Another storm was coming in, it was getting increasingly dark, and I had put in 30 miles since Blanding with no sign of this super hard climb that I’d heard about. As my morale was falling apart after an otherwise great day, I dragged poor Blow and the rig through the red clay to a secluded spot and set up camp. The storm didn’t wait for us to be safely in the tent, the temperature dropped twenty degrees, and the rain came in huge heavy drops. I read Franny and Zooey out loud to Luna, and tried my best to seal the tent from spiders, snakes, and scorpions.
When we woke up in the morning, it was still cloudy, still wet, but now it was also very cold. I guess because the sun wasn’t going to shed its’ light on anything today. And I still had this climb to deal with. I stayed in the sleeping bag for a bit, wondering what to do, when I realized there isn’t anything to do. There’s no choice, no decision making, nothing, NOTHING at all to be done. It was time to pack up and ride.
When I put the computer on the bike that morning and I saw it was only 7a when we were departing camp, it was my first taste of what I’m going to call “tour time”. There is no 7a or 7p or noon on a bike tour, there’s: wake up time, pack up time, eating time, bathroom time, eating time, too beat to ride anymore time, set up camp time, eating time, and dark. There was a couple more hundred feet to climb (and thank GOODness because I needed something to warm me up) then the hills evened out to a roll. We would dip down into a small canyon, then climb out of it, and so on. We came upon one of the spots Steve had told me to look for water, and there was a little stream so I topped off our supply as we were still 50 something miles away from Hite, the next resupply. [and NOW I’m thinking STEVE why didn’t you mark on the map where this mystical climb was supposed to be!?] And so the miles kept ticking away, and it kept raining off and on, and it kept being cold, and I kept not coming across this mythically terrible climb, and suddenly we were at the former settlement of Fry Canyon [I would like to bring attention to the fact that spell check doesn’t believe at least 7% of the words that I use are words at all, and I’m just not sorry for it. Mythically seems like it should be a word, and I still think it is. Fuck you spell check, you don’t know anything and nobody wants you.]
So the MYTHICALLY terrible climb was already over apparently, and wasn’t so bad at all since I remember some climbing but not some terrible dread-pirate-8-mile-climb. Fry Canyon on to Hite was said to be “all downhill” which is obviously never true, but it was mostly downhill and I besides my numb hands and feet, I felt glorious, like I understood what bike touring was all about.
As we rolled into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, the motherfucking sun came out!
And I understood what it means to live in your environment. Without climate control and just some bags of tools and gear, and a simple machine like a bike, I was “exposed”. And yeah, it was uncomfortable sometimes, but as soon as you accept that, you get used to it. There’s a word in sanskrit, santosha, that’s generally translated as “contentment” but I’ve always thought of it is being okay with the situation, all the good and all the bad. When I used to work with kids and we’d hand out crayons or something, we’d say “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” and that’s exactly it. Sometimes you get rain, sometimes you get sun, sometimes it’s freezing and sometimes it’s hot and there is NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING you can do to change it. You can go in your heated house and pretend that’s real. But it doesn’t stop the world from being hot or cold or sunny or rainy or windy. It only seems like suffering because we’ve become so sensitive. The real world is tumultuous, but you can actually live there. For a day, or ten days, or you can even move there indefinitely.
Anyway, Glen Canyon NRA was gorgeous with really a dramatic landscape. It turns out, Hite is basically a ranger station that seemed quite deserted. There’s a “store” there with a lot of empty shelves but I somehow managed to get my hands on a can of coke. There’s a sign suggesting that you pay the fee to visit the park (but I never saw a single person to enforce it)(and I had a federal inter-agency pass anyway so don’t go assuming I didn’t pay to get in). But there was water, and that was what was important. After Hite, 95 takes a windy and quite drunk path through the park, going abruptly in every direction about equally so at the end you feel you’ve done a lot of miles but not gotten anywhere at all. But one of the other Most Memorable Moments of my trip was about to happen. Utah apparently has a penchant for roads with steep grades that take hairpin turns through blasted out canyon walls then suddenly sweep into totally and outrageously epic views, which is how I found myself again at 40mph, plunging down to a bridge crossing the Colorado River. And I knew it was the CO before the sign on the bridge, and I did not see it coming as I only vaguely looked at the maps for this area and I assumed I was about to cross some small tributary to Lake Powell, but then it was THE COLORADO RIVER in all its’ magnificent splendor, the sun reflecting off it overzealously, the way a kid would paint it in elementary school. I exclaimed at the top of my lungs something like “WHOA HOLY ***** *** *****”, not anticipating that there was a person on the bridge, but I’m 87% sure he did hear it based on the way he greeted me when I passed him. I didn’t take that picture either, and couldn’t have as there was no way I was going to stop in the middle of such a grand downhill, but I did take a picture on the other side:
So it’s all beautiful and sunny here, then suddenly, I went through another hairpin turn through a blown out canyon wall and a very aggressive storm was there. It was dark and so windy it not only stopped me (and the freight train I was piloting) completely, but knocked me over. Interestingly, I crashed twice and both times there was a car behind me and neither time did they stop to make sure I was okay. Thank goodness for the handful of nice people I came across on this trip, because most people are kind of assholes, and if it weren’t for those few good folks I would think humanity is in the toilet. Anyway, it was only 3:30, but I wasn’t going anywhere in that wind (because it was physically impossible to ride against it apparently), and I didn’t really want to, so I put Blow in the vestibule of a pit toilet (see how I added a touch of class there?)(not the same toilet that humanity may or may not be in) and put Luna, all our gear, and I inside the tent.
And then it raged. I’m still amazed that wind didn’t tear my tent to pieces or pick it up and throw it across the canyon with us in it. Perhaps needless to say, the tent flooded, and really we should have all been in the vestibule of the pit toilet. It went on for about an hour, Luna piled on top of me looking despairing and trying to escape the new Lake Powell that had formed in the tent (what I’m trying to say is, there was more water in my TENT than in Lake Powell). But then, because all weather is is a bunch of interesting physical reactions, and I know that it has no personal vendetta against me but is, in fact, just being itself, the storm cleared up and the sun came out:
While I was retrieving Blow from the vestibule, as if the apocalypse hadn’t happened at all a truck drove up and a lady got out to use the bathroom, and she stopped dead in her tracks and said “ARE YOU ON A BIKE?!” and I said yes, and she asked about the dog, and I said she has a trailer, and the woman looked taken aback for a moment then resumed her business, shaking her head. New Lake Powell dried up, and I considered riding on, but this campsite was fucking rad, so we stayed.
It was so windy at night it woke me up and in my sleepy stupor I was sure I woke up to footsteps just outside of my tent. Despite how much I dislike desert predators, I’m still much more afraid of people than anything nature could throw at me. But it turned out to just be the wind thwap thwappping the tent fabric somewhat violently. Then there was a beautiful sunrise:
And just like every day, it was time to pack up and ride. There was a long climb, then this:
Then a long sunny day of rolling hills and miles (during which I obviously fantasized about my future in stage racing) all the way to Hanksville, where I had a lovely fountain Coke and ice cream and resupped on the important supplies, like chips and candy, to the chagrin of the 15 year old cashier (“will that be ALL ma’am?”). Because the miles were coming so easily, I put on 25 more before finding a cozy campsite amongst dozens of snakeholes right on the edge of Capitol Reef National Park in interesting terrain that I could only describe as a weird, grey desert. To be continued.