bb’s First Bike Tour: Day Eight

The final day! I wake up at 5am to drive back to my Tucson. The drive is shorter although it still rings in at 4 hours with rush hour traffic in Phoenix. I return the F150 25 hours after renting it, with 650 more miles on the odometer. I am famished and hole up for a few hours in a coffee shop where I get some writing done. A lot of stories are bumping around after twelve hours of driving. I write a bit, and get caffeinated, chat with the barista about cactus alcohol.

I start feeling too smelly to be in town, let alone at a bougie coffee place. Eventually I have to bring my bike back to the shop where they’ll pack it and ship it back to New Hampshire, but I have a few hours of daylight left. There’s one more road on my mind: Gate’s Pass.

The locals have recommended it and I’ve been itching to move a little bit more, to see one more epic view before I leave. I head out of town again, pedaling uphill gradually at first, then steeper and steeper. Cacti rise up like gatekeepers of the heat. I stop at a wildlife museum where the attendant tells me to keep going. Three more miles.

Up and up until I can’t go up any more, and suddenly the road kinks in half, flanked by two mountains. This is it! I know it is, and I’m walking my bike now because it’s so steep but I don’t care. I’m pep talking to myself about how lucky I am to be here and how strong my legs are for getting here and how it’s only a little bit further. Chest heaving and tights burning again. I make it to the top and stop talking. At the pass you can look away from Tucson to the west, toward L.A. or whatever’s out there: a whole bunch more sand and javelinas and plants built to defend themselves from foreign objects.

The way down is breezy, sweat cooling me, then drying. Down down into town and laughing, so happy to have escaped the cold east just for a bit, to have one last day of freedom here.

Curious how all this touring business got started? Read from the beginning.

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bb’s First Bike Tour: Planning

Best Laid Plans: Etymology

Shortened form of “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”, translated from Scots “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, / Gang aft agley,” from To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough by Robert Burns

All I could do was cry when I backed my car into a snowbank on the side of the driveway.  It was so cold I could see a large puff of smoke emerge from my mouth with every wracking sob. A truck drove by and I thought I saw it slowing down. It creaked to a stop at the side of the icey road. A tall thin man in a red flannel stepped out of the cab. I could have worshipped the pavement he stood on.

I was on my way to ship my bike to Tucson. It has to be shipped a full 10 days ahead of my flight in order to arrive in time so that the mechanics in the ship in Tucson can build it up. This was the last possible day I could mail the bike and have it arrive on time. If I didn’t make it to the bike shop today by noon, I’d arrive in Tucson on January 9th without my bike and a bank account without enough money to get a hotel.

Thanks to the trucker, I made it. He tried to push me out as revved the engine in reverse and the wheels spun. Eventually he got tired or frustrated (probably both) and hopped in the driver’s seat while I stood and watched. The car revved the car forward and back in the rut until finally, it zoomed out, the snow moving and piling in new formations in its wake.

I was able to mail the bike and it will arrive to Tucson a day before I do.

***

I always have some doubt about trips like this actually happening. Last spring I signed up for a marathon in Minnesota, trained for months, ran all around the state, and was struck down by the flu the day my flight was supposed to leave.

Thankfully I feel some good momentum right now. I pay attention to small signs of hope. My friend tells me the stars in the desert are stunning, and I am just able to afford the last of my gear purchases.

I’m writing this because I feel like explorers and adventurers always document their journey but they never talk about the messy stuff. Like what motivates them to actually go, and what kinds of dumb mistakes did they make to get them where they are. I’ve cried so many times over the past few weeks because planning is not my strong suit. I struggle to think ahead, to trust my own decisions, and to do things alone. The trip involves a lot of all three of those things, and so I at this point, I am tired. An adventure is not all glamour and conquest.

***

The question remains: what is it and what is it all for?

The trip is for some of these things and probably others that my body knows but which I can’t put into words:

self-discovery, healing, reclaiming power, joy, misery, experiencing the upside-down, seeing some cacti and some sunny sunsets.

I’ll keep you updated on preparations and key you in for the adventure as it unfolds.

8 days till take-off!

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Pepper confirms it’s cold as heck out here in New Hampshire! -8 degrees today

See how it all goes in the next post pre-departure.

The mountains sound like you

This is the last post for the Soudbytes zine, issue 2, “The Mountains.”

My own response to the question ‘Search and Rescue in the Whites’ was too long for me to afford to print but it’s been published by Misadventures Magazine. Please give it a read!

Thank you everyone for contributing to the zine and get going on all those beautiful submissions for round 3! The next question is ‘how does home sound?’ As usual, any and all answers are welcomed! A submission guarantees you a copy of the next issue.

Send them to me at 2121 13th Ave South, Minneapolis, MN 55404 or bethanymariahclarke@metrocast.net. It’s really best to keep the US Postal Service in business so snail mail is the way to go.

Lesson 1: expect the unexpected Lesson 2: just do it
Lesson 1: expect the unexpected
Lesson 2: just do it

The mountains echo with heartbeats

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ECHO OF AWE
sound so high
tone too steep
cry of cliff
echo of awe
image1
The poem above was submitted to the zine by Matt Soza of Laconia, New Hampshire. It’s simple and poignent words are accompanied by Matt Lanoue’s photographs of Gilford, New Hampshire. Lanoue wrote described his photographs to me in an email: “The first is a picture of Kimball Castle. The mountains here tell the story of New Hampshire history. One simply has to stop and listen. The second is a waterfall taken on the top of a mountain. It’s sound is the heartbeat of the mountain. A rhythm few people ever hear.”

The mountains make sound slowly

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In the White Mountains slow communication is really the only communication. Most of the AMC huts are at least 3 miles up the trail, out of cell service, and certainly not in WiFi proximity. Daily morning radio calls keep the hut staffs in communication with each other and the home base AMC offices at Pinkham Notch. On our bi-weekly truck trips, we filled the box truck with at least 100 boxes, and 9 oversized canvas green envelopes. In the boxes is the hut food for the next 3-4 days, and in the envelope is the mail. Hut croos pack their own envelopes down from the hut which include guest and croo communications. In Storehouse, we’re responsible for sorting this mail which comes down from the huts. I must have delivered thousands of letters! Hut croos send a specific kind of note (in Storehouse we called them love notes but the croos called them truck notes) which is often wrapped up in or written on the boxboard packaging the food in their hut. Most popular were the Annie’s Mac n’ Cheese boxes, prized for the flexible yet durable composition.

This zine submission came down from Hannah at Zealand Falls Hut in mid-July, a happy surprise in the green envelope. These are home made stamps printed with ink on the inside of Snickers bar boxes.