There is a semi-truck rolling along in front of me. I watch the tall grasses on the side of the road fold over like dominoes in its wake, turning to gold in the sun as they flex forward. It suddenly occurs to me that we’ve temporarily left the dead of Nevada and are now in a place that can support primitive vegetation. Thirty miles or so into the day we hit the Utah border. We’d mostly been climbing to that point, but the winds were low and it felt easy.
The previous day in Cathedral Gorge was relatively uneventful. Darryl and Maryanne, our camp neighbors, had left early in the morning to go to Caliente and were insistent that we make ourselves at home at their picnic table and partake in any of their comestibles and cooking equipment. We had bacon, eggs, veggies, and caffeinated beverages. I put real milk in my coffee, not the cheap breakfast shake powder that I had been using.
After breakfast I consciously directed all of my energies into sitting in my little camp chair and generally losing touch with things for several hours. I’m not sure what went on during that time. At one point I picked up my portable hardware device for reading electronic publications and considered the millions of microcapsules and little black negatively charged particles that were imagined in a lab in Cambridge, Massachussets, and the way that they seemed to magically gravitate to various areas of the screen when I touched it to form perfect little Times New Roman Characters and how, although this device was amazing, the creator had failed to engineer that old book smell into it.
I held it up to my nose. The scent of highly processed petrochemicals which are the essence of its injection molded shell had for the most part off-gassed and any signs of carcinogens at this point were just my imagination. Still, it didn’t have that smell of having sat in somebody’s purse on a beach holiday or the aroma of the ham sandwich packed for lunch and crammed next to it in a backpack on the way to work. There were no coffee stains on it, no torn pages. There was a small crack in the case from an incident in which gravitational forces had caught me by surprise. I put it down and thought about ham sandwiches for a while. Then I thought about Times New Roman and serif fonts in general and I asked myself, “Is the shift towards sans serif a good thing? Perhaps we could find a nice middle ground with a slab serif?”
This is how a good rest day goes. I have numerous friends whose life ambitions are much greater than my own and I have made numerous attempts to proselytize the importance of a good do nothing day to them. It seems as if there is something flawed in my delivery. Nowadays, I do my best to lead by example without the preaching.
At some point my mind finds its way back to my body and we wander around the park and explore some old water towers and the strange folds of eroded sandstone lining the edges of the gorge that can really only be described as intestinal. All over the ground there are little miniature versions of the very geologic feature in which I stand carved by little distributaries that are likewise little miniature versions of the floods that carved the principle gorge. Ideas from books I’ve never actually read, but have often recommended, dance through my mind. I ponder the fractal geometry of nature and say to myself, “Mandelbrot would wet himself.” I wandered off into the desert for a bit, and returned to my chair. We made dinner. Some nice folks from Reno invited us to their fire and filled our cups with port and put little pieces of dark chocolate in our palms.
Now, thirty or forty miles in and before noon, I feel accomplished. The plan is to make this our first 100 mile day. We still had a long way to go, but most of the climbing was already over. It was 99 miles to St. George so the plan was to circle the block as needed to make it an even century.
“Do you know what day it is?”
“What day is it?”
“It’s day number 101 of riding. Maybe we should ride 101 miles today.”
“I think 100 will be plenty.”
We turned right onto Highway 18 at Beryl Junction. Several seconds later, two puffball rat dogs came running out in my direction from across the street. I sped up. Soph stopped. There was a strange crunching noise followed by a tiny yelp. I turned to see one dog running away and a little dark ball of fur not moving. A white truck passed us, slowed down, and turned around. A man got out, looked a bit heartbroken, and began to clean the carnage from the road. We debated circling back, but decided that we had nothing to offer and that we were not at fault. We rode on in silence.
The terrain starts to look familiar, although neither of us have been this far north on 18. The road stretches through a few narrow passes before opening up into Central. We’re only 20 miles or so from our destination. We’re at about 5,200 feet and will drop to 2,800 by the time we reach St. George. We cruise downhill for several miles into Veyo. My top speed was close to 40 mph. The bike handled remarkably well. We were now on familiar roads. Just after the pie shop the road starts to climb several hundred feet over a mile or so. This is a notoriously big hill for people that ride around St. George. I had been thinking about it all day, sort of dreading having to climb it after 80 miles. Despite my fatigue, it was a pathetic excuse for a climb after Nevada. We disposed of it quickly and continued on.
The rest of the ride was a bit surreal. I had done it all at least a dozen times. For a moment I thought I was just out for an afternoon cruise. As we got closer to town, Soph realized that she had accidentally paused our GPS app and we had been shorted about 3 miles.
“It’s not a true century unless it is recorded on the internet!”
“I think I’m happy to just stop riding.”
I tell her I will take the phone and ride circles around the block so we can have our number. “Don’t worry, you can still tell people that you rode it and I won’t tell them the truth.” My shaming works. She rolls her eyes and we ride up and down 400 S. The town had a funny feeling of home that I had never actually felt while living there, perhaps this is what happens when it is the only familiar place you’ve seen in over 3 months.
At this point we’re going to take some time off until early November. We’re staying with some good friends in the area and get to spend some time with our pets, who we have been missing. I’m probably going to take a bit of time off from writing and focus on getting a bit of work done and enjoying the area. Much thanks to everyone that has followed so far. It has been fun documenting everything as we have been riding.