It has been a strange day.
All day long I had felt slightly out of step with the routine of my travels.
The various items I had packed every day for a month would not fit in their
normal snug spots. Breakfast was delayed because I knew it was to be a
longer distance day ... but the delay was not expected to be 205 miles.
The curves just weren't clicking right either, and on two occasions I had
to brake like a rookie to recover from poorly chosen entry angles. I even
asked myself out loud, what is wrong today?
The answer came when a stranger complimented me on the bike at a gas stop, then asked the question most do ... where are you going? Without thinking it came out: San Francisco. So that's it. No more is it in my mind that I am on an open unplanned wander. I am headed home. Even though the turnback point came long ago in Louisiana, and I sensed I was really headed west after Paonia, something triggered in another part of the mind. Why now, why here? The best I can guess is because I know and feel I am within a "normal" day's ride of home. It was about 800 miles away when the conversation took place. There is a phrase about animals "smelling the barn" on the return trip ... if it's true, well that's quite a snout I have there.
And yes, after the thought threshold was crossed, with all the attendant "to do" lists being mentally prepared, the rest of the day clicked like a Hasselblad. Leaving Delta, Utah, I began the race across the great western basin. Ahead were two massive thunderstorm clouds with trailing veils of rain dappling across the mountains. What the heck. It may be intense for a short time, but I decided to play the odds (hey, I was headed to Nevada after all :). Not even bothering to put on rain gear, I scanned the map and the directional speed of the clouds and decided if I were fast enough I might beat both storms to the border. Woulda worked, too, except ... just as I was about to snip the advance edge of the first storm at a rather elevated speed, the most dreaded of all road signs flashed by - Fresh Oil, Loose Gravel. Damn. Road resurfacing. No way I'm going to do that at this speed! Hydroplaning is bad enough on wet surface, but gravel-planing is not on the agenda. So I just stopped in the middle of the desert and waited to be drenched. But by about 20 minutes later the storm had passed and I only felt a few sprinkles. Shortly after that I came to the stopped traffic and a highway crew flag man who told me he and some of the crew had to take refuge in travelers vehicles because the squall that passed was so strong they couldn't stand up. I lucked out again.
When most people think of
Utah, the Salt Lake or the southern desert national parks come to mind.
I was surprised to see how different the northeastern corner of the state
is. It is made verdant by the rain shadow of the Wasatch Range, and is
a series of high wilderness, national forest, and farm land. Crossing the
Wasatch is a zig zag event if you are trying to head west or east. This
gives a good feeling for how distinctly it divides the center of the state.
To cover a lateral distance of about 40 miles between Colton and Nephi,
I had to travel 78 road miles, including vertical climbs to passes over
Eventually, having put the details of the end of the trip aside to occur in their own time, I was able to regain the synergy of man and machine in motion. The expanse of eastern Nevada melted away. Sacramento Summit heralded the beginning of The Loneliest Road in America, and as the loneliest rider in America passed through, rabbits scampered out of the way, chipmunks played slalom in the road, and a deer stood on the rise watching all.
So into Ely, crossroads to nowhere, I found myself wanting to do something different. Rather than another bargain motel, I wanted to try the come-on for the Hotel/Casino in town. What a hoot. It turns out (yet another lucky draw) that the Nevada Hotel is a grand old hotel with history of housing high society (who were passing through, of course). My room is just down the hall from the Wayne Newton suite (he used to perform here early in his career), has a oversize king bed, and includes a discount at the hotel restaurant - all for the princely sum of $19.95. They expect me to gamble, of course. But as I said ... I already lucked out for the day :)
Instead, my enjoyment is repairing to my room to reconstruct and recount the rapidly receding recollections of the day. I confess I will miss sharing experiences when the trip ends. Exposing one's thoughts day after day is a difficult task, but one that rewards the writer perhaps more than it entertains the reader.
"This was the moment I longed for every day. Settling at a heavy inn-table, thawing and tingling, with wine, bread, and cheese handy and my papers, books and diary all laid out; writing up the day's doings, hunting for the words in the dictionary, drawing, struggling with verses, or merely subsiding in a vacuous and contented trance while the snow thawed off my boots."
- Patrick Leigh Fermor (b. 1915) British writer
FuelPlus 361 miles, 6:09 hours engine, 59 mph average
Roosevelt US191 US6 UT96 UT264 UT31 US89 UT116 UT132 UT125 US50 Ely
Sam Lepore, San Francisco