Sunday, 20 October 2013

Day 15 - Trying to make it to the end of the world

Trying to make it to the end of the world
Trying to make it to the final 3rd
Whenever I fall down you pick me up
Whenever I fall to pieces you put me back together
You keep on telling me
You keep on telling me to believe

The above song struck a chord with me today... after the hell of yesterday, I woke up this morning with a new outlook on life... saw the weather channel -predicting strong westerly winds but knew I had to get today done.
I had a leisurely breakfast.. too leisurely I guess and poked my head outside to be pleasantly surprised... no wind. I got cracking and headed to the interstate and the first 2 miles were glorious. The sun was out, it was warm, a gentle breath of wind, a bit of downhill. Life good again. Turned westwards and was hit by a wall, the same wall that had conquered me yesterday. Only this time, I set my teeth, faced up to the wind and stamped on the pedals, determined to beat this today.
You see, I couldnt change the wind direction and couldnt change the direction of the road, the only thing I could choose to change, was how I reacted to it. I could once again accept that I was going to have a crap day or I could choose to take the wind head on and score a personal victory. And try and enjoy....
Difficult but not impossible... I was grateful it wasnt cold or raining for starters and once again the view was to die for.
The first 5 hours were spent on an almost constant climb, none too severe, just relentless. Upward was the only way, do I turned up the music to try and drown out the howling wind and kept the legs going round. Unfortunately, due to the constant battering, I was going at best 8mph and that was on the short sections of downhill, which I would normally reach speeds of up to 30mph!
If you want to get some idea of the experience you could do one of 2 things: Drive along at 25 mph, lower your window and stick out your hand, palm facing forwards.. that is how much I was being battered. To replicate the effort, go to the gym, get on a bike and put the gears to 14 or 16. Pedal for 1 hour, then multiply that by 12 in your head and that was my day!
Im not complaining (too much). Every stop I had (one 5 min every hour) I sat up, and took in the views.... once again vast desolation, making me feel very insignificant in the grand scheme of things and although I had cars and lorries passing my left, I was in my own headspace and felt like I was in a bubble of my own, with my thoughts to keep me company

Some of these thoughts were turned to melanie sykes and her family. Melanie lost her fight a few days ago and is the friend of a friend. Although i never knew her, i feel connected to each and every one of the names on these flags and feel a responsibility  to get them to the end of the pier. I had been asked to get a photo of her name in a nice spot and in due course i managed that... the story of the picture comes later but today i rode for melanie....

so i battled and battled, mile after mile (i am not exaggerating) - i fought tooth and claw, crawling along at best. It didnt matter though, today it was going to take me as long as it took, and although albuquerqe (yes that bloody place again) once again seemed to be slipping out of reach, i continued to hope that conditions would improve. This continued for 50 ish miles, when finally i came to a good place to stop for food. By this time it was 1pm, and although tired of wind,  my determination to see this day through hadnt waned in the slightest.

At this stop I met my boost for the day.. a young couple, Austin and Jess (hope I have remembered the names correctly) asked me what I was doing. So we chatted for 15 mins or so about cycling (They wanted to do a bike trip from utah, where they live), the charity and swopped stories. Once again, this made my day. They were kind enough to give me a can of monster, gratefully received and we parted, hopefully to stay in touch, maybe even to see them at the gig In LA. (yes gig, not concert... you know who you are)

Having eaten, i had hoped that the next stage would be better, but once again, got greeted by my old friend, headwind... and so it continued.  It was around this time that i tried to get the photo of melanie's name on the flag as the scenery was breathtaking, but the strength of the wind made it impossible, so on i went.
A few miles later, the wind dropped slightly and i thought that this was my chance... i had severe difficulty trying to unclip my cleats on both sides, and had pain shooting up my left (possibly fractured) foot. I could not unclip and in exasperation, said out loud, "cmon, give me a break". I swear i heard laughter shortly before a violent gust put me to a complete standstill, leaving me no where to go but down on my backside... and apparently my finger also cos a chunk of flesh is now missing.
Ironically it made me laugh, as i stood up, i again said out loud, "apparently not then"... fortunately my damaged finger was the worst of my injuries. However i did manage to get the photo this time...
onwards and upwards went the road and conditions not improving in the slightest. I had been promised for the last 20 or so miles a place called clines corners, a famous Route 66 stop off point and eventually after another few hours of hard graft i got there. It was half 5pm and daylight was running out with 15 or so miles to go. My strategy at this point was to eat now, to save eating later and hope that with the sun disappearing over the horizon, the winds would die down..and they did a bit, which meant that after food, i could up the mph slightly.
Shortly after this i reached the plains marker which indicated that i had climbed to 6500 Feet and ticked another box.
There was still a sting In the tail in the form of another long drag uphill, one that lorries had their hazards on all the way up, but was determined to make it to the top. Eventually i did, and stopped and appreciated the calm and peace of the moment.... The last 12 miles were downhill, facing the setting sun, disappearing over the tops of the distant mountains and silloughetting them against the dusk sky and although those mountains carried the promise of pain tomorrow, i felt nothing but sincere joy to be alive and witness to such beauty. This was my reward today.
Because of the drop in windspeed and the gentle downhill gradient, i was making good speed, trying to outrun the dark. I couldn't so the last 5 miles saw my world narrow to a spot of light from my headtorch, and occasionally expand, with the car headlights. I went slowly, mainly to avoid debris and a puncture and although far from Ideal and slightly nervewracking, it added to the sdventure and achievement of the day.
so i crawled into Moriarty, a town that had been imploring me to stay the night on billboards 100 miles ago. It felt like destiny that i was to be here. Albuquerqe was once more out of reach today, and im still slightly behind schedule, but today felt like victory, not defeat. 
Which is why the song lines rang true, you all have been putting me back together every night with your posts and words of envouragement and you tell me to believe... after today i have a little more belief that i will carry these flags to the end of the world.