I’m going to stop writing about how cold it is here. It’s not very interesting to see more pictures of frozen water bottles, frozen milk, frozen fingers, and general frozen misery. However, today was another cold fucking day.
Apparently I had not eaten my ration of 7000 kcal and yesterday’s 90 mile ride left me feeling tired this morning. I rode along the frontage road talking with Kristie and looking for the strength and vitality that I had somehow dropped along the way. I didn’t find it.
The first leg of today’s 75 miler to Valentine ended in Van Horn. A great way to show that you are not from West Texas is to pronounce Van Horn with the emphasis on the word Horn. That shows you are from a place called not here. The proper way to pronounce Van Horn is with the accent on the word “Van.” It was about 30 miles from camp in Sierra Blanca and going to take forever. Before you begin the 6-mile descent into Van Horn, you have to climb gradually for many miles and then finally you go up a relatively easy 2 or 3-mile climb. Of course the keyword is relatively. If you feel like shit, that climb feels horrible, and I felt like shit. I was finally taking a pull after Kristie had dragged me for about 10 miles and we were not too far from the top. Suddenly off to the side I saw a man.
It’s always bothersome when you see anyone on the side of an interstate, but when that person is not associated with a vehicle of any kind you get really worried. And then, when the man is running around setting up paper shopping bags that appear to have writing on them and scurrying off and back and then looking at you as you approach, you get really really really worried.
I was bonking. I thought I was hallucinating. I knew I was going to have to deal with either a vision or a crazy person because the closer I got the more obvious it became that he was looking at me. The first paper bag had “free ice cream” written on it. Yeah, on the interstate, in the middle of fucking nowhere, on a cold December day, free ice cream. Sure. The other paper bag said “Retire(d)” on it. This was weirder than the free ice cream offer because there was a dirt road leading immediately off the interstate down into a deep ditch that was invisible from the shoulder of the freeway. What was he doing? Trying to lure cyclists into the back of his van? Or was he a retired person starting a second career putting new tires on 18-wheelers? If so I didn’t see how anyone could read the signs on those little paper bags.
There’s only one thing you can do at moments like this, and it is best phrased “every man for himself.” I hoped Kristie was able to sprint pass this insane person better than she was able to sprint past those chasing dogs. Because I was gone.
As I got out of the saddle and began to swing dangerously close to the travel lane on the interstate, I saw the man laughing. “Seth!” he said.
Then it all made sense. The only person who could be giving away free ice cream and tires on the side of the interstate would have to be a friend of mine. That’s the only kind of crazy that would make sense in this matrix. Turns out it was Steve Katz from Fort Davis, the trial lawyer and cyclist who has been a friend in word and now a friend in deed at my moment of bonk.
We went down into the little ravine where Steve had set up a picnic lunch for us with delicacies such as ice cream, cinnamon rolls, chicken sandwiches, applesauce, cheesecake, and a mobile bicycle repair van. Along with a floor pump, he had spare tubes, spare cartridges, and a fresh tiny bottle of chain lube.
“Seth, I got tired of looking at your melanomas.” He handed me and Kristie a box inside of which was the world’s biggest dork hat. However as someone who rides around on a bike in wool pants, wool jacket, tennis shoes, and things bound to his bicycle with twine, I don’t think that the word “dork” is an insult as much as it is a factual description. The hat had a big brim, a drawstring, and it fit like a glove, or rather like a hat. We got back on our bikes.
“Look, you still have about four hours before you get to Valentine. Give me a shopping list and I will get you what you need and drop it off there.”
“Sausage,” I said.
“That is a mighty short shopping list. Tell you what, I will get you some extra water and your sausage and I will put it behind the library in Valentine. I have checked out the town, and that looks like the best place for you to camp.”
We finished lunch and continued on. Steve drove past us a few minutes later. The ride to Valentine was endless. As you would expect from any lawyer cyclist, steve was a complete liar. He had told us that from Van Horn the rest of the way was pancake flat with a tailwind. “You got it made!”
Turns out that from Van Horn we had 38 miles of mostly uphill headwind riding and it wore us down into shit and by “us” I mean “me.” The last 20 miles Kristie just went to the front and pulled like a monster. I whimpered but didn’t say anything because I wanted to get there, too. Finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I asked her to let me take a pull so I could at least ride slowly. She shrugged and let me pull for a few minutes before the beating resumed.
Just outside Valentine there is a Prada store. I didn’t know what Prada was but apparently it is an expensive thing that people by to show that they know how to give their money to other people in large quantities in exchange for shit. It sounds a lot like cycling.
After photographing the Prada store we continued into Valentine. It is a tiny town of 200 people and you would think that two people with three degrees could find the library. You would be wrong. We finally gave up and asked a bus driver, who looked at us as if we were idiots. Wait a minute, why do I say “as if”?
The directions were complex. “Well, you go straight on the street and that’s the library right there,” she said.
“Oh,” I said. What I didn’t say was “I have been wayfinding all the way from Los Angeles, but I am too stupid to find a library in a town that only has one street.” I didn’t have to say it. It was kind of understood.
We got to the library and began to set up when we noticed that there was a care package of sorts on a pile of bricks. “Oh, that must be the sausages and the water that Steve left.”
I was only partially right. He had left multiple types of delicious sausage, more sandwiches, fresh fruit, salad, milk, eggs, more cheesecake, cookies, and potato chips. There were also onions, cheddar cheese, and a birthday cake.
What kind of person waits for you for three hours on a deadly interstate, feeds you, finds you a free campsite, stocks it up with food, and then offers you a place to stay when you get another 40 or 50 miles up the road the next day.
I’ll tell you what kind of person. A damn good one.