Day 11: Merciful Drivers, Missing Persons, and Manti

So we didn’t make it quite as far as we had hoped last night thanks to my body pretty much shutting down on me. Thankfully, that exhaustion helped me sleep super hard so when we did wake up fairly early the next morning, I felt well rested. I ate a breakfast of PB&J and a banana while Mom drove me and the bike to unexpectedly appropriately named Temple Mt Rd, yesterday’s final checkpoint.

The first portion super sucked. I climbed slowly up to the ridge of a canyon along I-70 for what felt like forever. The day heated up quickly as well. It was slow going. Luckily some passers-by saw me biking and decided I would be the perfect recipient of their mercy. I was passed by a car from Colorado according to its license plate at one point. About a mile later I saw the same car pulled off of the road onto the shoulder. My shoulder. ‘What the crap are they doing on the shoulder, making me go around them and bike in a lane of traffic on a major interstate?’ I thought as I slowly pedaled around them, into a completely safe and empty lane of traffic on an almost entirely empty freeway. I think so entitledly when I’m tired. About a mile or so later the same car pulls up next to me while I continued my slow, uphill trudging.

“Hey! You biking all of this!?”

*gasp* “Yeah.” *pant. wheeze. breathe.*

“You need some water?” The husband and wife shout back at me with heavy Hispanic accents as they hold two plastic bottles of Kirkland brand bottled water.

*pant* “Nah, I’m good,” I say quickly pointing at my CamelBak in lieu of an explanation.

“It’s cold water though! It’s so hot out there.”

“I’m really fine.” I shout back, lacking the stamina to explain that I have ice in my pack.

“But it’s cold though.”

Realizing how silly it is to deny someone the opportunity to do something nice, an act of service if you will, because accepting help from others makes me feel kind of funny (I blame my mom’s fierce independence for that personality quirk) I accept one of their water bottles. The wife awkwardly reached as far as she could out of the window of her car as I reach out from my bike to grab the ice-cold, plastic bottle of Kirkland brand water, while both our vehicles kept moving. The kids smiled and giggled at us from the back seat.

“You want another one?”

“No!” I shouted back, probably more firmly than I intended to. It’s hard to temper your voice when you’re tired, winded, and shouting into a moving vehicle. Thankfully, they seemed unphased by my volume.

“Have fun! Good Luck!” They said in parting as they sped off, waving. Oh yeah, this is me having fun. I’m a weirdo.

Cars are so much faster than bikes.

After a good amount of uphill, I got to dive down into Eagle Canyon. I love going downhill, but this one was a little bit more difficult to enjoy. As I plowed into towards the canyon floor, I couldn’t help but notice the opposite side of the canyon and peaks along another Utah mountain range up ahead on the horizon.

As we had done so many times before, Mom and I decided to stay in touch with the checkpoint system, in which she drives ahead to an exit or off-ramp where I will meet up with her. Having screenshotted and saved the Google map on her phone she kind of ran the show when it came to letting em know how far I would have to go until the next exit. I didn’t really worry about pulling maps up on my phone because a) we had no service at all for this 60 or so miles stretch of biking and b) I was going to be biking on I-70 the whole time and didn’t really need to worry about taking a wrong turn. This system worked great until it didn’t.

After I had rested up at Exit 108 Mom and I decided to meet up at Exit 99.

“Exit 99?” I shouted at her in confirmation, to which she replied with a thumbs up.

About 3 miles past Exit 108 is the Sand Bench View Area. I biked past this because checking it out involved a steepness I was not super keen on climbing, and we had already agreed on Exit 99. I pressed onward to Exit 99, and, for the first time ever, Mom wasn’t there. Despite my minimal to no service I tried calling and texting her, but with no success. Realizing that the only way I was going to get somewhere with service, and the only way I was going to make it to the temple with time enough to enter later that day, was to keep biking, I kept biking. All along the way I tried to call or resend my text messages but nothing was working. Stress and concern caused me to pedal even faster. What if something happened to her? Or worse, how stressed was she about something possibly happening to me? It was 8 miles to the next Exit, the intersection of I-70 and Highway 10. Then I realized that my water in my bag was gone and only ice was left. Crap.

Then I looked down.

Hallelujah! That little plastic bottle of water, less cold now looked up at me, almost as if to laugh,”Haha, you stupid, thinking you’re too good to accept water from kind strangers.” Yeah, yeah little water bottle, I get it.

I kept biking, praying harder than I’d prayed in a long time for my mom’s safety, sanity, and our quickly reuniting. Or at least for my text to go through. Finally, with thoughts of every terrible thing that might of happened barraging my brain, a dark grey Prius zips past me and honks. Bagheera! (that’s my car’s name) Mom!

“HolyCrapOhMyGosh!” I mumble-shout while offering a prayer of gratitude in my heart.

I rolled onto Exit 91, both of my water reserves now empty, where I am attacked by my Mom’s embrace.

“Where were you?” I asked.

*This was not the proper way to start this particular conversation.*

“OhmygoodnessI’msosorryIwassoworriedI’msogladyou’reOKIwassoworriedAreyousureyou’reOK!Ican’tbelieveyouwereouttherebyyourselfforsolongOhmygoshyou’reoutofwatertoo!?OhnoI’msogladyou’reOkThankGodyou’reOKI’msosorry,” she said shakily as tears began welling up in her eyes, a few spilling over onto my shoulder.

There really is no love like a parent’s love for their child, a mother’s love especially.

After squeezing me as tight as she physically could, she stepped back, wiped her tears from her face and explained that she had pulled off to check out the Sand Bench View Area. She drove ahead to Exit 99, and didn’t pass me along the way. Grossly overestimating my speed, she waited at the exit, puzzled as to where I might be. Thinking I might have just biked on she drove to Exit 91. Still no sign of her firstborn. She continued on to the next exit and the next, her exasperation increasing by the second, until she finally was able to turn around, go back to where she saw me last, and start over from there.

Cars are so much faster than bikes.

After we settled down a bit, we pressed on. Up and over another mountain range, and down into the little town of Salina. After 75 miles of I-70, we found respite in gas station/Carl’s Jr. hybrid where I slurped down a chocolate milkshake and rejoiced over the existence air conditioning. With all water reserves now filled to the brim, and time ticking away, we set off for Manti.

Over the course of this trip I have had people want to join me for rides or temple visits. Two of those people were my friends and hometeachees, Junyi and Paige. They actually made a goal of seeing all of the Utah Temples as well (by car not by bike) and we made plans to meet up at the Manti Temple, where I was planning on attending the 5:00 pm session. After about 30 miles of far less stressful riding Mom and I made it to the Manti temple with time enough to visit with Junyi and Paige and get changed to go in the temple. When we reached the temple the parking lot was weirdly empty…

In Utah there is a holiday called Pioneer day on July 24, commemorating the entry of Brigham Young and the first group of pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. Celebration abounds across the state. It almost feels like a second Independence Day. Many historical locations, businesses and so forth will close to observe the holiday. Apparently, the Manti Temple, the historical location that it is, is one of the places that closes down for the celebrations.

Junyi, Paige, my mom and I hung out for a bit on the temple grounds, swapping stories of our state wide adventures. I was as engaged as I could be, but the shock of the situation was bit overwhelming. For the past week and a half the only things I had to focus on were biking and going to the temple. Now the temple was closed. What do I do? Do I just start biking towards Cedar City? Do we just wait here for two days until the temple opens? I realized that during my preparations I had accounted for the fact that the temple would be closed on this day, but in the excitement of the journey and excitement about how great of a pace we were keeping I had forgotten about the closure, and we rushed here to Manti, thinking we could finish ahead of schedule. We had pushed ourselves so far and so fast for this. I felt weirdly empty, like my purpose was taken from me.

After Junyi and Paige left, Mom and I chatted. She helped me reason through my thoughts. As we had seen on our bike ride that day, there wasn’t really anywhere we could have stayed between Green River and Salina, where we would be staying for the night. Splitting up the trip up over the course of weekend would have resulted in rough nights of camping, which Mom wasn’t super keen on, and difficulty finding a place to go to church tomorrow. We needed to make it here before Sunday came. She also helped me remember that this trip wasn’t just about biking to all of Utah’s temples, but actually visiting them. That’s where the idea started in the first place. We also needed to check out some stuff on Bagheera, whose brakes were sounding kind of funny. So, we loaded up the bike in the car, drove back to Salina, and decided that the Manti Temple would be our starting checkpoint on Tuesday, two days from now, when it opens, so that I could enter it, so we wouldn’t forget the central purpose of this trip.

P.S. – Junyi and Paige were able to drive around and see all of the Utah Temples in one weekend! Super proud of them.

Cars are so much faster than bikes.

Daily Stats:

  • Miles Biked: 105.16

  • Running Total: 935.14

  • Temples Seen: 1

  • Running Total: 15

  • Temples Entered: 0 🙁

  • Friends I Got to Chill With: 2

  • Blessed Water Bottles: 1

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