Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Vision Quest: Day nine
Ave. speed: 8.1 mph--double ugh.
Time: 7h 20min of pedaling--ugh, ugh, ugh
Huge day. Big day. Pain, lurching hard day. Wind, wind, more wind. Headwinds, side winds, and, for variety, headwinds. Today we crawl into our suffer boxes and whimper. The fun starts early. But it is a beautiful day, an awesome day, one worthy to have lived.
Four thirty AM and already I can see my hands. Let's roll. Out into the glories of Mosquitoville, Rat Hole RV Park, USA. Never has man paid so much for so little. Today will be our earliest start with many questions unanswered about the route ahead, chief among them twenty miles of dirt road--Twenty Mile Rd. Aptly named, eh? As we collect our gear and eat on the move, one of the Euro-cowpokes ambles over. In his late 50's, several days' of beard, blue jeans, vest, boots with elaborate but suitably scuffed straps, he smiles and says "ah-llo" in a heavy Dutch accent. He asks about our tour and says he is nearing the end of a two-week stay, an end he isn't looking forward to: "I don't vant to tink about it." He looks up at the mountains in early light. Clearly a return to the dikes, windmills, and wooden clogs of Holland is something he cannot face without difficulty. He speaks, too, of working on a ranch, a true "verking" vacation where this small band of Europeans do whatever the actual ranchers are doing that day--mending fence, branding, whatever. For a fortnight, they live the dream of the American West. We have our own dreams, including a firm brutalizing by the elements, part of the contract we signed with the universe when we set out on this adventure. Time to rendezvous with destiny.
A handful of easy, cool, miles lulls us into thinking that perhaps the day won't be too bad. About nine miles in, we hit the dirt road. There, down by the creek, is a perfect campsite under trees. Water, shade, quiet escape. Next time, for sure, but don't forget a water filter. This here's cattle country, and all manner of nasty bugs must inhabit the water, too. We battle a brutal dirt and gravel headwall and find two trailer flats as we rest on the top. Hmmmm...flats definitely make steep loose climbs a lot tougher! In my brilliance, however, I discover that I've packed tubes for 20" inch tires not the 16" tires on the trailers. Triple damn ugh! Patch kit it is. I sit down in the dirt and get to work because the honey badger don't give a crap.
The dirt track undulates through fabulous country, a cool cloudy sky making our labors easier to bear. The road is a Cadillac dirt road--smooth and fast with hardly any washboard. An antelope gallops across the route. Hawks contest the wind. At last we drop into Fort Bidwell and regain the blacktop, but the improved surface is countered by the fierce winds that we battle for hours all the way to Cedarville, our destination and home for a much needed rest day. As we take a break during the tough final miles, a sweet woman and her wonderful dogs greet us. She offers us water or the use of a restroom, which we don't need. But then she offers fresh strawberries. "Those," I say, "I will not refuse." Chilled fresh berries--food of the GODS! I start hammering them in uncontrollably, unconscious of my hunger or the speed of stuffing my face. The woman says,"You might want to slow down. You can get sick." Oh, yes, of course. Embarrassed and grateful for the advice, I step away from the tray and pet the dogs instead. Refreshed, we volunteer for more beating on the road from the intense side winds. My trailer tire is flat again. Ugh. We stop, and I can't find or hear the puncture in the howling wind. Oh well, honey badger don't care! It's a slow leak, so I put the tire and tube back together, pump it up, and carry on.
Finally, we arrive strung out and ready for camp. We hit the grocery store for supplies and continue on to the fairgrounds, where I've read we can camp, but no one is in sight. Oh well, let's find a place to set up. The wind bends the tall trees. Desperate for shelter, we pitch camp in the lee of an old Quonset hut and find refuge from the storm, a still, quiet corner of dirt where we cook and sleep the sleep of worked adventurers. We'll deal with official permission to camp the next day.
Here are the pictures to help tell the story...
Breakfast on the road:
Top of the brutal climb where we fixed two flats on a couple of the trailers:
Top of yet another climb:
Back in our home state:
The last drop off the dirt to Fort Bidwell:
The strawberry lady and her fine hounds: