June 7, 2022
Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks have been on my bucket list for a while, and I finally got to see them on a wonderful Backroads bike trip. I still had a deposit with them from the Greece trip that I had to cancel the first summer of COVID. I have been hesitant about traveling in general, but I made the reservation back in January when I was safely nestled at home. Cases were down in NJ in the early spring, but started to pick up again as the warmer weather approached. I did the best I could to stay healthy before the trip, and would hope for the best while traveling with 16 new friends on the trip itself.
Each of my flights was changed at least twice since I made the reservations, part of the new normal of traveling. I stayed over in St. George and met my group the next morning at an elegant new hotel, The Advenire, where we would be staying that night. No one was wearing masks out west, but I did at the orientation meeting before our first ride. I also opted for room service for dinner instead of an inside group dinner in the hotel dining room. Was I being overly cautious? Probably, but it felt right for me, and the trip leaders were graciously accommodating. Company policy requested that we wear masks when riding in the small shuttle buses. Out on the road we all felt comfortable being together or on our own, knowing that the fantastic Backroads support was never far away.
A very brief recap of the fantastic itinerary: Snow Canyon State Park with red rocks and petrified sand dunes; Cedar Breaks National Monument at 10,000 feet and 32 degreed with 30 miles downhill to Panguitch for lunch and the afternoon climb into Bryce Canyon; a morning out and back to Rainbow Point at 9000ft with 3000ft of elevation gain; an afternoon hike down into the hoodus, fantastic and magical; peddling to Zion with stops at Hatch and the Maynard Dixon gallery in Mt. Carmel; a rock slide on the rode into Zion that forced us to drive around the long way through Colorado City, Arizona; early morning rides with spectacular scenery up to the tunnel and up to the top of the main park road with views of Court of the Patriarchs, The White Throne, Angels Landing, The Temple of Sinawava, the realm of the gods indeed; and an amazing hike through the famous narrows.
Overall, the riding was fantastic, the other people on the trip were lovely and the Backroads support and service were wonderful. The National Parks were very crowded, I found the meals busy and stressful, and the traveling and being with so many other people were draining after not being used to so much stimulation, even though we did all manage to stay healthy. After picture sharing and goodbuys, and two shuttles, I made my way to Las Vegas to meet Susanne.
We met at the airport and we took another shuttle into town and back to the Bellagio. It has been three years since we have seen each other and we had a wonderful reunion. The hotel was mobbed of course, and we wore masks in the lobby and elevator. Our Staywell room felt clean and safe and we rested a bit before setting out to our dinner reservation at the Palazzo. We were supposed to eat outside on the terrace, but it was closed due to high wind, so we had to eat inside at the regular dining room. It was an elegant, dark space and the food was delicious, but we both felt uncomfortable being inside with a lot of other people.
After a pretty comfortable night, we spent most of Saturday at the pool. After staking out some spots pretty early, we guarded our shade in the 100 degree heat, and swam in the pool, ordered drinks and salads, watched people, chatted with our neighbors, had gelato, and just hung out and visited. It was actually pretty comfortable to be wet despite the heat. Eventually we went up to the room and got ready to go out to dinner at the Paris hotel across the street. Walking across the street was some kind of journey and along the way we stopped to watch the dancing fountain which played for 3 minutes every half hour. Our meal was fantastic and we sat outside on the terrace of the street café and had delicious cocktails followed by wonderful steaks and fries.
Sunday was very much the same, camping out in the shade at the pool. When I tried to check in for my red eye flight that night, I saw that they had changed it to the next day! Oh, no!!!! I sat on hold for 45 minutes and finally talked to a live person at Jet Blue who eventually put me on another even later red eye, Sunday night. Susanne had paid for late check out, so we stayed at the pool as long as possible, and then showered, packed, and checked out by 4. Susanne left for the airport and I found a spot to camp out on a couch in the hallway near the ballrooms. This is what I had to do after the Death Valley bike trip. I stayed there until 9ish, reading with my phone plugged into an outlet, eating a salad from the cafe for dinner. It was relatively calm with not many people walking by, but the incessant pop music played on and on. I finally took a shuttle to the airport and camped out as far away from people as I could. The flight was fine, that is to say miserable, and I got my car and drove home from Philly with no problems. Overall the trip was wonderful, but very stressful. I have no interest in getting on a plane again any time soon.