Here is part five of this ongoing attempt to utilize FanNation to spur me to the completion of a book-length manuscript. We are now in the final days of waiting before the ride begins...
Have you missed the other parts? Just joining at this point in the story? Here's links to the previous posts:
There were still some issues to address before we set out in earnest on our blitzkrieg of Wyoming, though. While I had survived my endeavor to reach the summit, the trouble with my gearing as I made the voyage was both puzzling and ominous. This would surely have to be remedied before I headed out on the path across the state, and while I had learned more about mechanics than I had ever thought possible during the summer I still knew better than to try to fix this on my own. Zeke was as much if not more puzzled than I about the repeated slippage. I took my bike into Fitzgerald's, knowing that if anyone could figure out the problem it would be their mechanics. I was left without a bike for the next day as they tweaked my cables and derailleur to get Frankenstein fully operational.
This is the greatest risk when cobbling a bicycle together from disparate parts, that the conflicting pieces will fail to operate together to their maximum potential. Problems can go unnoticed for months until, at the most inopportune moment, something malfunctions or snaps or stops working altogether. I had logged hundreds of miles over the resort season. The bicycle seemed to be working properly as I rode it around on those long summer evenings, responding perfectly to my every twitch. This is why it is crucial to test a bicycle in every possible situation it might face en route before embarking on a tour -- it took a sustained effort climbing to recognize the flaw in the lower range of the drivetrain. Without that shakedown ride suffering up Teton Pass I could easily have been stuck pushing my bicycle up every hill to come, a far worse fate than a delayed start to our ride.
In the interim Zeke and I waited, our window of opportunity narrowing as another day of the fickle Rocky Mountain autumn passed by without our departure. All we could do is bide our time, honing our routes and looking inward. We were back at my parent's house, my childhood home, the season coming to a close on the main resort. Our gear was strewn about the lawn as yet another inventory yielded pieces we could do without and others we had forgotten. The trick lie in ensuring that every essential article was packed on the bicycles without any extraneous weight being brought along for the ride. Every pound, every ounce, every gram tagging along for the trip is one extra that must be toted the entire way. Just like ultralight hikers navigating the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails, a touring cyclist is constantly working to reduce weight anywhere possible. Straps get cut down, bags packed and repacked... I found myself staring at my clothing, wondering whether I really needed three changes of socks or merely two. The need for a diversion in camp gets weighed against how much one thinks they are really going to read on the road. I debated for a long while about the need for a radio. I fought with the decision to bring a cellular phone. Every piece of gear gets scrutinized time and time again when there is nothing left to do but wait for the bike to come out of the shop.
Zeke and I loaded into my parent's Ford Taurus station wagon the next morning to retrieve my ride. The drive into Jackson passed peacefully, an old Grateful Dead concert bootleg in the tape deck as the Tetons stood sentinel to the west. I tried to observe every feature of the road, knowing that tomorrow we would be riding out on this same route to finally commence the first leg of our tour. We stopped at Dornan's in Moose to see Thomas, trying to supplement our meager medicinal rations before embarking. Not to be found anywhere, we figured we would check for him tomorrow as we rode through. Back in the car, we drove past the airport and arrived soon thereafter in town. The tourists had mostly deserted the town for the off-season. We made our way past the town square and headed down Broadway. Turning toward the brew pub, we circled around back and parked the car. Walking up to Fitzgerald's, we saw an immaculate selection of the new Orbea models parked inside and outside the garage door entry.
The bike was back in commission. It turned out that there was a spacing problem between the front derailleur and rear derailleur, and a few millimeters in the form of a spacer was all that was needed to remedy the issue. I climbed aboard and took a few spins around the lot, shifting up and down to feel the click of the gears. Satisfied that, at last, I was dialed in well enough to head out into the unknown, I paid the mechanic and tipped him a fiver. Popping off the front tire, I opened the hatchback and tucked the bicycle inside. Already afternoon, all that was left to do was to get home and wait for morning.
My mother was having the guys she worked with in conventions over for the evening for a lasagna dinner. Zeke and I joined the festivities, taking full advantage of the opportunity to pack more carbohydrates into our system in advance of the tour. After dinner, fatigue took hold of me. The dilemma came now whether to crash in Zeke's RV on the couch, as I had been for the past few days, or to have one last slumber in my old bedroom. Already in a full disconnect mode from everything the resort represented, I chose the former despite its decreased comfort. After having avoided the room all summer long, preferring to remain at Colter Bay in my private dorm room, I just could not bring myself to take a last trip down memory lane. The room had switched several times throughout my life anyway; after I moved out of the house after high school, my parents took over the room which had been mine. I smoked a cigarette with my father before strolling through the grass to the RV. Sitting with an old copy of VeloNews, I tried to will myself to sleep by the dim light in the forward cabin of the Bounder. Eventually I found my bearings and drifted fitfully into slumber.
The next morning I awakened late. Stumbling out of the RV onto the grass, I wandered into the house and made my way to the restroom. I stepped into the same shower which I had been entering in the morning since I was in kindergarten, feeling the sweat from the night's fractured rest pour away with the hot water down the drain. I stepped out and toweled off. I donned my Snake River Brewing jersey and a pair of black shorts and headed into the dining room. The synthetic fabrics clung to my skin as I sat down for a late breakfast. My mother had pancakes ready on the table for Zeke and I to pack in a few more calories before heading out on the road. We choked down the stacks as quickly as possible. Noon was already nearing, and we would have to get started soon if we were to make it to at least Jackson before dark. We stepped out the front door and onto the lawn. I took my last long looks around the neighborhood, saying my nominal good-byes and giving my parents a hug each before straddling the saddle. With all its weight, the bike listed from side to side as I clipped first one foot, then the other, into the pedals. Zeke took the lead and the trailer, Wiley grinning in his chariot. We rounded out of the employee housing and turned left. Soon we were on the highway and southbound. The odyssey had finally commenced.