The people of Delta somehow knew I was leaving this evening and they ever so kindly let off a metric butt-ton of spectacular fireworks. They obviously knew that what I was about to attempt was challenging, gruelling and mentally demanding so they gave me an appropriate send off.
As it turns out the folks of Delta didn’t give a shit about riders risking their lives – instead they just wanted to celebrate their independence and freedom. Again on the wrong date but hey ho. I do chuckle to myself when an American mentions that they enjoy their freedom. We are anything but free. The closest we come to freedom is when we have utter disregard for stupid laws and have the good fortune to simply not get caught. End of freedom rant and back to riding…
Mentally, I was prepared for the impending desolation, blackness and sheer silence. Physically, a few more hours of sleep wouldn’t have gone amiss but I could only sleep for so long in the motel reception. After packing up and riding through Delta and Hinckley I passed the sign that was to signal a distinct lack of services for the next 83 miles. My GPS had 7 miles on the clock and the night was young, it was 23:00 and the temperature was perfect for riding.
30 miles down, the lights from Delta had faded into the distance. There was no artificial light as far as I could see. The sky was so clear though that the glow from the moon and the stars were enough to illuminate the road. There were times when I wasn’t using the head-torch and just completely star-struck. During my break I took a few long exposures of the stars, it was a surreal feeling that I couldn’t see anything around me – made even more surreal when after 15 minutes of utter silence my thoughts were interrupted by a very close “Mooooooo”. At this point I figured I was on an open range with no fences and promptly got back in the saddle before ending up inside a cow.
Not much longer after my break and the road started on an incline. This was not welcome, I was quite happy averaging 18mph on the flat, windless roads. I battled up them, ensuring they did not defeat me, and I was soon rewarded with a couple of short downhill sections. There was another long climb. I could tell because one of the few cars that had passed me was much higher than I was before disappearing over the crest of the summit. It is insane how far you can see lights in the distance, in fact judging any distance in the expanse of nothingness is difficult and hard to work out. I saw a cars beam for a full 20 minutes before it finally passed me. With a bit of maths it meant that I could see cars which were 15 miles into the distance. Mind asplode.
An 8% grade decline was my treat awaiting me. I was soon notching up 40mph in the darkness. Thankfully there were no suicidal chipmunks, deers, snakes, foxes or badgers tonight. Nothing would come across my path which I would squish and subsequently take a face full of tarmac. In fact, the only thing I got from riding this long downhill section was cold. When it came to turning the wheels again my body was riddled with goosepimples and I purposefully left the bike in a lower gear so I could peddle faster and get my body temperature up again. Worse than the cold though was the view. All I could see was the silhouettes of mountain ranges all around – I was going to have a massive climb before the night was over – my heart sank a little.
I soon hit it, the climb was on. Lowest gear engaged and all I can do is peddle my heart out. It was 3am and I figured that I would be on this climb as the sun was coming back up. It makes its daily appearance just after 5:30am and this mountain wasn’t getting any shorter. This climb was tough, I was back to sweating and not being able to gulp in enough water. My throat would constantly dry up and I was now feeling physically fatigued.
After an hours climbing I took a break. I inhaled a banana and took on much needed fluids. With slight delirium setting in, I took this opportunity to take a little snooze. I lay on the side of the road with my backpack for a pillow and managed to get 15 minutes of shut-eye before I woke with a start as a car zoomed past on the opposite side of the road. Feeling ever-so-slightly refreshed I forced myself back on the bike to attempt the rest of the climb.
The sun began to creep up through the canyons I was riding though and illuminated the red rock which surrounded my ascent. The steep, continuously winding road seemed to never end but then I saw it. I spied the green sign which meant I was approaching the summit. This, combined with a yellow sign (indicating a 6% downhill) made me almost weep with joy. I had an enormous smile across my face which only grew as I began the descent.
With the sun just beginning to rise from its snooze, it ignited the top of the mountains like candles atop a cake. The scenery, the colours, the smells, the road… it was just magical. It felt like things were falling into place, I was on such a high that I had completely forgot how tired I was.
At the bottom of this descent there were 17 more miles to go. I could see a lone building in the distance. It seemed like it would be the motel I was aiming for, but surely I couldn’t see 17 miles away. Puzzled as to what it might be (seemingly only 4 or 5 miles away) I carried on riding to take a closer look. Five miles down and still this building hadn’t got much closer, this was insane. I was peddling hard and with the lack of sleep, I was questioning myself. “Did this building even existed? Am I moving at all?”.
I had to take a break with ten more miles to go – my body was simply not working properly, I was aching and in dire need of more energy. It was such a bizarre sensation to go from a feeling of sheer awe and inspiration to that of desperation and frustration. Forcing myself back on the bike again I mustered the last amount of energy I could from my legs. They were beginning to wobble, shake and burn but I could see the finishing line, I couldn’t give up with that in sight.
This was not pretty riding, I was all over the place. I was zigzagging across the road, my upper body was swaying – not staying rigid like it should. I was trying to eek out every drop of energy I could to get to this deceiving motel. Ragged and exhausted, I slumped over my handlebars as I rolled into the car park. I collapsed on the floor outside before pulling myself together and seeing if they had any rooms.
They did but I had to wait a couple of hours for it to be cleaned. I forced a rather large breakfast down and played pool whilst waiting for my room to be ready. It wasn’t too much longer before I got to go and collapse in the large comfy double bed. Air conditioning is a modern day miracle and although it was 105 F outside I was chilling nicely inside. Did you know that the overflow hole in a sink has a name? It’s called a porcelator.