Capitol Reef to halfway up a mountain - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

July 2, 2014

Capitol Reef to halfway up a mountain

Another mystery of nature
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SOMETIMES people tell you the most enormous drivel. Especially when it comes to big hills. But just now and then they get it right. And the gloomy truth can come from the most unlikely sources.

The woman in charge of breakfast at the burger bar a short walk from the hotel back at Hanksville looked the sort who never went further than the tobacconist. She leaned across her side of the counter and said, "Help yourself to all you want" in a tone that suggested she hadn't paid for it and, the more I took, the less she had to clear up afterwards. She had ginger hair and too much eye make-up and she looked as though a good night's sleep wouldn't do her any harm. Not the sort to know about cycling.

"Ya goin' west?", she asked. "Through Torrey?"

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I said I was.

"Boy," she said, "have you gotta hill ahead of you!"

I smiled the non-commital smile of a man who had crossed continents and deserts and racing rivers, the sort to whom a mere hill was as nothing. And I obliged her by taking another sticky bun and returning to my seat by the window.

Bit of bygone America beneath the mountain
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The trouble, of course, is that sometimes people really do know what they're talking about. The road began climbing straight away. And it climbed and climbed. It climbed in a bad-tempered way to what looked like a ridge but then disappointed. It climbed steeply and without concession. And when it got to Torrey, it paused for breath and went downhill to a river and then started all over again.

The curious geology continued all day
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Of course, when you're having a hard time in bottom gear, riding a hill suited to a ladder, the last thing you want is someone cheerfully riding downhill the other way.

"I don't want to mislead you," the smiling girl from London said, "but it's another 10 miles."

She was travelling alone, heading for the east coast.

"And never yet has anyone asked if you don't find it dangerous being by yourself?", I asked.

She laughed. Then, spotting Karen, she said: "Yoe toe togevver?" in a delightful south London accent, apologised for what she was about to say and leaned forward half-confidentially and said: "The other day an American woman told me 'But you are carrying a gun, aren't you?'"

She laughed again.

"I've had nothing but help all the way," she said. "Sometimes I wonder if you're not actually safer as a woman travelling alone."

She was forgiven for riding downhill with the wind. We were less obliging towards the pair we met half an hour later, a tall, fair and reasonable man and a shorter, darker guy who shouted annoying or blindingly obvious comments from the other side of the road.

"You goin' south of the Adventure Cycling route?", he scoffed. He pronounced it rout, like a military defeat. "That ain't good. That's 115 degrees in Las Vegas today and you gonna be only 150 miles north o' there. Wouldn't go that way if I were you."

And then: "Sure hope you guys like climbing. You gotta a whole bunch o' that ahedda ya."

In the closing words of an Australian journalist famous in 1950s Britain for exposing sex dens and being propositioned, we made our excuses and left.

In the end the climb did get too much. It just got steeper and the weariness of doing nothing all day but play tricks on the horizon proved too much. Karen was all for riding further, to lessen the climbing she'd have in the morning, when she's at her weakest. But I asserted my masculine authority and sulked and said that unless we turned immediately into the forest campground on our left, I would cry and sulk for the rest of the evening.

But I didn't need to. No sooner had we set up than she employed what she calls her hunter-gatherer technique and procured two fizzy drinks and a bottle of beer. Sometimes I think this girl is worth all the effort.

Today's ride: 40 km (25 miles)
Total: 4,606 km (2,860 miles)

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