Mark Bolton's trips to Salt Lake City number few, but they are very memorable.

"I've been a member 31 years, and I've been to Salt Lake twice," said Bolton, who joined the LDS Church during U.S. Navy boot camp in Orlando, Fla.

Both times he rode his bike there — the traditional two-wheeled, nonmotorized kind.

As Bolton, Mike Hansen and Michael Perdue rode from Denver to Salt Lake City earlier this year, they came by way of Emigration Canyon and stopped at This Is the Place Heritage Park, which is historically how the Mormon pioneers came to the valley.

They wanted to see the valley from the

spot the pioneers did.

Then they cycled down to downtown Salt Lake City to touch the temple.

Eight days earlier on July 27, the trio from the Green Mountain 2nd Ward in the Lakewood Colorado Stake touched the Denver Colorado Temple and started their 535-mile ride to Salt Lake City.

Their wives and a few of their children took turns following them, meeting them for meals during the day and making sure they had a place to stay in the evening. As their path wound along U.S. 40 through western Colorado, they stopped by the Vernal Utah Temple and Dinosaur National Monument, pedaled up through Heber City, then to This Is the Place Heritage Park and finally down to the Salt Lake Temple.

"The more historical significance to the route the better," Perdue said. "It's nice to have the temples as the starting place and ending place. … It keeps things in perspective."

The trio rode about 60 to 100 miles a day, resting on Sunday, and they found the trip overall relaxing as they battled headwinds, mountainous terrain, a few flat tires and a broken spoke.

"When it's you and the bike and it's a relaxed and slower pace (than a car), there is so much more you pick up, (like) small sounds and the wind and cool and the hotness. It's an amazingly different experience," said Perdue, who joined the church as a teenager and now teaches early-morning seminary. "There are little mountain streams hidden in the roadside … it's very relaxing for me mentally."

For Hansen, who moved to Colorado from Utah three years ago and serves in the ward's bishopric, it was a chance to see some of the country as his ancestors did and, well, to relax.

"I have ancestors on one of the handcart companies," Hansen said. "I can't imagine what it would be like back then … (and) the dedication to go through that."

While riding, the stress of his job and calling faded away, said Hansen, who has three children in college.

The men have been riding together several times a week in the mornings before work, but Perdue's call as an early-morning seminary teacher has him riding at other times. They had done other longer day rides, including century rides, and tried to make sure they were used to sitting on a bike for long periods of time. Both Hansen and Perdue rode bicycles as missionaries in Europe, and Perdue says he has been riding a bike since he was 5.

Bolton's first trip into the valley was five years ago when Perdue rode from Nauvoo, Ill., to Salt Lake City. Bolton joined him at about Casper, Wyo., for the last week of the three-week venture.

"As I became more familiar with the church, I became intrigued with the exodus (west)," Perdue said of learning more about the church after he was baptized. He wanted to participate in a re-enactment of the pioneer trek.

It wasn't until 2004 when he took three weeks, including resting on Sundays, and rode his bike about 1,500 miles from the Nauvoo Temple to Winter Quarters Temple in Nebraska to the Salt Lake Temple, with his wife driving their station wagon as a support vehicle. Their then-2-year-old daughter rode with his wife, and his then-11-year-old son rode part of the way with him. His oldest son, who is now serving a mission, stayed home. Bolton's wife and then-4-year-old son also came the week he rode.

"I tried to bike as close to the trail as possible," Perdue said. They stopped at all historical markers and many times ended up camping at the end of the day. During his ride, he thought of "the drama that played out there (and) realized what that meant to the original pioneers."

"It gives you an appreciation for what they did," Bolton said. "This is easy on a bike, but think about it pushing a handcart, walking and malnourished in the winter."

Since that trip, Perdue wanted to do another longer ride between temples.

"It's the longest one I've done before or since," Perdue said of the 1,500-mile ride across the central U.S. "Ever since that trip, I really wanted to (do more) temple-to-temple (rides)."

But he figured taking another three weeks off and having his family follow his 12 miles an hour speed wasn't going to quite work again.

This summer, his wife's family was having a reunion at Bear Lake on the Utah-Idaho border, and he saw his chance to leave a week earlier and ride from the Denver Colorado Temple to the Salt Lake Temple.

He approached Hansen and Bolton about the trip earlier this year, and they joined in.

"I've been surprised what a good missionary tool that these things are. On the Nauvoo trip, I had a lot of opportunities to talk to people," Perdue said. This trip, they wore matching red and black jerseys with "Temple to Temple" on them, and people would ask them about their trip at rest stops.

"It's a chance to get away from the all the distraction of the modern, busy and complicated life and think about what I want to think about. It's a good chance to reconnect in a lot of different ways," Perdue said, adding he doesn't ride with headphones. "I didn't expect that to be the case."

All three drove back to Colorado with their families.

"Both times I've done this, it (seems) too soon to be over," Perdue said of the journey.

The trio already has started planning their next bike trip in two years. It might be from Nauvoo east toward Washington, D.C., or from Salt Lake west toward the Pacific Ocean.

e-mail: rappleye@desnews.com