Think Dream Team (Days Seven and Eight)
Day Seven started as the first time that we would have any guest riders with us; when John showed up having just learned how to ‘clip in’ using road bike pedals and shoes the night before, I guess it would make sense that we were a touch concerned, both for him and for the mission; there is absolutely nothing in between Fallon and Austin NV, including cell coverage, so if he was going to have problems, we would all be having problems. But…he showed up early and prepared and still had his mojo. So we went with it.
The course was long, hilly and very hot. It started with some pretty cool salt flats just east of Fallon. Those salt flats sure make for some dry air! You tend to be wearing the salt as much as seeing it. The course led us over some small mountains and through some valleys and we passed the Pony Express Route, which added a sense of history. Great distraction and I needed it. The valleys were at times guarded by mountains that were probably about 10 miles out on either side, or sometimes only 100 yards. In most cases, there were snowy caps, which is always weird to see when the temps below are in the 90s. At one point, there were rocked walls that shot up about 1500 feet, and they rose (straight up) just a few feet from the shoulder of the road. It was strikingly beautiful. The last three miles of the course would be described by Mince as ‘a real kick in the stones’, as the road rose to the hilly mining town of Austin. We had to climb another 1500 feet at mile 110 (yes, the route was 113, not 110).
For me, this was the toughest day so far, at least mentally. Despite drinking 17 bottles of water (literally), I was dehydrated. I was a bit nauseous from the altitude combined with the energy that I had to expend to get up the hills. I did fine and wasn’t lagging, but I was miserable. In truth, what got me up a certain hill around mile 80, before I got my second wind, was remembering Amaya Williams, and how she jumped into Kevin’s arms by her daddy’s gravesite just days before. How, at the kickoff dinner, when she complained of a blister, my friend Kevin dropped everything to find her a Band-Aid. How she has hope because of the community that has gathered for her. I wanted to be part of that, and I would be disqualified and branded a ‘shlubb’ or a ‘shlepp’ (ask Mincio or one of his Long Island friends for definitions/distinctions here) if I were to succumb to the misery. So, I pressed on. It sucked.
It was a huge win to do so, and we all finished together. Yup, Johnny O.D. is a beast, and he told us mid-ride, while red faced and clearly unaccustomed to the type of exercise that he was doing that he would ‘never, ever quit’. I’m very proud to call him a friend today.
We checked in to our motel rooms and staggered like zombies to get some food at the ‘International Café, which is very liberal in using a word like ‘International’. Good people, of course, though! During dinner, Johnny got a phone call from a fight promoter asking him if wanted to take on a cage match in late July; pretty interesting to hear how that stuff works, as his questions revolved around what weight he’d have to hit, how much the assignment would pay, who the opponent would be, etc. Then, he called his workplace to cover his shift the following day, and to our surprise he again declared that he was going to ride with us in the morning! Beast!
I woke up a few times in the middle of the night because of being out of breath, which made me realize how hard we had worked on Day Seven.
Day Eight started with a 2000 foot climb, right out of the gates. The good news is that we were fresh and it was ‘Easy like a Sunday Morning’. After that, we watched as the landscape went from a brown desert-like haze to a green, living ecosystem. Then, it was another magnificent descent. This one was too beautiful to describe, as mountain ledges brought vistas of sister mountains miles and miles away, and the lower we got, the bigger the trees and greener the purpose of the stretch. It really was amazing. We were cruising, above 40MPH most of the time.
There were some good hills after that, but nothing compared to Day Seven (much less Day Three!). At the tail end of Day Eight’s course, I was ahead of the others a bit until Kevin came cruising up and we decided to break speed limits on our bikes as we finished up. But, near the end (funny how it’s never over til it’s over!) some pretty severe gusts picked up just 3 miles from Eureka. While some of them were crosswinds that had us swerving, we were more intrigued at the way they picked up dust, sand and decaying shrubs, whipping them around like a mini, harmless tornado. For some reason I thought of Jimi Hendrix saying, ‘…two riders were approaching, and the winds began to howl…”. Makes sense, right?
It was great to have John and Sharon for these two days. I hope John can walk tomorrow! He plans to rejoin us later in the trip, and we would love to have him come out again. The last two days reminded me that when good people come together for a great cause, exceptional things happen. We had the opportunity to lend opportunity.
Got to bed early last evening; Mince and I had to get up at 6AM to do a radio show. Now we’re suiting up for 80 miles and 5,000 feet to Ely, NV. No rest for the opportunistic. For the Families of the Fallen…To the Limit.
Care Creates Community,