I’ve been off the grid for a day so if you want to read in order you might go back a day to my visit to Natural Bridges (just posted same day as this – no phone, no wifi, no running water – you get the idea).
Today was one of the most beautiful days of my trip. No coincidence it was one of the most isolated too. I guess that says something about my tastes for natural beauty over man-made (and my status as a true introvert I suppose too). Often I’ve thought that one of the best ways to make an area beautiful is just to leave it the hell alone for awhile. Today’s scenery was that taken to extreme – leave it alone for a few hundred million years and amazing things happen.
I left from Natural Bridges this morning and I new that I’d have either a long day, or a short one. I was hoping for a long day and set a goal for myself that if I made it to mile marker 50 (i.e. 50 miles from Hanksville) by noon, and I was still feeling strong, then I’d do the other 50 miles in the afternoon.
The morning ride was a breeze – mostly downhill for miles and miles though canyon after red canyon. Everywhere you look is red dirt, red rocks, red cliffs, highlighted by green juniper, green sage, green twisted cedars. Green on red everywhere. Really spectacular and the canyon types constantly change – every 15 minutes seems like I’d see another brand new impossible landscape.
Someone back in Blanding had mentioned to me that the mile markers between there and Hanksville would count down the miles to there. So with that stuck in my head I kept and eye on those while I rode. When I hit mile 86 I suddenly started thinking about 1986 – a pivotal year in my life when I graduated from Rice, spent the summer driving a cab in Houston, shared a house with Chuck and Jay,and then entered the Peace Corps. Wow, quite a year. So then when I hit 85, I thought about that year too, and 84 and so on down the line. Of course this set me off on one of my favorite ear worms for this trip – Steely Dan’s “Reeling in the Years” which seemed appropriate and I never mind anyway. After awhile it became a habit to examine the years this way (I latch onto things like this sometimes) and I kept it up all the way until 64, the year I was born. It was a really satisfying way to spend an hour or so – contemplating my life, in reverse, back through my childhood until there was little to remember. I highly recommend it sometime when you have the time.
The landscape here is vast, vast, vast. There really is no other way to think about it. Have you ever had the experience of looking out over the desert as you’re flying across Utah or Nevada and seeing all these canyons and valleys and wondering – where’s that? How do you get there? Well I’m there – I’m a little speck slowly traversing that landscape. And frankly I pity the folks blowing by in cars – they miss so much. Seems like I barely have time to take it all in at my leisurely pace before it changes to something else. Meanwhile the cars are running on up to the next attraction, missing much of what’s in front of them.
The other idea that got stuck in my head as the canyons got deeper, and more rocks seemed to teeter precariously over the road was that I had somehow pedaled my way into a Road Runner / Wyle E Coyote cartoon. I’m not sure what that says about my cultural education – most of the opera I know is from Bugs Bunny and when confronted with red canyons and desert landscapes I start keeping an eye out for falling anvils.
I’m not sure what it is about the time out here but spending some time in real isolation has been good for me. True introvert I suppose – I recharge by being alone whereas extroverts recharge by being with others. Anyway, the days in the desert sure were good for me and I didn’t know I’d lost it but I kind of feel like I got my mojo back.
Riding here can be frustrating though. About an hour after I left Natural Bridges I realized that the road had made a big loop and I was about a mile as a crow flies across the canyon from the road that I’d viewed the bridges from yesterday. I could see the road just across the canyon. The same thing happened as I crossed Lake Powell and I was barely across the lake from the store that I’d left 45 minutes earlier. C’est la vie – there’s no shortcuts in desert roads.
The other strange thing about being out in the middle of nowhere is that the cars that you do see seem so odd. Most of the day I would be passed by a car every 15 to 30 minutes – not very often really. So when the car comes and it’s a Frito-Lay truck you take notice. Hmm who needs potato chips in the desert? Of the 125 mile stretch that I traversed yesterday and today, there is exactly one store, in Hite, about 75 miles in (i.e. 50 miles from Hanksville). So OK, he’s headed there. Then I saw another Frito-Lay truck after passing through Hite. OK wait. Same truck or do we need 2 Frito-Lay trucks out here. At which point I suddenly realized that I had picked up a bag of Fritos when I stopped at the store in Hite for lunch. Oh god, I’m part of the problem.
The other strange vehicles that I saw were pickups pulling boats and jet skis. I realize this sort of makes sense because Lake Powell reaches Hite (now – it was too dry for years) and these folks are going to the lake to swim and fish and whatever. But I couldn’t get over how absurd it looks to be pulling a boat across the desert. I tried to get a pic but they move too damn fast.
I got into Hanksville on the late side and am treating myself to an air conditioned room for the night. I got one of the last one’s here and a shower never felt so good.