I left Boone, NC at 4:00 a.m. Saturday morning heading west. The week and a half previous was full to the gill of packing, finishing finals/projects, housework, going through a basement/garage and throwing half of the stuff in it out, getting sick from going through a garage/basement and breathing in all the dirt, dust and mildewy mold.......etc., etc. Riding didn't make it onto the list except for about 5 hours. Weird. Combine the sicky time with the snow/ice/rain and a lot to do....It all took me out.
By Friday I was mostly ready to go and mentally very ready to go. I decided to take a 6 hour nap and hit the road early Sat. morning. When I drove out of Boone, flakes of snow were falling, patches of ice were common. Bye bye winter wonderland, I thought, and dipped onto the windy, mountain roads.
My first stop came at 7:45, not even four hours later. Little fairies came and hung weights from my eyelids. Even my fingers were useless trying to peel them apart. I decided pulling over may be wise. 15 minutes of sleep in a hotel parking lot next to a semi-truck and I was good to go.
The next few hours went by pretty well until I hit Nashville and had to make the decision whether or not I was going up to Cyclocross Nationals in Kansas City. And when I say "make a decision" I'm referring to the FINAL decision, not the 50 pseudodecisions I'd made up until that point. The mental weighing went something like this "Kansas City= ride my bike hard, probably puke, get too drunk to keep driving, and extend my trip to Tucson by about 2 more days," or "Tucson= drive straight through Texas, probably puke, have to drive straight through these 2000 miles, but I'll be there TOMORROW." Tucson won, but not without a battle. Unfortunately that included me deciding to go on to Nats, and driving up I-24 for about 20 minutes before I changed my mind. Once I realized what I really wanted to do, I checked my trusty map and decided I could simply take highway 70 across the state and it would put me back on the interstate further down, without having to backtrack. Simple.
This plan would have remained simple except that 1 1/2 hours down the road, I was not paying attention to the fact that the speed limit was fluctuating like menopausal hormones and I got pulled. Dam it. Even with the pathetic explanation that I was from Boone, NC and moving to Tucson, AZ, and was a total newbie to these roads, I was given a ticket and told me to have a nice day. Oh, did I mention that I cried?? It didn't work. Even though it was genuine. At this point I was DONE with Tennessee, but it wasn't over yet. I kept going and made it to Memphis before the next stop.
Lottie and I needed to get out and stretch, run, etc., so we found a state park north of Memphis that looked promising for having trails. We got there around 4:00 and drove through the windy roads til finally stumbling upon the "horse trail," a five mile loop with ups and downs and plenty of mud to get stuck in. Sweet. Lottie and I got a run in, ~1 hour between the 5 mile trail and surrounding road. Stretching and eating ensued in the fallen darkness and pretty soon we were back on the road.....or a road. Oh, hmmm, was this the same road we came in on?? I don't think so.....Let's stop at this gas station, "The Pantry" and ask directions....yeah that one, with the bars on the windows.....and, oh wow, I'm the whitest thing around for about 20 miles....and the feeling that I wasn't in Kansas anymore........ let's see maybe this clerk dude will help me get re-oriented. Or point me in the wrong direction. 20 minutes later, I was still driving around the back country roads of TN, when I started to recognize a couple of landmarks and get excited, "I've been here before." Then, wouldn't you know it, "The Pantry" loomed large and metallic on my right and I just sighed. Then I kind of giggled. Well, at least I wasn't totally lost. I was just about to step into the store and have a little 'recap' with the clerk when I spotted a police car parked in the parking lot. Again the indecision "Get in trouble in the ghetto," or "Get directions from a local cop" weighed in my mind. I went with the latter and within five minutes was back where I needed to be, highway west in sight.
All's well that ends well, at least in this case.....Speaking of all's well, I just learned that "ya'll's" is not a grammatically correct word; I guess "all ya'll's" is the correct conjugation, thanks BILLY.
Arkansas was next.....275 miles of get-through-this-state-no-more-messing-around-don't stop-just-go. My goal was to get to Texas before I was too tired to drive anymore, and even though I didn't want to sleep in Texas, I didn't really want to sleep in Arkansas, and I wanted to feel some sense of accomplishment. I knew Texas was going to be LONG.
What I didn't know was that in Texas there is always a headwind. Always, even if you turn and go the other way, or make a 45 turn; the wind is blowing from the front in that direction also. It is a scientific anomaly.
These headwinds proved to present some interesting scenarios, most of which started with the fact that my gas mileage went from about 48 miles an hour to 10. My trusty bikes strapped my shoddy trunk rack were part of the problem, as they offered mucho wind resistance and every time a semi went passed, they tilted and thrashed around like they were about to fly off. This also didn't help my confidence much.
In Texas I also found out they don't believe in gas stations. I mean, not really. The more oil piston drills I passed, the fewer gas stations I saw. And the further west I got, the further apart these rare stations of gas became. At one point I pulled into a rest area, realizing that I was going into the last 1/3-1/4 of a tank and wanting to be sure the next station was getting close.... It had been awhile since I'd seen one. "26 miles" was the verdict and while I was deciding whether I should turn around or try to make a go of it, I befriended a trucker dude who was hauling a load of cars. He had a very distinctive voice and I immediately placed it as the guy on Arrested Development who played the "body" for George senior when he was on house arrest. You know the guy. He had this very beautiful, strained sounding voice. They kind of looked alike too... And he was from Los Angeles.....hmm, maybe he was a sortof famous actor who drives trucks on the side. Anyway, I tucked in under his draft and made it to the next station with a tiny bit of gas to spare.
The Texas miles were disappearing, but the headwind was keeping my little Honda right at 60 mph, which is normally good for gas mileage...but not so much when you've got it floored, sheesh...
So I pulled over to pee, but I wanted to make it quick and keep Lottie in the car. When I say "pulled over to pee" I mean by the side of the road. I should have known it was a poor idea when I could barely get my door open due to the wind. But optimist I am, so I opened the front passenger door and made a quick duck of it, hoping to do my thing before the next cluster of cars came by. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I started letting it go, the wind gusted up from under the door and fanned my urine out all over my pants, drenching them, as I laughed at the sillyness of it all. I danced around trying to get my stream out of the dam wind, but to no avail. I finished up, hopped back in the car, changed my clothes and got back to the business of running out of gas....
Which happened as if I planned it. The very next time I started to notice my gas meter hanging around the 1/3 tank, I grabbed my map and started scanning for the next town. Hmmm..... there are some tiny dots that have names and seem big enough to contain gas stations within the next 10 miles or so....I'll take it.....But when I pulled over, all 5 of the stations were boarded up or burned down. whoa, uh, ok, I guess I'll just keep going......10 more miles and another town with a big plant of some sort, oh wait, it's not a town, it's just a plant of some sort. OK, I guess I'll just keep going.....and going.....and chug-chug-pullllll, oh crap, come on little Bobsled, dip into that reserve tank, we're almost there......
I coasted to a stop in the most unlikely of spots-right across the lane from another vehicle that was pulled over doing a repair. "Doug" was driving his pick-up truck and pulling a large trailer full of moto's and living supplies and things. He was headed up to visit with his son when he flatted and was taking his time to fix the situation up right. When I told him my story he replied with a smile, "You're not from around here are you??" "No, I just came from Boone, NC," I said, and to that he answered, "I'm from Oregon myself. Isn't is amazing how far apart the gas stations are around here??!!" "Yeah," I replied sheepishly, "I'm embarrassed that I haven't learned my lesson from the first time...."
Doug and I exchanged some of my aunt's homemade sheep cheese and herbal tea for a couple of gallons of gas from one of his moty's and some kind words of encouragement. Soon I was on my way, and hit the first gas station for 60+ miles that had jacked the price of gas up by about 70 cents. HA, capitalists.
Then I hit a deer.
Why is that such a violent and traumatic event?? I have never hit one before and it stuck with me for quite some time.
People around me said "Oh yeah, I've hit a deer before. It sucks." But nonchalant dripped from the corners of their words and mouths.
Really, I couldn't stand it. Running out of gas was something I could have changed, but the assisted suicide of the deer was not mutually agreed upon. It just so happened that I couldn't go back and pull it from the road without sure death, so I quietly payed respect and sorrow to the deer and went on forward......
I arrived in Tucson at 2 a.m., cracked out, but in one piece. I made the 29 hour drive in 46 hours, with 4.5 hours of sleep, 2 cups of coffee, about 8-9 oranges, and 1 travel station shower. Now let's see what the desert has in store this winter.....