Exploring the St. George Area on 2 Wheels

For those of you who might be wondering, here’s a sample of what biking (road biking and mountain biking) looks like around St. George, Utah. As you can see, the views for much of this 60-mile ride were splendid, quintessential Utah—Virgin River, canyons, red rock, and snow-capped mountains. Road quality varied. (Utah drivers were not quite as courteous as I’d hoped. Lots of trucks sped by us without moving to the left or braking.)

Scenic views road biking Utah
Roadside Red Rock off the 7
Virgin River
Virgin River Views From River Rock Roasting Company
virgin river views la verkin
Virgin River Views From River Rock Roasting Company
L rocky roasters
River Rock Roasting Company: Definitely the Best Coffee / Gastropub and Views Around!

Quail Lake 3Quail lake 2

L Quail Lake

Not bad, eh?

Toquerville /La Verkin Road Bike Loop ~60 Miles, ~2500 feet  of climbing

A friend of mine, now a St. George local, guided us on this 60-mile road bike sampler with ~2500 feet of climbing on surrounding highways and byways. We took the lovely, low traffic 7 to Sand Hollow Road (rough surface) by Sand Hollow Reservoir (Half-Ironman site) across to State Street / 9. (The 9 is a main thoroughfare with heavy, fast traffic -not so nice. Maybe save this one for Sunday mornings when most of the locals are at church.)

At the halfway point, we enjoyed some refreshments and superb views at the super scenic, ever popular River Rock Roasting, which is perched on a cliff overlooking Virgin River in La Verkin. If you’re in the area, River Rock Roasting is a must stop and is definitely my top pick for coffee, food, brews and views. It’s slammed on Sundays (apparently everyone who is not in church goes here) so pick a weekday if possible.

Our route back on State Street/9 was topped off with a stop at dazzling Quail Creek State Park and Reservoir. And yes, you can swim in it. No, I didn’t this time, but will next! It’s 120 feet deep in places and stocked with rainbow trout, bullhead catfish, crappie, largemouth bass. There’s boating, kayaking, SUPs, hiking, biking and camping here.

There’s another route through the Gunlock and Snow Canyon area that has less car traffic, but we’d already explored those two areas so checking out the are on the flip side of St. George made sense.

Next time, will definitely try the Gunlock loop.

Desert Canyons Mountain Bike Trails: Pushing Tin and Secret Sauce ~8 miles

Our mountain bike sampler was limited as it had recently rained, but we’ve heard there’s tons of epic trails around here. The driest trail option was the newly developed Desert Canyons Trail System. We cruised around two of the trails, Pushing Tin and Secret Sauce, both pleasant easy to moderate with views from the top of the mesa out to the horizon. Unfortunately, these views are slated to be filled in by a Master Community in the near future. (The developer’s concession / gift was this mountain bike trail system.) We were lucky to have it to ourselves with no building encroachment yet.

MTB yellow wildflowers
Wildflowers and Mesa Top Views
desert canyon mtb cutout
Metal Art
Kara MTB jump
Kara Highlighting Crazy Technical Opportunities 
L MTB desert canyon
Open Views for Now…

Directions: From St. George, take the I-15 S to Desert Canyon s exit and take a left under the overpass

We were told that there’s plenty of great mountain biking in and near St. George, but it wasn’t in the cards for this trip. We did make it to Moab for an epic mountain bike ride – stay tuned for that post.

As far as these 2 rides go, I’ll give them 2 thumbs up.

 

My PNW Explorations: Looking promising, Port Angeles!

 

Driving over the crest of a hill, I caught my first glimpse of downtown Port Angeles, the shimmering water and port in the distance. My first impressions? Wow! Clean, wide roads, nice sidewalks, historic buildings, art installations everywhere you look and great views. From what I’d heard from the Port Townsend and Sequim “ambassadors”, I expected to see a smaller version of skid row—homeless people and druggies panhandling on every corner, litter in the streets and on the sidewalks, dilapidated buildings and overt grime, crime and grit. Not so—quite the opposite. In many ways, Port Angeles has more character, art and scenic appeal than either Port Townsend or Sequim. And my taste tests attest to the fact that Port A has much better restaurants too.

 

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Over the course of my PNW adventure, I spent a total of 3 nights in Port Angeles and thoroughly explored the town and its neighborhoods. Yes, eventually, I saw some homeless people. I have no doubt there are “issues”, but every community has issues and more and more have issues of this type. (For the record, Sequim is not immune – recall the panhandler at the Village Marketplace. No doubt they would say he was just on his way to Port Angeles.)

My first stop, and an easy one as its right on the main drag as you come into town, was Sound Bikes & Kayaks, 120 E. Front Street. My last chance for mountain bike rentals before I headed up the coast. I was so relieved when I opened the door and saw plenty of quality mountain bikes to rent. (And they even have an in-store rock climbing wall there too.) The friendly team at Sound Bikes & kayaks gave me the local scoop on the top mountain bike rides and hikes in the area. I shared my encounters with the Port Angeles and Sequim gloom and doomers and they just shrugged their shoulders. (Tourist dollars are hard to come by, especially in the off-season, perhaps that was what it was all about.)

Lodging was easy to find, I just walked across the street and rented a room in the historic Downtown Hotel. Now it was time to grab a bite with a view at Downriggers at the Landing and plan my active adventures.

Its close proximity to Lake Crescent and Hurricane Ridge / Olympic National Park and its gateway position to adventures farther afield made Port Angeles a great basecamp for my PNW explorations coming and going.  Here’s my sampler for ya:

Port Angeles Lodging

Downtown Hotel – great rates, views and old-school charm

Built in 1916 and renovated in 2003 after a fire, the Downtown Hotel has lots of character. This place made me nostalgic for the old hotel from my childhood. (My family was in the hotel and restaurant business in New Hampshire.) The Downtown Hotel is historic, quaint and clean—and full of old-school charm. You can choose from kitchenette suites, apartment suites, private baths or “European style with a shared hallway bathroom. I picked a suite with a view of the harbor. The bed was a bit small for a queen and the wifi was a bit spotty in the room so I had to take my work conference call in the lobby. Other than that, I loved it. The reading material in the lobby was great. They subscribe to the New Yorker, one of my favorite magazines – another feather to put in the artsy / cultural hat of Port Angeles. It’s a cool, centrally located spot within the heart of Port Angeles. I would stay here again and consider it for a long-term stay. The general manager, Tim, is a bit of a vintage bike nut. If you are too, you might ask him to show you his extensive collection. Notes: no pets allowed and no wheelchair access. The entrance staircase leads from street level to the lobby and rooms are on the second and third floors.

The Red Lion Hotel  221 N. Lincoln St.

red lion hotel
The waterfront Red Lion with its Olympic Mountain backdrop

Treat yourself to a great night’s sleep and a spectacular sunrise with a water view room. Extremely comfy bed with a room large enough for a happy dance. (I think it was an ADA room, not sure if they are all like that or If I just got lucky.)

Super 8 by Wyndham, 2104 E 1st St

Clean, comfy, convenient and budget friendly. This place has been renovated recently and is downright decent. Wifi and free breakfast are included. Be sure to pay your respects to the resident feline, Douglas. Drop into the locals’ bar, Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge, next door for a quick bite or nightcap if you’re so inclined. This is where I got the insider tip from locals Kristin and Chef Matt Colony to visit them at First Street Haven for breakfast (see review below).

The Landing & Downriggers

The Landing mall and the restaurant Downriggers is right on the coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  It features spectacular water, city and Olympic Mountain views and and is home to galleries, restaurants, offices, a co-working space, a rowing club and more.  I ate a salmon salad at Downriggers my first night. Perhaps not as good as the view, but  as good or better than Sirens in Port Townsend. Not that it’s a contest or anything, but if you read my previous post, you’ll understand why I’m making all the comparisons.

 

Great Restaurants

Next Door Gastropub—Not to be missed!

The line out the door is a good indication that this is the “go to” spot in Port Angeles for great grub. In general, I avoid meat. Once I caught sight of the burgers here, I caved. Delicious! For those with stronger willpower than mine, there are delectable vegetarian options as well. Whether you’re a carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore, you can’t go wrong here. The outdoor seating is limited, but always my happy preference so I’m glad they have some.

 

First Street Haven, Heaven for foodies 107 E 1st St

Had some drinks and great conversation with the chef and a waitress from First Street Haven at Joshua’s Restaurant and Lounge the night before. The chef was from Oceanside, CA – small world. (My home base is next door to Oside, Carlsbad.) They said their establishment had the best breakfast in town. After sampling it, I’m inclined to believe them. Crazy delish cinnamon rolls, banging eggs Benedict, and so on…We even scored some local mushrooms. (No, not that kind, come on now!) Excellent cuisine (Chef Matt Colony) and service (Kristin).  They are at the top of my list for a return trip.

Coffee

BADA NW is gooda 118 W 1st St, Port Angeles, WA 98362

This is one of the coolest coffee shops with a great PNW vibe. It’s up there with Woody’s in Hakone, Japan for great atmosphere and quality coffee. They serve food and beer and wine too. (As did Woody’s, coincidentally.) Bold, Ambitious, Dedicated and Authentic (BADA) is gooda.

 

So Port Angeles, you won me over, 3 days – not only did you not disappoint, you exceeded all expectations. All the locals here I talked to were super friendly and helpful.

Stay tuned for my active adventures in the epic PNW, including Hurricane Ridge, and points beyond.

3 Day Mt. Bike Adventure. Part 3: Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai.

Had an incredible day of delightful single track through the forest and miles of dirt roads through remote countryside. It was topped off with the Chiang Dao Cave  and ruins exploration and by my best meal yet here in Thailand at a local open air restaurant near the cave. The tumeric chicken dish on the right was an outstanding flavor feast!

 

After our afternoon ride, we closed the day in comfort and beautiful surroundings at the rustic mt. biker’s haven, Padeng Lodge.

 

Back on the bikes at 8 am the next morning with more wonderful single track and back roads to explore. I had to make a pit stop along the way and that’s when we discovered this delightful coffee shop/ vineyard/farm – something you might expect to see in New Zealand.

Midday, we stopped for lunch in bustling Fang at a Muslim noodle shop.

 

While I have a thing for the name Fang, I wasn’t crazy about it. Of course, this dose of civilization was a bit of a shock to my system after all the remote countryside we’d traversed by bike and following my Karen Hill Tribe trek earlier in the week. Thankfully,  it was only a matter of minutes before we were on back roads again, passing scenic mango, garlic, eggplant and rice plantations along the way.

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After roasting on the bike for the better part of the day, I was quite happy to roll into Thaton, a small riverside village with lots of charm where’d I’d staying the night on a hotel with AC. To be continued…

Great little shop: espresso,bike & ski rentals, gear, and more

Warmed up a sunny, 19 degree morning  in West Yellowstone with a coffee and chat with the  locals at the Free Heel and Wheel. Cassie, the barista at the espresso bar, and Neil, a friendly officer, gave me the inside scoop on the area and nearby activities, including the Rendezvous xc ski trails. I learned that the best time to road bike in Yellowstone park is around the 1st of April after the first plow while the road is still closed to vehicles. Both the skiing and the road biking sound worthy of a return trip…A woman owned business, this little shop has everything to outfit the adventurer from the latest gear to fashionable outdoor wear.

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