Day 10: The Hardest Day
Up early to drive out to Church Rock, the checkpoint from last night. I swear, starting these posts with how early we woke up is starting to feel redundant, isn’t it? Holy crap this ride was sooo much easier than the trip yesterday. Felt like I was flying. We booked it until finally reaching the “Hole in the Wall” rest stop. Mom was going back and forth between the checkpoint system and the tailing me with flashers system, depending on how dangerous the sections of road seemed to be. That section of highway, Highway 191, was by far the most dangerous one I biked on over the course of this entire trip. After a little break at the rest stop, we powered our way back to camp. Mom left and went ahead to camp once we were out of the windy mountain roads and the shoulder widened up. I got there faster than she expected, again, and caught her in the middle of preparing another hearty breakfast. We took our time, having finished the first 40 miles of the day faster than we expected. Mom then insisted I get going while she packed up camp.
The ride out of Moab was uphill, of course, but much more enjoyable than yesterday’s. For much of the climb, I got to ride on a protected, separated bike lane. The route was beautiful, but I couldn’t help but feel slightly bitter that I wasn’t going to enjoy back down it. I met up with Mom where the bike lane ended and got some sorrowful news. She had gone ahead to checkout the route that the bike setting on Google maps had given us and found that, yet again, we were being led to another unpaved and unknown “road.” Thankfully, we caught it ahead of time this time. Bummer-ly, this meant I had to bike keep biking on the narrow highway 191. This segment of the highway was much safer than that south of Moab, but the soft shoulder forced me to drive a little closer to the speeding traffic than I would have preferred. This area was also fairly flat, a lovely contrast to the steep winding roads of the southern section. Finally, 33 miles north of camp we reached Crescent Junction, where Highway 191 meets I-70. Mom and I snacked on some overpriced ice cream at Papa Joe’s Stop, a purchase made only to gain access to the establishment’s bathroom, and sat in the shade while a few rad camper vans (and one converted short school bus) passed through.
Our thoughts now turned to the task ahead, another section of I-70. A couple of days ago, Mom and I were deathly scared of the idea of me biking on a major interstate. However, after biking on the bumpy narrow shoulders along the steep and windy highway 191, the wide shoulders of a smoothly paved interstate sounded like a dream. The plan (the re-worked plan after discovering the impassable route earlier that day), was to ride for about six and a half miles on I-70 and then hop on Old Highway 6 to Green River. Those 6.6 miles were absolute heaven. That asphalt was soooo smooth, the road’s shoulder so wide. It became humorous to me that the thought of being scared of biking on the freeway.
It’s amazing what a little bit of experience can do to one’s fear. That was a major element of this pilgrimage, overcoming fears. Honestly, the entire trip seemed so daunting, terrifying even, before I started it. All it took was a decision, the decision to accomplish the task and not let obstacles stop me from doing so. That initial decision made obstacles that popped up everyday that much easier to face. Maybe easy is the wrong word. It’s not that the obstacle became less difficult, it’s that I knew I had no choice but to overcome it.
We got the the Old Highway 6 exit and I was stoked. We looked at our handy-dandy cell phones and saw that the remaining distance to Green River was going to be pretty much the same whether I went on Highway 6 or I-70. Still stoked off of the short segment I had just finished, I told Mom that I would be super down to just bike the rest on I-70. Mom, on the other hand, is my mom, and was still not super comfortable with me being on the interstate. Feeling that I had already put her through too much already, I somewhat reluctantly agreed, and set of down Old Highway 6.
That ride sucked. So. Bad.
Not even a quarter mile after away from I-70, the road turned to complete crap. It felt as though my body was shoved inside an angry jackhammer for the next 10+ miles. The road was entirely made up of cracks, pot holes, and loose gravel. It honestly felt like I should have been riding a mountain bike, and even then it would have sucked. Mom, who was driving behind me on this abandoned road of desolation could see how frustrated I was getting, and offered to pack me and the bike up and set us back on I-70, but frustration morphed into angry arrogance and I declined. It got to the point where I wanted to just throw something at the ground as a sort of curse directed at this hellish road, but alas, I needed all of the things I was carrying. Angry spitting was my less preferred method of venting. And yeah, it felt as silly as it sounds.
At long last we crossed into Green River and into the parking lot of the most janky motel I have ever entered (and hope to enter) in my entire life. After 4 consecutive days of camping, Mom had decided that enough was enough, and it was time for some air conditioning. The shattered, unlit sign above the lobby entrance made me think that the place had actually been abandoned year ago. The almost empty parking lot was overgrown with weeds who had successfully battled their way through cracks in the asphalt. We checked into our thankfully clean room, and mom cautiously commanded that I take a shower, cool off, and take a nap. We had, after all, already covered more than 98 miles. The cool off was just as important mentally as it was physically, as the frustration with the wretchedness of the ride I had just finished had not yet worn off. My poor mom felt so bad.
After I awoke Mom and I had a chat. She had looked at our schedule and the area we needed to cover and felt that we needed to try to make it all the way to Manti by tomorrow night. Also, after all of our crappy experiences with uncertain routes and roads, and after watching me suffer through a road as crappy as that section of Highway 6 (seriously, whoever is in charge of maintaining that road or whatever, you and I need to have a serious sit down), that we needed to get there by way of the once feared I-70. Still tired from the almost 100 miles I had already covered, I tried to resist a little, but knew she was right. There wasn’t much in the way of civilization between us and Manti, especially if we were to try to get there through the mountains to the north. Tomorrow would be Saturday, so if we didn’t make it then, we’d have to wait until Tuesday to go to the temple. We also needed to find somewhere to stay and go to church for the coming Sunday. Whether I liked it or not, I needed to try to cover the next 130 miles by tomorrow night.
So, to try to help us out, we hit the road again. The next 31.64 mile were the hardest miles of the entire trip. I don’t know what happened, but I reached some sort of breaking point. The road was all uphill, through desert, in the late afternoon, early evening. Mom had set a checkpoint, determined that we were gonna make it there before nightfall. My body, still sore from the shaking it had gotten earlier, was overwhelmed with a wave of weakness I have never felt before in my life. Sometime after mile 20, tears started forming in my eyes for no reason. Every pedal was a struggle. I must have slowed down significantly because my mom, who had been waiting at one of the off ramps for awhile, found a frontage road along the freeway and followed it as far as she could to see if something had happened to me. When I saw her, I thought that I was done. I wasn’t. I could reach her, and I still had a few mile to go until the off ramp she had actually pulled off of. Through out this ride I wanted to just stop, sit on the side of the road, and call it. My body was not supposed to feel like this. No body is supposed to go through this kind of feeling, maybe this whole crazy trip was just that crazy, too much for someone like me.
Then I remembered…you. Over the course of this trip I received so much more support than I had ever anticipated. So many people offering assistance, reaching out, and sending kind words of encouragement. It felt that somehow this trip had grown bigger than me. I knew that if I stopped, I would no longer be letting myself down, I would be letting down all of the people who were believed in me. That thought, that revelation, helped me push through to the next stop. When I got there, I didn’t care where I was. I got off my bike, stumbled over to a relatively flat spot to lay down. My breath shook as my body tried to recover, confused between exhaustion and emotion. After about my fifth try I was able to maintain a standing position long enough to walk to the car door so we could make our way back to the janky motel, our air condition respite after a very, very long day of biking.
Thanks for supporting me. Thanks for giving me the strength to finish Day 10.
Total Miles: 123.14
Running Total: 829.98
Exhaustion Collapses: 1
Attempts to Stand Back up: 5