Day 47. The Grintonium™ Day
In the cool morning air, the girl draws deeply on her cigarette. A lung absorbing beat, then a smoky, tired sigh as she exhales directly into my face. It’s an accidental discourtesy and she catches herself immediately. I blink with it, as she waves her hand between our faces to shepherd it away.
“I’m so sorry,” she says, with the wrinkle of brow that holds the proof of her apology. Then, in a moment of apparent self-loathing, adds, “I’m so unhealthy. Not like you.”
So quick to put herself down, I think. She doesn’t know what she’s capable of. She has no i-dea.
“You could do it,” I say. “Anyone can do it. You get used to it.”
She doesn’t believe me, I can tell. Slight raised eyebrow and a ‘yeah, right’ grin.
We are standing under the awning of the hotel. Me, waiting for my SPOT to check in with the satellite somewhere out in space, and her, taking a break from her front desk duties.
It’s later than I wanted to leave, but I was a victim of circumstance. I woke up snuggled tight in warm bedclothes, my body shape compressed into a heavenly mattress. It was 5.30am, exactly 32 degrees Fahrenheit and truth be told, I just couldn’t face it.
Breakfast. I’ll need a breakfast of champions to get over Hoosier Pass, I thought as I lay there. Then I remembered breakfast didn’t materialize until 6.30am, so why should I?
Snooze button. Roll over. Back to sleep. No guilt, no drama. If I’ve learned anything at all from this trip – along with ‘don’t fall off if you can possibly help it’ – it’s to be flexible and give yourself a goddamn break about decisions that will slow you down. If your choice stops you becoming the most efficient thing on two wheels in the county, don’t consider it failure. Consider it adaptation. And everybody knows adaptation is the key to evolution.
So, yeah. I’m just following the laws of nature. I am as a moth turning my wings black during the industrial revolution so predators can’t see me here, snoozing on the coal colored tree bark. I don’t make the rules, I just obey them. Adapt or die. Or to put it another way, there is no need to freeze your arse off as you climb to the highest point of your entire trip.
An hour later, I’d shuffled out to the little breakfast room, ate my cheerios, scoffed down a coffee, snagged some grapes (score!), inhaled two tiny bagels and pocketed a few extras, then went and finished packing. Rugged myself up to the absolute maximum layer-level. Leg warmers underneath leggings, booties, wool base layer, jersey, and wind shell. Balaclava to be rolled on prior to departure. Checked out. And that’s when the front desk clerk (the smoker), came and opened the doors for me so I could wheel Precious out with the greatest of ease.
“What made you want to do it?” she asks, and I explain that there is no explanation. She doesn’t need to know I can barely follow the line on the map in front of me, let alone my own logic.
“I’d be too scared to do something like that,” she says, and we both turn as two men in camo gear with trucker hats come out the front of the hotel and walk across to their bright white rental RV. She shakes her head thoughtfully, throwing her smoldering butt to the ground and grinding it out. Watches as I pull the balaclava over my head and clip on my helmet. The only bit of skin visible is the chilled pinkish circle of my cherubic face as it peers out. I look at her.
“Nah,” she says. “But it’s gonna be nice later. Good luck! Be careful on the pass.”
And with that she turns and heads back inside.
The air rips in beside my body and nuzzles up to my exposed cheeks. A small but stiff wind snaps and cracks the flags on the flagpoles at the edge of the parking lot.
Gloves on, jacket zipped, load tied. Won’t get anything conquered by lollygagging here, I think, and push off out the driveway.
The sky looks muted and cold-shouldered. The clouds, a grey, pasty sheen of sweat laid on the heavens above. I spy blue flecks here and there, over toward the horizon, and they hint at the potential for peeling back a bit later in the day. But for now, it’s just cold and hard and unpleasant as I try to guess where, on the far mountain range, Hoosier Pass actually is. Small peaks deftly reach out to touch the cloud ceiling and here am I, way down below, wondering where I’ll touch it for myself.
I get lost. Immediately. It appears I can lose myself just as easily in a tiny town as a giant one, and I’m slightly amazed that I’ve managed to do so in such a short time. Taking what I think is the bike path, I end up on the other side of town heading off and away from my goal. But ten minutes later, a little squeak of a climb and I’m on the Alma path proper. Back on track.
One of the tidbits of information I’d received the previous day was that the bike path was not in very good nick. And I suppose, compared to the road running beside it, this was a true statement. But I’ve suffered over some mightily deteriorated road surfaces already, and this one seems rough but tolerable. The cracks are wide and generously filled with black asphalt, and although bumpy, are respectful of me. The clunking reverb in my knees and wrists slowly shakes me awake.
Fences, like pieces from a game of jacks, line up to my right, while to my left traffic whizzes by on the 9. The day is subdued and currently void of much color. It’s wearing a ski mask of its own, it seems. Hiding the brightness from me. I breathe heavy and hard into my balaclava as I heave up little rises. The air from my own lungs acts as a space heater for my chin.
It’s quiet. Bare mountains ahead and all around, with small snow pockets hiding here and there. A reddish-brown hue to the slopes, with a black smudge throughout, then to the tree line, thick and green. Logs lie beside carved forest trails.
I’m being funneled into a gap in the mountains, where I assume I’ll pass through Alma before beginning the great, vast climb of today. It’s secretly thrilling. Every mile further, more of today’s mystery revealed.
My arms swim in my own sweat, held closely and lovingly by my wind vest. I shuck the jacket sleeves and am made cold by the damp fabric of my base layer underneath.
The word ‘barren’ appears on my brain dashboard, but I swipe that away. Seems a harsh word for an independent landscape. A determined visage. Cocksure. Firm.
The clouds ebb and flow. They reach in and streak across the sun to block its sightline and turn my whole world grey. The temperature drops, but the sun won’t give up that easily. Every now and then, it touches me on the shoulder or waves from a spot far off.
Yellow. There is yellow raising its hand amongst the deadening trees. The beetle infestation has taken its toll here, and many of the pines are sad and defeated by them. Scattered in amongst the healthy, proud greens are the withered and sickly. Their tall and lifeless bodies poking out of the canopy. But the yellow of the aspen is defiant. Life goes on. Autumn is on its way and no John, Paul, George or Ringo can ruin it for them, no matter how you spell it.
As I approach Alma, two joggers appear. I am black ninja-ed in appearance. They are pastel and tank-topped, tanned and chatty, as they trot along, seemingly oblivious to the temperature. That’s just for show, I think. They can’t possibly be comfortable. It makes me shiver just to gaze upon them.
Closer. Log houses with sharp-angled roofs materialize between clumps of trees, their dark stain accentuating the brushed greens and turning yellows. Humans, carving out their homes against this mountain backdrop, which stares down on them like the moon to the earth.
I look ahead. Mountains fall dramatically into the valley, their faces bruised as they’re pulled down towards the earth’s floor. They beckon to me, these mountains. This way. This is the easy way up. Follow the path through here.
In Alma, I stop on the edge of the street and do a quick strip show. The climb is rushing up soon, and heat will rise and roll off my skin and get trapped by my clothes. Balaclava squirreled away and normal beanie on, I sit on the curb and peel my booties off. Pants follow quickly, leaving me with my shorts, knee warmers, base layer, jersey and nerve.
It’s the nerve that takes a breath a short way out of Alma as we all observe the road ahead suddenly rearing up before twisting its way towards the top of this mountain. Up and across, I follow it with my eye as it hugs its way around in a lazy curl. The sign at the bottom states it’s four miles to the top, though it looks to the naked eye to be only two or so. But there’s a whole section not visible as it snakes around and out of view, cutting through the trees and making its logical way through the pass. This is going to be a long, hard slog.
It’s a funny feeling, to know you’re at the bottom of something you’ve been dreaming about for months. To know that once at the top, you shall go no higher. Some part of you says ‘it’s all downhill from here!?’, even though you know that’s not true.
The joy rises up in me, and I tamp it down. Because I’m not yet there. Don’t count chickens before they’re nuggets and such.
The climb up that initial grade is a straight up crank. I find a gear that pleases me and heave away with a steady rhythm. I’m in no hurry, not really, so I stop a few times to look out across the valley as it begins to sink away behind me. More houses nestled there, with aspens at their backs and the mountain’s moon face reading over their shoulders. The color mix – the shades of greens and yellows and browns washing and seeping into each other – is a true camouflage uniform palette.
I’m making progress, though it feels barely noticeable at times due to me looking straight ahead as I pedal and just concentrating on the grind. But it’s noticeable in my legs, for sure, and my heavy breaths reveal the true effort as I packhorse it up. I turn and look and see with some satisfaction that yes, I am getting even higher and there is some significance to that. A weight. A stature. The going ahead of going ahead. After that initial steepish start, the climb has settled in to a leg turner of considerable constants.
Perhaps a 5 – 6% grade? Steady. Reliable. Honest.
The road meanders and dreams. Slight curves and welcome straights. Traffic grinds its way up, while trucks groan their low-gear down groans. I’m on my way to that grey ceiling, through the rocks and half-dressed trees; their foliage stripped on what I’m guessing is the winter wind side. The temperature is dropping.
There is a large pull off to the left and I swing across the road to it, figuring something this large must hold some kind of view worth stopping for. I look down to the valley floor behind me. Streams squiggle their way across the marshy board, and it’s pretty as hell.
I eat a Snickers and chew my cud. Thinking. The flats below worship my height. I am chilled, but smiling as I turn and look back toward Precious, made to stand out against the rock face behind him.
We are achieving something today, boy. Can you feel it?
I stand in the stillness and absorb the quiet. A truck crawls past. There is a snap to the air and the brief splash of sunlight I had disappears as the clouds ooze back in like the boring cement of a government building.
Pushing off, I cut diagonally across the road to get back to the right side and continue my way up. This old trick smoothes out the grade to make it easier to restart in such a small gear.
The blue is creeping up behind me and pushing the grey back in this weird tug-of-war sky. The moonfaced mountain creeps in closer to look me up and down. Its crater face is marked with snow smudges and sharp fall-away places. Smooth from a distance, they are pocked and haggard up close. Fingernail scratch marks down their chalkboard cheeks. Their shoulder blades bristle under the rusty skin of them. Cracking knuckles flexing muscles. Sweat slurries on their rocky faces.
These mountains mean business.
I round a bend and there’s a kind of bitchy breeze that attacks without warning. It’s going to be very chilly on the summit. Climb climb climb. And then, all of a non-fanfare sudden, I’m at the top. No warning. There’s a hairpin turn sign and I think ‘oh, there’s gonna be some switchbacks’ but there aren’t. I’m just suddenly there, looking at the sign I’ve been imagining for quite some time. Hoosier Pass. 11,542ft. I am perched on the Continental Divide.
There’s a woman there, taking a photo, and as I pull up I ask her if she minds taking mine. After a few tense moments teaching her how to use the iPhone camera (I will always treasure the photo of her feet), she captures my victory salute. I can’t explain the feeling. The only word I can think of is ‘huge’. I am here. I am doing this. I am better than I think I am.
The woman wanders across the road to meet up with her husband, child and dog and they trek off on their hike up the trail. I proceed to do what I normally do in times of triumph.
I dick around.
Even with one glove off, I’m aware of how cold it is right now and it makes me unwilling to leave my hand exposed to take photos. But I pose the camera on the ground and snap some of Precious and me in front of the sign.
It’s really something to see a sign that delineates the Atlantic Ocean Watershed on one side and the Pacific Ocean Watershed on the other. I mean you know it’s true, that they’ve not moved at all and have always been on their respective sides, but it’s another thing to see it on sign. Water will be flowing to a different ocean now.
Take that, brain.
I look around for someone to talk to. It’s a grin worthy moment for me, but there’s no one around to say, “Hey, you know what I just did?” No-one to share this moment with. So I do what any lonely old modern soul would do. I tweet the photo of me at the summit and wait for my digital back slaps.
I spy another sign, off at the edge of the parking lot, and wander over with Precious to read it and eat my victory Gummy Worms. Purchased for this very moment. As I chew away on their wormy bodies, a car pulls up and an older couple gets out with their dogs. I’m itching for them to ask me something. Ready to explode with my achievement.
Look at me! Look at what I have done! Ask me about it! My throat is choking with it. But they quietly putter about, then lock their vehicle and head off to go hike down the trail.
They don’t even look at me.
The sun gets it, though. It is now out in full, hard glory and shines on me. You giddy fool, I think. You hopeless, idiotic, grinning buffoon. I’ve named and trademarked this feeling. It’s called Grintonium™. It’s actually an element of exquisite happy power. Its logo depicts a grinning Panda astride a rocket ship, orbiting a hot crumpet planet with maple syrup seas. It is the epitome of pure joy.
But enough of that. It’s time to go. The sun is both out and not again, but percentage-wise, it’s leaning more towards out. I look over at the start of descent and see mountains and mountains and more mountains in the distance behind. They just keep coming, like pins waiting to be knocked down, and I know I will have to do that. Knock them down, one-by-one. From here until I hit the Pacific.
Trees. So many trees.
But before I mount up, this Cinderella has to slip her own booties back on. I zip the sleeves back to my jacket and wheel my way to the road. Here we go. Down.
Twenty seconds in. Holy crap, I’m so glad I wasn’t coming the other way!
The descent is switchback-y and steep. Way steeper than my approach from the other side, and I fly down with my eyes leaking, my cheeks reddening, and my brakes hesitating with their grabbiness. Generally being dicks about the slowing down part of their job.
The metal guardrail holds in the pinball that is me as I hairpin it down. Directly below, I see the next shelf of the next switchback and take it slow to that point. Stop for a breather.
I would HATE to be climbing this. Would I? I don’t know. Yes. Yes, I would. This climb would have me reaching for swear words normally reserved for super-special occasions, such as total dick moves by racist arseholes or those wankers who take two parking spaces at the supermarket.
After the switchbacks, I enjoy long sweeping bends that disappear into sad and droopy woods. I crab around them to see what’s around the corner. Stop. This is the best photo. Start. Stop. No THIS is the best photo. Too much stopping. All those photos are crap.
Another long, sweeping bend and gradually, gradually we get lower and lower and down to yellowing carpets of flatland with a sneaky creek running through. Scrubby now. We roll through the small town of Blue River.
Spying a tiny lake before Breckenridge, I stop to admire the view. A few houses cuddle up to its shores. So far, this day has revealed all sorts of extremes. Mountains, lakes, streams and moon faces. As I edge closer to Breckenridge, I see the snowless ski runs etched on the mountains ahead. Run after run of cleared away trees, zebra stripped and curving through. I have no concept of what it must be like here during in the snow. The only kind of snow I know is New York snow. And the only runs you see there are road-soot black (and sometimes yellow), mostly snow blown, and cold salty messes.
In Breckenridge, I want to buy toe covers and get lost looking for a bike shop. Conscious of the day dribbling away, I give up and ride on to find the bike path leading out of town. It takes me alongside a crystalline stream of gurgly, bubbling water, then runs me down on a gentle downhill for a long time and I cruise and rest and enjoy. There are people everywhere, cyclists and runners and families walking dogs and amazing, amazing, amazing. I feel completely overdressed.
The hunger pang in my stomach becomes quite a triangle clang and I push on towards Frisco, determined to eat something, anything, there. Snickers and worms are just not going to cut it as a lunch.
The path pulls away from the 9 and I go up a rise and stop at the top to take my arm warmers off. Cyclists pass, and one calls out “Go Aussie!”, and a wave of Grintonium™ washes over me. I glance back at my flag. Good one. Job done.
It’s a serene section of bike path, this one. Through woodlands and scrub. The only sounds here are nature and the click of gears as someone approaches to pass or whirrs towards you, emerging suddenly through the trees and flying by in peaceful, mechanical song.
The mountains dominate my view and it is so beautiful I have no real words for it. This planet. I mean, wow. Thesaurus needs more words.
The pines and aspen are close to the path as I click by. Hugging in. Crowding, turning heads as I pass. The path weaves up and through them, their ceiling high so all I see is this corridor. The way forward. All I gotta do is follow the bright yellow line. Trees are straight. Reddish trunks, knotted bark and stubby limbs. Cones. Mixed in are the tall, dead ghosts and I weave around corners and wonder what’s around the next one.
Baby aspen, brightly colored, crouch closer to the edge, struggling to take hold. Suddenly, I’m spat into a clearing of sorts to a view that is brake-worthy. I look over toward the 9, which has reappeared on a bend that curves back again before disappearing into mountains. Choosing its line, the road sticks down low and is dotted with fast-moving cars.
But oh, what mountains. They are jagged and rocky, with pines in their wrinkles and bum cracks. It’s an exciting view. A thrilling moment. There’s your day, girl. Right there. I will be etching and crawling my way through these beasts all afternoon. Sneaking by and hoping they’ll be gentle with me.
Near Frisco, I see a sign. 10% grade. Going down. Whee is a word. I use it freely now. Unfortunately, I get caught up with all the wheeing and miss the turn that takes me into Frisco. Lost again. Story of today, apparently. I realize my error a bit too late, meaning I have to backtrack uphill to get to it. But it doesn’t take long and pretty soon I’m in the center of town looking for somewhere to stuff my growling stomach.
The Butterhorn Bakery proves to be a great pantry from which to shovel food into my nutrition hole. I order up a turkey and avocado sandwich with provolone and it’s so large I can only eat half. At first.
The leftover half is too fat to carry, so in a fit of “damned if you’re gonna leave THIS behind”, I slowly and with game-show determination, torture it in. Bite by overfull bite. I chew and grimace-swallow, as though being forced to eat my own words. My stomach hurts, but I kill it with a calorific onslaught of Take that, Belly!
While it digests in a sort of barely contained rage I shop for, and find, toe covers in the sporting store next door. No more full winter booties. Just wind proof and fleece-lined for my little toes on the frosty mornings. Nine bucks. Not bad.
The Frisco bike path is poorly marked, and guess what? I get lost. I find myself in a hamster wheel cul de sac with a sign for the path pointing in two directions, with no indication which way is the right way for me.
I followed my gut. Yes, that angry gut that was busily digesting all that food. It took its revenge by letting me ride the wrong way for a while until my internal compass kicked in and spun me around on my axis.
Much later, on the other side of Silverthorne, I check the time. It’s ten minutes to three and it’s still 37 miles to Kremmling. This is going to be tight. The elevation chart buoys my mood by suggesting, via a downward trickling line, that it’s mostly downhill.
So, I booked it. Decided to step on the leg gas until the engine squealed for mercy.
The shoulder now is wide and generous and after a small nerve detox, I begin to calm down. To relax. A few runs of slight downhill speeds and I start to think I can make up a lot of wasted time in these miles. On these long, slow declines.
The Blue River crouches to my right, weaving over and away and back again. Scenic. Serene. Calm.
Now out of the close-quarter tree people, I’m given room to breathe by an open and welcoming valley. A floor to dance on. A river to admire. Just me and my thoughts.
Ray cycles up beside me, out for his afternoon training ride, and we chat in an old friends way, though we are complete strangers. The questions ooze out of him, like oil from a leaky sump. He bones up on trailer pros and cons, and I school him on the intricacies of the TransAmerica trail, and then science butts in. My mass takes its toll as the road begins to slope upwards up for a spell.
Although pedaling with the same intensity as before, I begin to slow, and at some point he decides to cut the heavy, snagged bait of me from his hook.
“Well,” he says. “Have a good ride,” and I watch as he effortlessly pulls away as though I’m standing still. Which, comparatively, I guess I am. Before long, he disappears. I plod on.
A slight downhill nudges my momentum and I haul along at about 18mph. I do calculations (always risky for a writer), and figure if I keep up these speeds, I’ll be in Kremmling by five thirty. Maybe six o’clock.
Screaming down a fast hill and boom, I’m crossing a bridge and glance over to see the river, wide and luscious. I throw out the anchors, rationalizing that I’ll never be back here again. In this spot. Looking at this gorgeous river from this bridge. And if my brain yelled “gorgeous!?” after just a cursory glance, I should probably capture it in a photo. So, I park the bike and walk back.
There before me, is a whole river of Grintonium™. Bottled at the source, made pure by natural river rock filtrations and fondled by the leaves of riverbank trees. Grintonium.™ A smile-icide for the deadinsides.
Further on I ride, and to my left the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness resides. The mountains seem angry there. High and jagged, bare and mean. I have no real context of which mountain is which, so take a guess from the map. Dora Mountain there? Mt Powell, there perhaps? I wish at times there was an audio recording like you get at museums to set you straight on what’s what. “Yes, and to your left is Eagle’s Nest, so named because Don Henley has built taken retirement residence in a tree out there somewhere.”
A short while after crossing the Blue River again, I turn onto a smaller road. The 30. It seems odd to leave the 9, since it’s as smooth and flowing as Fabio’s hair, but there must be a logical reason for it. The map says jump, I jump.
A stabby rise up from the valley floor and I stop to search for the logic. The river is back to my right and I’m looking down on its wide expanse to see two girls frolicking at its edges. It’s deep and green and inviting here, and I imagine this scene if I were on time. If there’d been no accident. Ten weeks ago, it would be very hot right now. Hot enough to succumb to impulse, shed clothes and dip a tired body into the still, cool waters. But that was then and this is now and the afternoon chill is already sneaking up. No impulse to dive in today. Just an impulse to hit fast-forward and be in Kremmling already.
As I creak on, I spy the river snaking up and around the bend, and there, down in the middle of its throat and standing in the water is a human. In waders. As grey as the river rocks around him. I watch as he slowly wades across, each movement indicating he is finding secure footing before adding his weight. He stops, then casts. Winds his line back in. Casts again. It is a glorious day to be out and in it.
The river runs to the Green Mountain Reservoir and it begins to stretch out its body, wider and wider.
I’m close to Heeney now, and across the water I see raw mountains like slurry heaps, with tree candles dotted in their curtain folds. Dirt falls off like sugar from a pile. Their rawness is mirrored in the surface of the clear, green reservoir.
Wider and wider the reservoir’s real estate spreads. With each increase, there’s an uptick in boat traffic and water dwellers. I look across to the 9, cut into the mountain on the other side. It looks flat and straight and I think “so much faster to be over there”.
But you wouldn’t be seeing this, I think. You’d be missing it all.
True, but I probably wouldn’t be worried about the day trickling away. And the hills wouldn’t be stabbing me in the quads either.
In Heeney I get an attack of the juveniles and stop to take a photo of a sign.
Master Bait and Tackle
Then I stand and look at a little rise right in front of me and complain bitterly at how there is no grocery store here, even though the map says there is, and at how I’m just about bloody done with grinding up hills today.
Finally, I reach the reservoir wall, and come to a halt. Kick the stand out and wander over to the edge to look down the other side to the trickling river below. The craggy mountain rears its thick neck here to the right, and I can see the blasting lines and crumbing rock, where clinging trees abound. Down the wall to the steep valley below, a cluster of buildings, and not much going on. I flash to a scene of the wall bursting, of water flooding the valley below, and conclude I’ve watched too many movies for my own good.
A police car is sitting nearby. I pull a face. It’s sitting exactly where I want to take a photo, and I blanche at the authority of the stripe and the uniformed man inside. He looks over the water, to the pleasure craft and people being pulled across the surface in rubber tubes, and appears bored.
Pleasure craft and tubes, I think as I pull off and crawl through the cutaway rocks and back towards the 9. It guess it’s the weekend?
The afternoon grind settles in under my kneecaps as I admire the changing color of the sagebrush and the length of my shadow upon it. I see a clump of it come out from behind a car to the open trunk and realize that it’s a man in full hide-out shaggy brush gear. The tattered material hangs from his clothes as I watch him begin to store his gun away in the back of the car. Wonder what he was hunting that required such full immersion into this landscape?
The sun is lazy with its heat now, shrugging at the cooler afternoon air and I’m sensing its impending surrender. The afternoon colors are on the turn as I pull back on to the 9 with 12 miles to go and the threat of dusk looming a few page turns ahead.
The 9 has developed a rash of end-of-day traffic, and the shoulder all but gone. I hone my skill at the one-eye-mirror squint, and restlessly scan for ambushing RVs and camper vans and trucks. To them, I am but a blurry speck to their squinty westbound eyes, so I am my own guardian. I am Captain Caution. Princess Paranoid. The Lone Defender of my own Stay Alive Faith.
We are almost at the golden hour, where the yellows bleed and everything looks more beautiful than dry. When even the deadest, most desiccated earth on these rolling, bare hills looks filled to the edges with life’s energy.
I pull off at the top of a rise to wait for some trucks to pass, knowing I won’t be visible to them, and soaking up some of the last rays of the day. Ahead, I see the glint of Kremmling through a hill cutting, and my heart lifts that I will make it before darkness fully falls. I attach my headlight and turn it on in preparation for the change in visibility.
The shadow has swallowed me already as I roll down to the right of town and tackle a long, left hand curve. I glance up and notice the rippled bare hills behind the town are still basking in the soft sun.
A chill is falling, and the sweat on my face sucks it closer, but I push on. On through the town and past barking dogs, one giving a spirited chase for half a block. Through Serengeti-sized herds of insects, who beat their wings against my face and fly into my mouth when I breathe. Through the outskirts I roll, then on toward the center of town.
It’s quiet with the nighttime air. The first hotel I see is the hotel for me and I swing into the driveway and straight up under the awning. I stand for a while, just being still and looking back out toward the road as pickups and cars move through the lights.
Later, I sit in the fragrant air of a quaint Mexican restaurant. A bowl of bottomless chips and a cheeky salsa at my right hand, a cold margarita at my left. My legs are cheap dates and are drunk almost instantly, their ache fading away and becoming a pleasant tingle.
Enchiladas Regularas in the stomachila motorillo. They are hot, spicy, dribbly and wet. The drunken legs of the first margarita order up a second and in no time at all I’m bombed bombed bombed. I spoon in the last dregs of rice and tip the waiter like a loon, before strolling back to the hotel in the cool evening air to flop onto the bed. Tired, fat and achingly happy.
I fall asleep to an early X-Files, where Scully’s hair is high school-neat and Mulder is a wild young scruff of a wanting to believe man.
Willow Creek Pass is tomorrow, but Heaven is now. Proudly Sponsored by Grintonium.™ Available on all cross country bike tours.
Date: September 12, 2010
From: Fairplay, CO
To: Kremmling, CO
Distance: 84.16 miles
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