“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness. We must have felt what it is to die, Morrel, that we may appreciate the enjoyments of life.
” Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope.”
― Alexandre Dumas
From my journal:
“We all ‘slept in’ this morning- past sunrise. I suppose pictures of the morning will have to wait.
I made coffee- “Wake the Dead”- and roused everyone with the smell of it.
Cooking, cleaning, stretching and bike prep. Sleep had been elusive for us all and our weakness is being down played by most.
Last night I began to doubt- not my will, but my ability. These miles at elevation have left me suffering more than our trip around the White Rim. It is hard to imagine 6 more relentless days. I suffer. But I think my weakness is indecision.
The choice to continue though, for this day, has been made. With more self-care and less anxiety I believe tonight shall prove more restful.”
What we learned from Day 1:
1. Stay together. Wait for each other at intersections. Consult the map often.
2. Caloric intake is essential. Stop at regular intervals to refuel.
To this end we established rules that would see us through the next 6 days. We waited for each other, we depended on each other- we were a group, together, the 5 of us. Also, I set a timer that would sound every hour. When the timer went off we stopped to eat- shooting for 200 calories. I would re-start the timer when we started riding again. This was our “Bonkometer”- it saved us from bonking.
Today was Blazing Saddles day-
“[Bart returns unexpectedly after being sentenced to death]
Charlie: They said you was hung.
Bart: And they was right.”
I tried to make it Indigo Girls day, and did sing a lot of their stuff on the trail, but Dave C and I bonded over our shared knowledge of the 1970’s social satire. We would randomly throw out a quote, the other laughing and adding the next line. It was a friendship founded on swear words, dirty joke, and racial slurs. The best kind!
Also, poor Jeff had developed a sore on his hind quarters. Poor man was suffering from a blazing saddle. We all were after 10-ish hours in the saddle yesterday. For most of us this meant getting over the initial pain (bearing it), but Jeff had developed a blister-like saddle sore.
Our trail started us off on back-tracking a bit of our way up- which was find because it was all descending. Maybe our only mistake was becoming DH seekers. Each day we would look at the map and try to determine how much climbing and how much DH. We wanted that DH. We sought it out. We hoped for it endlessly.
Well the DH on Day 2 was nothing short of a dream. It took us through fields of green, valleys with crystalline streams singing to us, and technical sections that fed our souls. The “alternate directions” said 15 miles of DH. Not true. There was plenty of climbing, and all at elevation. I think I started to adapt to it late in the day, but the morning I suffered in the lung region.
Along the route we came alongside some horsemen, too. Insert “Blazing Saddles” reference here.
We descended to the Lizard Head TH, then climbed to a pass, another long descent (very technical). Dennis and I had a great conversation about creating meaningful parodies of some of my childhood songs, whose meanings I don’t care to teach my own children. I tried a few and they came out pretty good! It was fun!
The next descent was steep and technical and I developed a worrisome sound in my spokes. Oh, and I had caught my right calf on my very sharp pedals and had bled down my leg. It was quite painful. But we soon had the sound on my bike fixed (zip ties are essential!) and I wiped the blood off my leg in a stream.
Another short climb and we came to “The Meadows”- a vast and beautiful portrait of mountains and fields. We rode in silence, in awe. We found a nice stopping place near a stream, and took a long lunch. While the boys ate, I crept down to the stream, took of my clothes, and bathed myself. I dried in the sun.
My back was aching again, but we were more than half way through the day, so I felt hopeful. This hope was dashed twice: once when we crested a hill and took in the view of a vast herd of sheep. I don’t have issues with sheep, but the HUGE SHEEP DOGS that came CHARGING AT US BARKING I couldn’t handle. I froze. How fortunate for me to be with 4 incredible sane, ultra cool, very nice men (did I mention I adore them?). Dave C said, “Just put your bike between you and them. Stay calm and they’ll see we are no threat.” For only the second time ever in our lives together, I wished Dennis had a gun. Of course the boys were right. The dogs calmed down before I did, and we rode on.
Before long we were on a well-graded dirt road, and a really fun descent to a campground where we filled up our water. This campground had the cleanest bathrooms ever!
Another mile down the road and we turned to climb Black Mesa. We had no idea how far it was- we guessed about 8 miles. Dennis and Jeff took off in the lead, with Dave S in front of me and Dave C behind. Since I was alone (not within ear shot) I turned on my phone. I had one album on there: Mumford and Sons, Babel. It was perfect.
The climb was long, but steady. We stopped, as protocol required, at every intersection and re-grouped. At some point in the last few days my hernia decided it was not going to cooperate and I was having bowel issues. Just what you want in the middle of no-where on a bike trip, right? I stopped several times but found no relief.
I take that back. I had packed a Coca-Cola. It was brilliant. I found a glade of spruces, cracked it open, and emptied it into my bike bottle (remember I only had the one for all 7 days- this was a prized possession). The sugar and caffeine were just what I needed to get over my troubles. That and a little more Mumford.
Eventually I caught up with Dave C, who had passed me while I was suffering digestive distress, waiting at an intersection. He was alone. We consulted the map, and the ground for tire tracks, and determined the others had ridden on. We rode together for quite awhile, while he regaled me with stories of seeing Mumford/Sons live in concert, and other concerts he had seen.
We came along Dave S next. We consulted the map, and assumed the others had ridden on. I was in my “end of the day sprint for the finish” mode. Dave C was suffering. Here’s the thing, though- we all lost it at some point during the trip. Jeff with his blistered butt. Dennis with his knees. Dave C on this climb. I would have my turn and Dave S would have his. But it was part of the challenge of this ride, to find our bottom and rise to the top. We all suffered on that climb, and there was little we could do to help each other (though if I had known how to help Dave, I would have. Absolutely.)
I found the hut. In a beautiful aspen glade. Dennis and Jeff were comfortably half-buzzed and had already discovered the view just 100 feet from the hut. Dave C was there and starting his recovery routine. I started by putting on my pajamas: gray yoga pants and a tank top. And a pull-over jacket tonight.
Dave C made it and we made dinner. I think it was stew. I remember making stew. Yes, I ate meat on this trip. I’ve been vegetarian for almost 3 years now, so it was a little weird.
The sunset over the San Juans was beautiful, and we had high hopes for the sunrise.