Few places conjured as much dread for me as Nevada. It’s a big, dry, hot, rugged expanse of desert, which makes it a less than ideal place for cycling. Like Texas and Montana people talk about driving across like its a penance for all the things they have done or intend to do in California. Nevada could actually be the death of me.
Still Nevada has its proponents. Over the past year I’ve met a handful of people who have tried to sell me on the idea riding across it. One was a person that hosted me in rural Texas and told me that it would be the hardest ride he had ever done and that I wouldn’t be able to do it self-supported (He was talking specifically about US-50, but I’ll get back to that detail), but that it was a worthy challenge. Just recently I met two people in Mammoth Lakes that insisted it was a great place to ride. One, eyes bleached and skin tanned to leather, told a story of riding 163 miles with a single water bottle because his other had blown away or some such. He loved every moment of it, but he was a certified Nevada desert camel. I’m a wet-lander with skin full of life and water.
You don’t want to live forever do you? Good, point your bike East and bring your shades because Nevada is a-calling.
Well we tried to escape Mammoth this morning but a series of since-remedied technical failures convinced us to stay. Megan has been dealing with some pretty bad joint issues (sound familiar?) and wasn’t really in the mood to ride anyway. The solution was a trip to the local bike shop where they told her to do the one thing that fixes nearly all biomechanical issues: raise the saddle. Now we have a fighting chance of making it across Nevada in one piece.
And now: a pause in our ascent of the Sierra Nevada range. Here in America’s tinderbox it’s hot and dry, as it has been for decades or maybe forever. The California drought has been around for as long I’ve paid attention and although I think it rained this year the whole place is ready to burst into flames. No matter, we are not growing any food. We are growing big legs, though, and that requires hydration, cool air, and corn chips. So after eight miles of climbing we’re just calling it in hopes of better conditions and bigger legs tomorrow. The better part of adventuring is knowing when to brew coffee and set up the hammock.
Let’s try a speed update: whoosh! Since last we talked at length I met with Megan, relaxed in Seattle, got a frame swapped in, traveled down the Oregon coast, “detoured” to Crater Lake, and made it back to the coast. Oh, and lost my cell phone. On a trip that never takes the straight route or the easy way (ok I intentionally bypassed Logan Pass over the Tetons Range) there is never a dull moment.
Phew I’ve managed to traverse the Icefields Parkway without running out of food or energy. A real logistical accomplishment. Visiting the Columbia Icefield is a bucket list item for sure. The sight of the Anthabasca Glacier creeping over the edge of the mountain and into the valley was particularly stirring for me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The trees around me quiver and bend as the wind continues unabated. If I listen intently I can hear each gust start as a low rumble on the far end of the valley and then steadily rise in pitch as it rushes my way. The trees to my right are tossed about first and then all the others follow suit down the line leaving no leaf unturned. My tent likewise shakes, flattens, and flaps. It reminds me of home, where Autumn storms blow through the night and shake the house to its foundation. The wind is blowing between 30 and 40 mph and I’m finding it hard to motivate myself to be adventurous today.
I melted my quads dragging an absurdly heavy bike over Logan Pass Friday and spent yesterday hiding from waves of lightning inside the lodge in St. Mary. I definitely needed the rest, after one mile I realized the other 19 were not going to happen. It’s ok, I need to spend more time reading and writing anyway. The decent weather will return tomorrow and I’ll once more find it impossible to sit still.
Is this, (Western) Montana, the promised land? I’ve been busy asking myself that since I left Yellowstone. What a contrast it is to leave an area entirely populated by tourists to arrive at an area with next to none. Not many locals either, just big sky and rolling hills.
I’ve seen a lot of rural towns, villages, and hamlets in this country and I thought I knew what to expect. Generally speaking: poverty and the last vestiges of long gone industry. And you know, to be fair, I skipped the Midwest in favor of the poorer parts of the South. Iowa may have a lot of to offer, I mean it! Anyway the cities and towns here are seemingly healthy and well adjusted. Old brick buildings which serve to anchor small towns against the prairie wind are occupied and streets are clean. Not overly clean in that creepy Provo way, just well cared for. I like Montana!
Editors note: This is a postdated entry from April 8th. I’m working backwards from Santa Fe to Guadalupe.
Blogging was easier a month ago when water was plentiful and the terrain was flat. Now I feel like I’m ten miles short of hanging in the towel. I keep toeing 100 mile days out of necessity or stupidity. A few days ago I left my phone at a park and had to backtrack 20 miles to get it plus another 10 to water. It was supposed to be an easy day to help me recuperate from a sore throat that has been nagging me for almost a week. I’m mostly healthy, but there were a few bad days of sucking dry desert air across a raw throat. I have a deadline and I can’t stop to recover. It’s been stressful but I’m a day ahead of schedule which means I’m taking a day off.
Editors note: This is a postdated entry. I’m working backwards from Santa Fe to Guadalupe.
I arose early this morning behind a church of Christ the Scientist. That’s a new flavor of monotheism for me, typically I sign up with the Baptists. My sleeping mat is still on the fritz and when the night air is cold the morning ground is colder. I’m working on getting this sorted, but it’s 5 years old and there’s a store in town so I can get another. A little shivering is nothing new, but last night I was testing a reflective ground sheet. Still have some bugs to work out. Continue reading “In Which Chris Stokes the Fire in Santa Fe”