Steamboat man completes 2,000-mile bike ride to Grand Canyon
Steamboat Springs — More than seven weeks after first setting off from Steamboat Springs, Sergio Ryan spent the final night of his journey camping near the Yampa River between Craig and Hayden. It was cold and rainy, and his brother and roommate, Antonio, was offering to give him a lift the rest of the way home.
Ryan had already surpassed 2,000 miles on his 1980s-era Fuji bicycle, a heavy hunk of steel borrowed from his father. Even so, there was honor in finishing what he started, and no amount of cold or rain was going to bring him to take his brother up on his offer.
“I always feel like the reflection is just as important as the planning,” Ryan said. “Once I started, I knew I would finish. You don’t think about quitting.”
When Ryan made it back to Steamboat on Oct. 23 — 53 days after leaving — he had tallied more than 2,200 miles on his bike. The trip took him to the Grand Canyon and back, and during that time he learned a lot about perseverance and what matters most in life.
Ryan, 23, moved to Steamboat last year after graduating from the University of St. Thomas, in his home state of Minnesota, with a degree in English. A lifelong athlete who spent the winter as a ski instructor, he did little to train for his endeavor. The idea of biking into the American Southwest had little to do with the physical challenge, but of the emotional and mental battles it would bring.
“Every day I just set my own goals and it was up to me to complete them,” Ryan said. “It didn’t cross my mind my to quit. It crossed my mind to instantly start problem solving and pushing myself to be as resourceful as possible.”
Knowing he would have some down time during mud season between his seasonal jobs, he spent more than two months researching and preparing for his trip. He left Steamboat on Sept. 1 — his birthday — after a few minor snags in the planning process, which included him falling off his bike and breaking a fork in the frame.
Four days into his journey, he met a German couple who taught him a lot about pushing through the difficult times.
“They were doing a three year tour around the whole world, riding every continent on their bikes,” Ryan said. “I asked them if they ever hitchhiked up these big passes and they were like, ‘No, it’s a matter of honor to us.’”
From then on, Ryan went forward with an attitude of, “If you can do it, you have to do it.” Taking his road bike down smaller highways and avoiding the Interstate, Ryan went southwest through Telluride, cut through Utah’s desert to Monument Valley, Lake Powell, and ultimately the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
His return journey took him northwest of there to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park in Utah, where he had one of the best moments of his trip.
“I climbed to the top of the highest dune in the middle of the night, just when the super moon was two days old, and just rose over these cliffs to light up the dunes,” Ryan said. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘Where am I right now?’ I had a pretty good revelation up there. That was one of the good moments.”
The bad moments included his first flat tire riding through the heart of the Navajo Nation Reservation, where he managed to patch the tire, despite having never done such a thing before, and a 4-mile stretch where he had to carry his bike through sand too thick to ride. Now an expert on changing flats, Ryan rode through Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah, returning home via Vernal and Dinosaur National Monument on U.S. Highway 40.
“I think you learn a lot about what’s important. There is a lot of reflection time when you are out on the road. I think that was definitely the best part,” Ryan said. “There is always a sadness when you come home after something like this. You just get ready for the next adventure, right?”
Ryan, who intends to stick around Steamboat this winter and again work as a ski instructor, has no other trips in mind, but said he would definitely be up for another in the future.
To see a short video he made about his Grand Canyon adventure, visit his YouTube page.
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