Sunburns and Saddlesores
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“Sunburns and Saddlesores,” Ensign, June 1975, 24–25

Sunburns and Saddlesores

“Why don’t we bicycle to Utah from California for our next vacation—all ten of us?”

That wild-sounding statement launched us on a 775-mile bicycling experience. Vicki Lee, a Brigham Young University graduate student and our only daughter, immediately requested that we send her bicycle so she could start getting in shape. Blake, a missionary in the Paraguay-Uruguay Mission, opened his next letter with, “Wait for me!”

Between that autumn night’s decision and the next July 5th lay a jungle of preparations. By taking apart two discarded 10-speed bicycles, we repaired a third one and sent it to our daughter. Birthday and Christmas presents that year for the rest of us were no surprise to anyone.

Training began immediately. So did planning our itinerary. To avoid interstate highways, where it is illegal to cycle, we had to take Highway 88, which reaches an elevation of 8,543 feet at Carson Pass. By pedaling across Nevada and part of Utah we would end up on Utah Highway 24, which reaches an elevation of 8,406 feet, just before descending into the small farming community of Loa, Utah, where my wife’s mother lives. We planned to cycle an average of 50 miles a day and travel an additional 50 miles in the car.

By maneuvering carefully and removing the rear seat of our 12-passenger van, we had enough room for six bicycles. The other four were stored in the travel trailer, which also served as a chuck wagon, master bedroom, and storage vehicle. We mounted a large sign on the rear of the trailer to caution motorists that there was a “Large family of cyclists strung out ahead.”

Thursday, July 5, 1973, 7 o’clock in the morning—zero hour had arrived. After a short but sincere prayer, we were off!

The trip itself is a blur of happy memories—of being with Blake again after his two-year mission, of riding in 100-degree temperatures cooled only by the breeze we created ourselves as we pedalled along; of whiffle ball games wherever we stopped for the day; of songs we would sing as we rode along; of sunburns and saddlesores; of laughter and happiness and being together. What can compare with an exhilarating 45-mile ride down the eastern slope of the Sierras? The thrill was a combination of our speed—sometimes 50 miles per hour—and spectacular scenery—majestic pine forests, lush green meadows, and sparkling mountain streams.

Sunday found us in a tent on the Nevada desert holding sacrament meeting, with our bishop’s approval, in the cooling evening air. Mark, Layne, and Keith administered and passed the sacrament; Blake spoke on setting and achieving goals.

Brent completed the first step toward the Eagle Scout award his two brothers had already earned by cycling 50 miles in one day. It was 104 degrees, the wind was against us, and the road went uphill. We rode along giving moral support as he sped along. After stopping for water only two or three times, he passed his test with flying colors.

Our destination was in sight now—only 35 miles to go, but with a stretch of highway that climbed from an elevation of 4,500 feet to a summit of 8,406 feet. Puffing and panting, we reached the top. Dressed in blue windbreakers, laughing and singing, we reached Grandma’s house. Happily we collapsed on her cool front lawn.

  • Dr. Theodore B. Christensen, an optometrist and father of eight children, serves as bishop of the Walnut Creek Second Ward, Walnut Creek California Stake.

Illustrated by Sherry Thompson