By far the hardest of days. It begins innocently enough. I wake up to signs of my period and grabbed the diva cup, go outside the tent and cook some oatmeal. An RV pulls up next to my campsite, and out steps an professor of History from Purdue University. He wants my campsite because a group of hunters with dogs are moving in next to the site where he and his wife have been staying. His wife doesn’t like the idea of seeing bleeding animals strung up outside her RV window.
We make small talk as I pack up my gear, and at one point he steps away to answer a call from his wife who is checking out another campsite further down the road. I ask if she’s found a good one. He doesn’t answer my question, obviously concerned with other things. “One day you’ll be married to a man who you like to check in on and make sure he’s doing things right.”
The professor tops off my water bottle which is a huge help since I would have otherwise had to backtrack to a small stream in a gulch a few miles away. He holds my bike for me while I heave on the panniers, and I bike away toward the nearby visitor’s center, hoping to charge my phone which is near dead. I arrive to find a few construction workers restoring the old ranch home, and a woman coming out of a trailer next to the visitor’s center. I ask her about charging my phone and she says, “No! You can only go in if you need information. It’s for visitors.” I don’t have energy to argue with her, so I keep on my way, knowing there is really only one road I can take back to Vail, the blessed and speedy 83.
I zoom down the road, past the mountain ranges and cacti which look completely different than they did on day one. The sun performs stark wonders on the landscape, everything now harsher, more aggressively showing up before my eyes. The road back to civilization is fast, almost too fast, and the land changes from high to low desert as I descend the Catalina foothills.
I laughed as I was going up a small incline and thought of why I came on this trip. My ex-boyfriend made fun of my Jamis Renegade. He mocked people like me who had nice bikes and didn’t use them. He is not an evil person but he said evil things about my body. “If there was a Bethany with less weight, I’d be totally in love with her.” The day after we broke up, I booked my flights to Tucson. I had to get away from that story he was telling about me. Otherwise I’d start believing it. I am telling my own story.
The night of day three, I found a campsite at Colossal Cave Mountain Park. It was sandy and very windy. I settled down at a freshly built platform. I was twenty miles outside of Tucson, and surrounded by tall saguaros, prickly pear, and mesquite. Once again, I peeked at the stars before holing up in my tent, so content and alone, the night quiet, my legs sore. In my journal I write a thought that occurred to me while biking: “I am a Bethany carrying 90 pounds of pannier every day. I am the heaviest I’ve ever been. I am the happiest and strongest Bethany.”
Read about the final day of the tour!