The tour continues on... the story continues as we head out on the second leg of the tour...
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We shared a cup of coffee with our good Samaritan before restuffing our sleeping bags into their sacks and rain bags and strapping them back on the rear racks of our bicycles. I threw on a full compliment of gear, pulling my weatherproof pants over my padded shorts and a long-sleeve jersey before tightening gloves and helmet. Wiley, already attuned to the rhythms of a bike tour from several previous trips in the trailer with Zeke, hopped aboard, ready for the day ahead.
Zeke headed out of the garage first, following the Subaru back out toward the main road. Our host had errands to run and was kind enough to lead us back out of the subdivision maze. She honked as she turned back on the main road toward Jackson; we waved as she drove off before turning in the opposite direction toward Hoback.
The first few miles out of town wound along yet more bike trails separate from the highway. Without any interference from other traffic, a cyclist can really unwind and start to enjoy his surroundings. Frost dotted the grassy fields on either side of the bike path. The air nipped through the skin-hugging Lycra here and there, sending intermittent chills through the body as we kept a steady pace on the trail. After about fifteen minutes of riding, we popped back out onto the highway and took our vigilant posts fore and aft as we rode alongside trucks and trailers.
Not yet an hour had passed since we'd taken to the road, and we were already in Hoback Junction. Zeke wanted to check the tire pressure in the trailer. He said it felt as though he were pulling the thing through mud. Sure enough, the high-volume tubes had drained most of their air, yielding large impressions at the slightest touch of the thumb. Zeke snatched a quarter from his bag and went to the air compressor at the edge of the parking lot. We would be moving even more efficiently now that we had discovered the flats.
I wanted to keep moving. The day was cool but not too cold, and the faster I pedaled the warmer the day felt. We crested the incline to head up out of the southern tip of the valley and toward Hoback Canyon. At the top of the rise was a viewpoint. We turned into the area, hungry for breakfast and ready to refuel for the hours ahead. Oatmean went into a pot with banana chips and yogurt cranberries. Another pot sat over a second denatured-alcohol stove, heating water for our coffee.
We were only fifty miles into this ride, barely started on our second day, and we were already starting to crave food at most every moment. The oatmeal was thickening as I threw a couple of scoops of vanilla protein powder in as well from the one of the stuffed two-gallon bags we each were carrying. Figuring it couldn't be any worse than powdered non-dairy creamer, I tossed a scoop in with my coffee.
It worked. It was delicious. Later we would fine-tune the mix, adding hot chocolate powder to the cup and stirring to create protein-laced mochas. This epiphany helped answer two of our fundamental problems: How could we palatably get pound after pound of protein powder into our bodies without hating the stuff, and how could we do it consistently so that it would progressively reduce the substantial weight of each parcel from our loads? We swigged our mugs of vanilla coffee and I made quick work of the oatmeal. Staring down the trail, I started to visualize the ride ahead. This would be the first time I had seen this route from the seat of a bicycle. This was the start of the unknown.
Zeke, sensing my ambition to get going, handed me a couple of things to shift into my bags and told me to go ahead without him. We would meet up later, but he sensed that I needed to be unleashed. Wiley watched somewhat forlornly, anxious himself as he sat still while I headed off. The two of them faded behind as they lazily finished their own breakfasts. I was soon heading down the slightly downgraded canyon road, holding twenty-five miles an hour.
I had completely underestimated my strength on the bicycle. The long summer nights had obviously worked wonders on my fitness levels. The Hoback River coursed along to my left, high rock walls to my right, as aspen leaves rippled in the wind sweeping at my back. I had found another gear; I was riding more free than I had ever before moved under my own power. Mile after mile flowed past effortlessly, all a blur. A few cars passed, and I tried to draft each of them for a distance before settling back into the pace.
I popped out of the canyon into another valley, buildings dotting the landscape here and there. Bondurant had appeared on the horizon. I stopped at the first store. Setting the bike against a weathered fence post, I put my helmet atop the seat and walked into the place. I grabbed several items off the shelves, a Snickers bar and some jerky and a couple of drinks and jelly beans. As I set the items down to pay, I looked out the window.
Clouds were swarming in over the hills around town. The sky was getting grayer and grayer by the minute, and I started to ponder where Zeke and Wiley might be along the road. I stepped out the door and decided to wait for the two to arrive in Bondurant. If this weather was going to turn for the worse, two riders would be better equipped to deal with the situation than one. Besides, he had the stoves -- without him, I'd be resigned to spooning protein powder straight from bag to mouth for my requisite calories, not the most enticing of options.
I sat down on the grass next to my bicycle and pulled out a tattered copy of a Carlos Castaneda book. A quick rummage through the frame bag found a cigarette and a lighter, and I was soon relaxing on the lawn near the store, which was part of a larger complex consisting of motel rooms and a diner. If the situation deteriorated and I couldn't find the other two, at least there would be some means of getting a hot meal tonight.