There comes a time in every young man or woman's life when something happens that changes the world irrevocably for them. The air they breath smells cleaner, the glowing light of a sunset seems brighter and the colours of a rainbow seem richer than ever before. From that moment on it seems they can achieve anything if they set their mind to it. A new world of possibility stretches off into the distance ahead of them. Holly experienced this moment around a week ago lying in a motel somewhere in Northern Utah (ahem, it's not that kind of website I'm afraid)
“Shit!”, exclaimed Hol at about 6am.
I was woken from an unusually warm slumber as we had decided to take a break from camping in sub zero temperatures. My eyes adjusted to the gloom. It seemed important as Hol was sat bolt upright in bed, wide eyed and mouth agape.
“Have you felt my legs?” she continues. I lie their confused.
“They're MASSIVE... No seriously Nick, wake up.... They're absolutely MASSIVE!”. I fumbled around and gave them a tentative squeeze, and I must confess, long gone were any remnants of long bus trips and lying on beaches and in it's place there was this compact, ginger highly tuned cycling dynamo. I had been pleased that we were getting fitter and fitter and eating up the mountains with seeming ease, but it became clear that behind my back over the last 1,400 miles Hol had undergone a miraculous transformation from vino sipping, crisp munching, burger terrorizing hedonist to a finely honed turbo on the back of the bike. The realisation was so sudden that she insisted on running up and down in the car park marveling that the aforementioned legs and ass refused to wobble at all. It was an emotional time for both of us.
Since that revelation we have continued tearing up the miles. Pre departure we had been given some simple warnings from a buddy Smithy who had cycled from East to West coasts a while back. “Beware the south. Beware the Dogs. Beware Utah. Do not fear the mountains” Hol had only just escaped the dogs, we didn't need convincing about the South and had conquered the highest passes of the trip. This left Utah. As we crossed the state line after having a great time in Colorado, the road immediately changed to broken asphalt and gravel and there was a 40mph headwind. Smithy seemed to be an astute prophet. However, Utah was spectacular even if the roads were crap, buying beer was a mission and people didn't seem to like outsiders. Amongst other things we rolled down the epic canyon of the Colorado River to Moab where the opening scenes of Mission Impossible 2 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed, we did our biggest day yet at 115 miles and broke a new speed record of 48.9mph leaving Hol a little jumpy and the (bike) rims steaming.
We have also found the people of Utah to be an odd mix. There was the UPS delivery guy in Green River who asked us our route and told us, “You damn crazy to ride that road. That's the most dangerous road in America. Full of craaaazy people who don't know how to drive. You'll be lucky to make it alive”. A touch dramatic, lightened only slightly by his ironic farewell of “Have a nice day”. As it was we cruised along with only a puncture and a bit of sunburn for our troubles.Then there was our new best friend KP from Red Rock cycles in Vernal. We took Carlos in who was rattling and groaning with the wheels about to collapse from too many mountains descents and crap roads. We got the bike a full service, new pedals for Hol, new tubes, new chain oil, gears checked, straightened wheels and new cables amongst many other things and he wouldn't accept a cent from us. He was so excited about the trip he just wished us well and best of luck. Incredible kindness.
We are now in Wyoming and have enjoyed shorter rides as we take it easy to meet my Dad for 4 days off in Jackson. We seem to be dodging bad weather with horror stories always being relayed from our stop 3 days ahead. Blizzards, storms, hot hail amongst other things. But so far we have had calm sunny days in Wyoming as the Teton mountains close in on us from both sides. That said camping has become a real test. We are up on the plains at 7,000ft and average temperature at night is 1 or 2 degrees below. As the 'comfort range' of the mega-compact sleeping bags is from 8 to 20 degrees it means wearing all we can in bed and zipping the bags up so just a nose is poking out. Twinned with a diet of canned chili, fig rolls and prunes I now shiver whenever we see a cookery book of Utah's speciality; the Dutch Oven.
In summary all is well and we can't wait for a few days off. Levels of fitness are climbing ever higher, levels of maturity are stooping ever lower. This was thrown into sharp relief when touring the Mountain Man museum in Pinedale today. It's hard not to snigger at the opening panel that says 'for hundreds of years... the hatters of the civilised world had raised a cry for beaver'. When they are then referred to as 'little hairy dollars' or there is a sign pointing to an authentic 'beaver muff' in the clothing section it's hard not to chortle. Hope all is well back in England. Reading The Hobbit is making us both long for proper ales and green rolling hills. Send our love to the shire.
Photos of the last 4 states are here for anyone who wants to catch a look as well:
Texas and New Mexico
Colorado and Utah