Tuesday, June 30, 2009
This morning we had Kate and Justin to see us off and to take a rare photo of us from more than an arm's length away.
They also compensated for our forgetfulness, driving after us to drop off a water bottle that we had left behind at the motel. Our other roadside encounter of the morning was much stranger: as we rode past a car dealership a very excited man held out $20 to me and shouted "Take it! You need it! Good Luck! Yay!" It was confusing, but much appreciated nonetheless.
When we reached Englewood we stopped for supplies at an Alto grocery store. I had never experienced Alto before; the selection is sparse and apparently at some of the stores you have to deposit a quarter in order to use a cart, but the prices simply can't be beat. I bought a bag of bagels and a handful of super cheap energy bars; unfortunately I got what I paid for with the latter and most of them ended up in the trash. Next to the Alto was a Goodwill, so I popped in to look for a sweater so that when we went out at night I wouldn't have to choose between wearing a dirty long sleeved cycling shirt or freezing in just a tanktop. Well, I was supposed to just pop in, but between their large selection and my shopping withdrawal I spent quite a while in there before coming out with a nice black sweater and a pair of shiny blue baller shorts to wear over my spandex during lunch breaks. I was excited to break them out when we stopped at Sarah's, a pizza and sub shop that looked like a rundown auto shop from the outside but was filled with delicious food and friendly people on the inside.
I was also still shaken up by a terrifying event that happened earlier in the day. We were riding on the shoulder of a main road when a red pickup roared past, then swerved away from us into the other lane. The driver rushed back towards his own lane but overcorrected and ploughed head first into the guard rail, bending it way out of shape. Fortunately the driver was unharmed, and his truck was tall enough to be barely damaged by the crash. He said he saw we were too close to the road (we weren't) and swerved to avoid us (with a delayed reaction, since he was well beyond us before he swerved). Kyle was pretty sure he was inebriated, even though it was just past 10:00 on a Tuesday morning. We're always on edge when we ride at night or through construction zones and big cities, but this was a sobering reminder that accidents can happen at any time, and that in most situations it isn't the automobile that fares the worst. A woman who witnessed the incident from up the road stopped to ask if we were okay, and when I saw the motherly panic in her eyes I knew that I couldn't tell my parents about our close call, at least not right away. (But I guess now they know, and hopefully forgive me.)
One upside of our alternatingly boring and harrowing ride was its brevity. We only had to make it to Richmond, IN, 40 miles away. That way a 70 mile ride the next day would put us just outside of Indianapolis, a crowded city with a horrible cycling reputation that we wanted to cross before sunrise the following day. So, just after crossing the border (yay!), we got into town in time for a proper dinner at one of my favorite places: Cracker Barrel, land of Stewarts sodas and oh so much starchy goodness.
I thought we would follow dinner with a normal, relaxing evening where I would blog or organize photos and Kyle would route plan. But Kyle had news that would throw our trip in jeopardy and leave us confused, desperate, and depressed. He had finally had a chance to look through maps of the west in detail, and he didn't like what he saw. "There's a 130 mile stretch in Wyoming with no amenities whatsoever." Clearly I had heard him incorrectly. Not only would we have to ride 130 miles from motel to motel, but there would be no bathrooms, food, or water on the way? "Probably few cars and spotty cell service as well." So not just inconvenient, but terrifyingly unsafe; what if we happened to get stranded that day? "Actually it looks like many of the motels in Wyoming, Montana, and eastern Oregon are about 100 miles apart." So we would be riding a series of centuries through uninhabited wilderness with no support or back up plan if we got stranded by bike problems or delayed by a head wind or injured by the long rides or surrounded by a storm or...or...or... It seemed impossible, or difficult and highly risky at best. We just kept looking at each other and the maps without anything hopeful to offer. We didn't want to quit now, but we also didn't want to go through weeks of pain and sacrifice in the midwest only to turn around and fly home before completing the trip. And how were we supposed to decide between the risk of riding across the west and the shame and disappointment of giving up? We talked about buying camping equipment but that would only solve some of our problems (and considering my hatred of and inexperience with camping it could create several new ones). It was all so demoralizing... and especially frustrating for me. On the one hand I couldn't get mad at Kyle since he had taken the enormous responsibility of route planning all on his shoulders, but at the same time I felt like he had gotten us into this massive undertaking without finding out or telling me what it really entailed. It didn't matter how much energy and effort we put towards the trip, unfinished planning and an inhospitable route might ruin everything. Our discussions circled uselessly and we just got increasingly glum. We finally gave up on long term planning and went to sleep, determined to ride as far as Indianapolis but unsure of anything beyond it.
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