July 27, 2006
I was packed this morning at 7:30, and immediately went over to the cafe to use the computer and get my paycheck. Yeah, I actually filled out a W-4 and was on the books for three days of work, but I still got a decent check out of it after taxes for 20 hours. It was nice to be productive and make some money, and now sitting here drinking a Mocha Java, it feels a little funny to be leaving town.
It’s ironic because last night I was saying that it’s been strange to stay in one place for so long. I’m going to miss sleeping underneath the tall cottonwood trees in the town park, hearing the same owl every morning, and seeing the deer that simply saunter on through the park without a care in the world.
I updated the journal, said goodbye to everybody, and cashed the check. It was noon by the time I left town. Jim, my sidewalk buddy, made a point of leaving me with two particular points of advice. They were “Never, never, never give up,” and “Ask for the moon, and you may just get it.”
It felt great to be back on the road again, despite the hot, dry weather. Highlights on the radio included Cat Stevens – Peace Train, Styx – Angry Young man, Allman Bros – Midnight Rider, Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come on Eileen, and Outkast – Hey Ya. I also never mentioned that I heard Survivor – Eye of the Tiger a few days back… that really got me going!
I took a break at a highway rest stop, and was surprised to see Troy and Mel Clough catch up behind me. I thought they’d be days ahead of me by now, but they skipped ahead to take some days off in Yellowstone and the Tetons, and had now come back to ride back over the area they’d missed.
As we were catching up, a tour bus pulled into the rest stop that was taking a group through the northwestern National Parks, and at least four people approached us with the usual 20 questions. They even asked to take our picture, as though we were just some more of the “unique wildlife” on their tour! Mel fielded most of the questions, fortunately.
In mid-afternoon we passed Crowheart Butte, and then took a break at a gas station in the small town of Crowheart. It was after five pm, and we still had 27 miles yet to go to Dubois. Most of the riding today was long, steady, gradual climbing, especially in the later hours. A headwind kicked up, making things more difficult, but the scenery was nice enough to keep my mind off of it.
Soon the sun sank low, and that’s when things really became beautiful. The way the light shone upon the rocks was breathtaking, and all I can say is WOW. My jaw dropped soundly to rest on the handlebars for as long as the evening light lasted.
But then things suddenly went from about as good as it gets to a new low, when all of a sudden I started to bonk at sunset. Hard.
My legs were cramping badly from my feet all the way up through my groin. Shortness of breath, fatigue… not good. I kept telling myself to just keep going, because I knew if I stopped, I’d have a hell of a time getting started again. This went on for a little while. Finally I was churning up yet another gradual incline, and couldn’t help but plop down along a flat, comfortable looking guardrail.
In a few minutes Troy and Mel caught up with me, and wasted no time parking their butts on the asphalt too. “I’m having trouble breathing today,” Mel said. Okay. Good. So it wasn’t just me. They shared some Pop Tarts with me, and I think it helped a little.
It was a beautiful, crystal clear night, with a little dim light still in the west, and a crescent moon rising. “There’s supposed to be meteor showers tonight,” Troy said. We must have been quite a sight there, sitting on the quiet shoulder of the state highway in the near dark. My right leg started to cramp up badly again, so that’s when it was time to go.
It was only two, maybe three more miles to a campground just shy of Dubois, and I made it okay, even though I didn’t care to go as little as another tenth of a mile farther. We split a campsite, and I got right to work cooking up some Lipton noodles. It was a slow task to force them down, even though I knew I had to eat. I could only finish about half of my usual serving. It was the same deal trying to drink water. Soon I just passed out in my tent, among the same tall, mature cottonwood trees as the park in Lander. Life is good.
In retrospect I believe this was an episode of severe dehydration.