came that place, in a forested land, off a beaten track, where the opportunity to become one with a tree called both our names. The sun gave way to the calmest of meadows and wind turned pine needles into wind chimes. We inhaled a smoke that brought the world to another spiritual level. Vision sharpened to a razor edge sword, colors unknown to the human eye came to the surface. As though suddenly in a cartoon or the childhood game of Candyland, the trees communicated, the grass grew before eyes, and the suns afternoon rays brought complete bliss. The landscape exposed itself in a Van Gough, Monet, and Degas painting, as if reaching out, one could smudge the oil paint colors, blend them with fingertips, and create emotional texture. Colors spoke to a soul deep inside, pinks, peaches, blues and lush greens, so vibrant, so lucid and vivid, it was unreal, mystical. I have to say, I was a little envious when O'Reilly told me he married the tall tree standing overhead. It was short-lived, but so magical. 

Dusk opened the corridors to an expansive universe blanketing us. Stars dart in all directions, dancing through the sky. Hours pass and space above takes over. 

I think it must have been dehydration, pores gasping for any ounce of saliva, or too much Whiskey and mind tripping herbs, that led to a morning of wobbly wooziness. Although O’Reilly can down coffee by the hour, coffee is not my cup of tea. But this morning, the sugary caffeinated blackness jolted eyes open and enthusiasm for the day. Salty sweat laced with DMT beaded off the rims of our helmets, as the Rockies must reach all the way into Utah. The town is called Escalate for a reason, and it's pretty much a never ending escalator laying out an asphalt carpet of 8% 10% 12% grades in the blistering heat. It's at that time when being cheered on by oversized RVs, one begins to question why. And as these thoughts start to trickle back and forth though one's brain like a pinball machine, the summit peaks, grandness opens up, and infinity and beyond is plated on a silver platter to the eyes. At times it is too much to take in, too overwhelming, as if only one could fill a jar, packed tight with this vision with this memory. Bodies drenched in sweat, legs so tired they feel like the last piece of a Jenga puzzle before it topples, suddenly it all becomes very clear why. Views are that much more spectacular, food tastes 100 times better, and an inflated pad had never been a better bed. Life is simple, all belongings have an exact place and order in which they live, our steel machines act like wild horses straight out of a western film, and we continue on, just riding with the rhythm of life. 

Grandness comes in earning a decent, 25 miles of human flight off the cliffs of a mountain. Our live jukebox of O’Reilly's memory has any song to keep the mood groovy. Heavy loads make way for high speeds, like a cheetah through a wild grass safari and lift off is almost possible. We hop from forest to white rocky cliffs to prairie lands and back to red rock mountains. Buffalo, birds, deer, prairie dogs, jack rabbits, and ground hogs all wave us by. Rivers revitalize overheated bodies, and clouds gush shaded havens in waves. 

We ended in Boulder Utah, a tiny town if you can even call it that, with a makeshift campsite we foraged on the outskirts. O'Reilly asleep before 6pm, leaves Ralph and I to wander this empty town like pioneers with curiosity. A grueling 3,000 feet, 20 mile climb awaits caffeinated muscles upon sunrise. 

Miles: 57
Ride time: 4 hours 58 minutes
Elevation max: 9,651 feet
High: 93 degrees F
Low: 45 degrees F

Most of my dear friends know me as Grandma. But let's just set the record straight, as O'Reilly may have pulled one over me. 13 hours of sleep later, he was bright eyes and bursting at the seams. 

Some days are just harder than others. The miles begin to wear and tear, and with an exhausted body, every ounce of mental space was reserved for the fight to pedal on. Today the miles didn't slip by lost in thought, pondering the landscape for the perfect set of descriptive words or taken away in complete awe by the scenic beauty. Instead, it took Henry bear's lovely sugary gold to power a constant reminder to keep pedaling. As we trudged up that mountain of birch forests and bright yellow flowers, snow caped peaks, hitting nearly 10,000ft, oxygen drained from blood and stone legs didn't want to move. Descents come only as rewards for sore muscles in Utah. Toping speeds of 50+ mph, now is not the time to fail, bicycle! Down through forested plateaus, Disney Thunder Mountain roller coasters, deep into an alien of forms, through over saturated red rock canyon speckled with ripe green trees home was finally found for the night. An already fully overloaded campground crammed with overweight Americans hauling around their worldly belongings in a massive oversized RV, we were quickly taken in by two German mates. The evening was spent chatting them up about bad American coffee, their worldly bicycle touring adventures, and all their gear as they too are traveling via bike thousands of miles.

After a day of only stopping to eat, wipe the sand sweat from our eyes, and a cold baptized wash in a canyon creek, a leisurely afternoon was pure glory. Napping under shady trees, munching on carrots with Ralph, swimming in refreshing rivers, O'Reilly sums it quite well as his over caffeination from too many Redbulls that kept his neurons in full fire, 

Dear Earth, thanks for you ability to always surprise me. 
Dear Life, thanks for malleability. 
Love, O'Reilly. 

Despite it's overwhelming cracks, crevices, mile high mountains, and prohibition-like drinking laws, Utah has opened its doors to us. People are the friendliest of creatures, and there is something about showing up on two wheels, life attached to a self-powered collaboration of steel and bolts, that brings the best out of humanity. 

Miles: 65
Pedaling time: 6 hours 5 minutes
Elevation max: 9,000 feet
Elevation gain: too much
High: 85 degrees F
Low: 32 degrees F

5:55am, day 5, we awoke to a posse of deer grazing on a lawn size salad. Just over 300 miles in, we're shedding miles faster than planned. We leisured over coffee and smoothies in a local cafe, where everyone seemed to be in an anxious hurry to get somewhere. But our gang of 5 live in a beautiful world where coffee can take two hours, gas station clerks tell a history of the town, and we just drift, smiles wiped across our face, along the white painted line of the highway until it turns.

Life is simplistic: sleep, bike, eat. No never-ending grade upwards or panniers stocked too full can compare to the difficulty of life itself. We complicate our lives with the silliest of forms, and when leaving everything at a town back in California, what a freedom it is to forget, escape, and let go for days on end. Transplanting ourselves into a space where there are no nagging worries, the things we run from fade into a distance and what is left is room for inspiration and freedom. 

We have strayed from the route. Deciding to verge off the highlighted loop to see a lake and a scenic back road, clearly it is not A to B that matters, but how many roses one can smell. Lonely roads, devoid of cars for hours, oxygenated wind, and wide open healthy forests pass by. Despite the grueling climb, a 10% grade, 4 miles long, the detour was well worth the extra miles, sweat, and all too scenic cruise hugging the quiet lake. We eat like hungry kings out here, Clif bars sandwiched between bagels and all. Anything with sugar and carbs tastes good, as constant fuel is needed after hauling a weeks supplies up and over giant mountains.

There are very few things that one feels the need of fear out here, aside from cars with loaded trailers. But suddenly that all changed. O'Reilly, up the road a hundred feet, missed the angry lost cow blocking the white painted line. His black eyes starred deep into my brown eyes, both terrified, Ralph and Bianchi geared up for a race against the largest boy of a bull. To him, Celeste steel, a furry 4 lb reindeer, and helmeted girl wreaking of sunscreen must have looked like some foreign alien from Vegas on acid. He mooed with furry, Ralph growled back at him. It was a good 5-minute hold up out on hwy 72, until some friendly cowboys showed up on horses. Straight out of a western film, these were the real cowboys, dirt dusted collard shirts, leather belts, Levi's jeans, the kind of boots only sold in Texas, and that hat with the angular tilt, wavy slick brown hair fraying from beneath. We smiled at each other, having found their lost stud, Bianchi took off wanting to run with these real boys and their horses. 

Day 5, and muscles start to gravitate down to thighs. Dinosauric red boulder forms turn into tall Christmas tree mountains with springtime youth filling in any gaps. Fish Lake is home tonight nestled in a hill of birch that glisten with an afternoon breeze. Too tired to worry about the bears and moose sleep awaits amidst the beautiful silent lost lake hidden in the forest. 

Miles: 86
Pedaling time: 6 hours 17 minutes
Elevation gain: maybe 1,000 ft 
High: 95 degrees F
Low: 40 degrees F

Not much sleep due to moose like antelope in the secluded birch surrounding the tent. Fifty five miles into the day, there we lay, on the cool shaded cement outside the only store in town, a half eaten jar of jam and peanut butter, orange peels and an apple core, napping like a drunk bum in a park. It wasn't sore legs or the heat, just very tried eyes that even a Red Bull couldn't spark. Sleep could come upright, in mid pedal motion at this type of state. 

Realizing we haven't hit a stop light in over 370 miles, cell service, or service of any kind, has been sparse, as the biggest town in the past 4 days had a population of 350. After we drank all our whiskey in the first 2 days, it has been a 4 day detox, 200 mile ride to the next state liquor store. I told you this state was like prohibition. 

The last 30 miles of the day we might as well have been in a tornado and although all 5 of us stayed upright, efforts to go downhill in a headwind from hell left us at a mere 10mph. I'm not quite sure how we made it to mile 86, but we must have looked like wreck looses at the first gas station, guzzling ice cold water by the gallon without a care in the world. 

The longest hardest day yet, never happier to see whiskey or tequila, after living on $20 a day for 6 day, we splurged, too tired to pitch a tent. It was a motel for the night, a shower for the first time in 6 days, and pathetic bodies that begged to do laundry with motel mom, gorged on BBQ, leafy salad, and potatoes. The luxuries of life, a warm shower! Never happier to sit in a sofa, maybe we have escaped civilization for too long. Give me a 6% beer, more than a rivers worth of a shower, and a real bed adorned with pillows and legs must have pedaled to heaven. A town with humans and stores, cell service and outlets, I think we've been lost on the back roads of an Utahan society for maybe one too many days. 

No more canned veggies, off to town for dinner, and with shades drawn we will sleep to at least 7am, arising to maybe some real coffee and a more than leisurely breakfast of hash browns, pancakes, carrot cake for Ralph, and O’Reilly's favorite paella fiasco. A hard days work, and many nights primitively camping under the cold starry sky pays off in the conveniences of city life.

Miles: 37
Pedal time: 4 hours 46 minutes
Elevation max: 10,600 feet
Elevation gain: 4,000 feet
High: 90 degrees F
Low: 40 degrees F

You'd think we'd slept like babies, bed, pillows and all, but the AC and stark creamy white walls of the motel kept eyes open for most of the night. Patiently waiting for sunrise, telling stories of sun and moon catchers, sleep came at early dawn, not to be awaken for hours. A midnight plan, with 4 days left, ditch Cedar Break Monument and pull 75 mile days making it to the Grand Canyon and back. But one night of living the life of technology and electricity is spoiling, and instead, upon a warm sunrise, feet stocked the town for good coffee, nursed hangovers, and planed to spend extra days off the saddle hiking Zion, trying to rid hilarious farmer tan lines. 

37 miles is all the posse could manage, and barely did any of us break 11mph. Thirty miles of that was climbing a massive mountain to snow bank peaks at 10,600ft. But the landscape called our name, sucked the oxygen from the crisp air, bled freshness under skin; pine trees surrounded us like home in the high Sierras of CA. Lakes deserved swims, picnics happened without a clock in sight, and halts for pee stop after pee stop were taken. Distractions came in 2 hour British accent practice sessions, lots of gum chewing, and talks about eating dead deer for dinner. Ravished for anything more than a Clif bar, each turn of the mountain looked like it gave way to the summit to only be discouraged corner after corner. 

Got to give it to Ralph for saving the day. 5 hours in, famished and waterless, we had to push on. There at the top was a blockaded campsite, closed for the season, and too hungry to seek out a hiding spot we sought out the solo humans in sight, three 76-year-old Texans, in a large campervan preparing to host the campground for the summer. Ralph in hand, helmet on, it was as simple as pitching tent, devouring Mac n Cheese and passing out. They had their hesitation, as it appeared their boss would not be happy if found, but staring at an innocent girl, who just claimed she biked 35 miles uphill, with sleeping bags and tent, to sleep under the stars with a stuffed reindeer, they took us in like their own kids, fed us dinner and tea over grace, and chatted our ears off about their kids that lived on sail boats in their warm mobile home till sunset. We hugged upon departures to sleep under the cold starry night happy to be friends with trees and sap again. 

It is an ironic contract, that most of the time walking into any town store or cafe, or abandoned campsite, in full sweaty spandex brings out the extroverted curiosity in most people. But every once and a while people stare as though a UFO just landed in their backyard. Thinking we're disheveled out-of-place runaways for wearing or pedaling such an atrocity is disheartening. Sometimes, we are strangers in a town that one has lived their entire 50 years surrounded by the same 300 people and a half stocked grocery store with only canned goods and over processed breads. As big city dwellers, where people rarely have the time of day to stop and look at the big puffy clouds floating by but can indulge in overly academic dialogues at upscale caf├ęs where the coffee is of the utmost quality and milk is only organic, we are just curious what drives someone to stay in such a deserted desert town for a lifetime. Their unwelcoming silent stares makes one feel all too out place to try to spark a friendly inquisitive conversation. But then the contrast takes hold, and amazing people offer goodness. That's what is beautiful: knowing that most of the time there are heart worthy people out there, despite unyielding interactions, and that we as humanity are not alone in this world. 

Miles: 101
Elevation loss: 7,000 feet
Elevation gain: maybe 2,500 feet
High: 106 degrees F
Low: 68 degrees F

Awaken to an offer of hot coffee and cinnamon toast by our new Texan family, we humbly accepted in the warmth of their Winnebago. Then wheels coasted down the summit, roads hugged hillsides and coddled meadows. Passing cottage homes tucked deep within woods, the English language runs like dictionary pages through a helmeted head, searching for perfect familiar words to pull from context, painting a visual story for the minds of any reader. 

It is when left out on a long road for hours traversed in a solitude of thought, that in a distance the beauty of a town appears, and there is a small thrill of returning to society, laughing with strangers, and receiving a glimpse at one's world for just a short instance. Socially refreshed, then the joy of riding off into nowhere tugs at dirty feet, and nature calls our name. 

Not quite ready for the thought of returning to old green Honda who hopefully still waits in Zion, Action Boy and Bianchi detoured to Arizona. The desert I thought Utah beheld, was found in the neighboring state. Flat sprawling highway, the 105-degree heat prepared the pavement to fry an egg. Sweat evaporated from pores before it was ever produced a drop of liquid and salt flaked from skin like sugar morsels on the famous cereal Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The lack of trees or shade greater than an inch was far from sight. Not wanting to bake like brunt crostini, the only option was to push on. 

Camp was found off a red dirt road on a beach like brick colored sand under a solemn dehydrated Juniper shrub. Sensation overload came in the form of watery cucumbers, a $10 loaf of fresh German olive bread, and everything sprinkled in salt, honey and cheese. 

This is the last night to dream of riding miles into a latitude of geometric landscapes. Not quite adventure junkies, but sometimes stepping out of the stagnant path we foresee our futures, attachment sheds its unreasonable ties to things and we become connected to life itself. 

Miles: 81
ride time: 5 hours 47 minutes 
High: over 100 degrees 
Low: 65 degree F

Brains get moist and mossy with ideas and downhill speeds mask all imperfections. If only life was truly simple. Tan lines defined weathered muscles and returning to society was a bit melancholy. Not quite sure we wanted to merge back to the complexities of a busy city life, the desert washed by in silence for most of the day. 

Baking to near delirious dehydration under the desert sun, Green Honda called our names and so ended a grand memory that will last a generation. 

Dear Life: thanks for your malleability.
Dear Earth: thanks for every surprise.
Dear Utah: thanks for blowing my mind.
Dear Water: thanks for life.

We grabbed summer and went, returned sun kissed and inspired. One day left to capture a fleeting moment and run with it for a lifetime. 

Coming full circle, 632 miles later, nearly 45,000ft of climbing 8% 14% grades, 3 national parks, 2 national monuments, 2 states, and one Native American reservation later we came full circle. A bit overwhelming, the thought of home rang dear, the thought of luxury yearned for. The contrast of having everything and then only the mere necessities sparks the question, what are we as humans seeking? 

Never could I have asked for more: diverse landscapes of magnificent existence, tiny towns of quaint hominess, roads with generous shoulders and overly cautious drivers. We lived in a secluded world, where society's problems were not a part of us. We lived off the grid, where salted canned veggies mashed in with boxed cheesy pasta satisfied any soul, and the dusty earth, under an expansive starry sky, put kids to sleep like story time books. 

I would like to dearly thank my moving, talking, personal thesaurus, editor, and dictionary, O'Reilly who keeps me dear company. Bianchi, with her shortcomings of a mere 7 speeds, never gave up. Ralph, you kept us out of the lonely places a mind can wander with too much time, and nourished our bodies with too many carrots. An lastly, Action Boy was that fidgety teenager who could not sit still, and got his first and never ending taste of a true adventure. 

In a mere 10 days we captured an entire summer. Leaving behind the magical chocolate caramel swirled canyon cliffs and infinite midnight blue twinkling universes overhead, there is always more to explore in the company of great people or at least a trusty reindeer.