I did not get too far today, as my bicycle broke down. I woke up in my tent, in Strasburg, packed up, and rode away. I wished I had seen Reverend Miller, to thank him for giving me a safe place to spend the night. As I rode down the main street in town, a tractor-trailer rig honked its horn at me, and the driver waved me over to him. He stopped in the middle of the road, and asked where I was heading. I told him I was riding to Maine, via Florida. He honked and tooted his horn again, and wished me all the luck in the world. Little did I know that I would need it later in the day. I still had a few days worth of food in my packs, but I needed water, which I was able to get in Byers. As I left Byers, I double-checked everything, as one of the longest stretches without a town was coming up.
It was forty miles from Strasburg to Last Chance, and at eight miles an hour, a five-hour ride in good conditions. Unfortunately, I did not have good conditions. As I left Byers, it started to rain. Three hours later, my brand new bicycle fell apart. The next town, fifteen miles in front of me, was Last Chance, Colorado, the nearest behind me was a distant twenty five miles.
As water pounded on me in torrents, I walked my broken bicycle along the side of the highway. With all my gear, I was pushing ninety-five pounds uphill in the rain and mud. It was horrible. I was glad I brought good walking shoes. Each revolution of the front wheel produced a click from my odometer. A slow clink of metal against metal, reminding me of a metronome set to very slow. Every time a vehicle came along, I stuck my thumb out. After five miles of wet, cold misery, a tractor-trailer stopped and offered me a ride. I gladly strapped my bicycle to the empty flatbed, and jumped into the warm cab. Ironically, the truck was heading for Salina, Kansas. While the offer of a ride all the way to Kansas was tempting, I really wanted to ride on my own. I turned down this chance to get ahead of my schedule. The truck driver was surprised when I asked him to drop me off at the next motel. Some of my friends were driving out to meet me later in the day, and I hoped to have them pick up replacement parts and deliver them to me. As the truck crested a hill, there in front of me was the sprawling metropolis of Last Chance. At the intersection of two highways, there were only a few buildings, a motel and restaurant on one corner, a convenience store and gas station on another.
It was eleven thirty in the morning, when the astonished motel manager checked me in; eyeing the bicycle I had just unloaded from the truck. I quickly called my bicycle shop, and explained what had happened. Dave and Nick put together an emergency package for me, while I called my friends, to make sure they were not on the road yet. With all arrangements made, I took advantage of my refuge. Outside the rain had stopped long enough for me to cook the dinner I had packed.
It took me an hour to disassemble and clean the rear end of my bicycle, and get it ready for the parts from heaven.
This was literally my Last chance. I could ask my friends to pack my gear into the trunk, and go home with them. Yesterday, my first day, a couple of former classmates had found me, and after a long rainstorm, offered to take me home. I declined that offer, that chance to go home. Last night I had been kicked out of my campsite and had to ride to the next town at night, in the rain. Today, my bicycle had fallen apart, in a way that even surprised the bike shop when I had called them. Steve and friends were the last to come out and see me. If I let them go, I would have missed this chance. Then it would be up to me to find another way home on my own.
My oasis provided me with ample room to spread out my clothes and tent, as I had not sufficiently waterproofed my packs. Most of my clothing was wet. I had foolishly trusted the waterproofing, and failed to pack everything into garbage bags. Looking at the convenience store across the street, I knew what I had to do. I dashed through the rain, and slogged my way through the mud, bought a box of trash bags, and splashed my way back into my heated room.
Jill, Steve and Rodd showed up several hours later to find all of my possessions drying out. There were small puddles everywhere, underneath my tent, under my hanging clothes. The only dry places were the bed and chairs. We all loaded into Steve’s car and drove to the next town, Lindon, which was not any bigger than Last Chance, so that I could see the condition of the road, and figure out if I needed anything else.
The couple of hours we were together, I struggled with what to do. While there should have been six of us together, they had backed out one by one. Loneliness was not something I had ever experienced before, even though I had frequently hiked and camped by myself. Being robbed or mugged or some other bad thing did scare me. This was a new situation for me, having to decide whether to carry through on with a project that was a year of preparation, or abandon it within 72 hours of the start. This felt like the most important decision I would make. And going ONWARD was my answer. Looking back, I now realize that this was a decision I made daily since it was just me, my bike, and my grand adventure meeting the sunrise every morning.
After taking some pictures of each other, my saviors left. They departed after I turned down that final chance at a ride home. Repairing my bicycle took less than thirty minutes, and then I was ready to continue on the next morning. As my clothes were still soaking wet throughout, and there was nothing left for me to do, I took a nap. By evening, I was ravenous, and the rain had not stopped. Luckily, there was a Dairy King right next door. The smell of burgers wafted into my room, so I followed my nose to dinner. For dessert, I got a good night’s sleep in a warm bed.
As I floated off to sleep, I imagined I was still on the road, except it was flooded, becoming a fast flowing river, and I was riding a pedal-boat to Florida.