Escalente to Tropic - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

July 4, 2014

Escalente to Tropic

IT'S THE BIG national holiday here today and we'd hoped for a parade. Or, I had. I wanted to see bands swaying down and kids dressed like Mickey Mouse and all the hoop-la of July the Fourth. But Escalente, which thrives on tourists, has nothing to offer.

There's also a logistical problem. We want to see Bryce Canyon. But, this weekend, perhaps everybody else does as well. So our plan is to ride the short distance to Tropic and camp there and wait for the canyon crowds to go home. There was the hope that Tropic would have, if not a parade, then fireworks. But when we got here it was to find that there will indeed be fireworks but up in the canyon - "because of the fire risk down here in town."

So that's July the Fourth accounted for.

But it was far from a total loss. Into the campground behind the outdoor-clothing shop last night came a lean man of around my age with all the air of a man who's travelled the world for years.

Terry never lost his Yorkshire accent, even though he has lived in New Zealand for decades. And why New Zealand? "Because it's as far as you can get from England," he said, which is actually true because it's where you'd get to if you drilled a hole through the centre of the world.

"That's the glib answer, but it's got a lot of truth in it," he conceded.

We chatted at dusk as he pulled his gear from overflowing, pale blue, home-made panniers that had seen many days on the road. He put up his tent, "green, just the right colour for camping wild."

I explained what he was in for, heading east. In the morning, over a lengthy coffee, he produced handwritten notes for us. Including useful information about the foot of Wah-Wah pass.

"You can't forget a name like that, can you?"

We smiled and wondered how it came by its name.

"When you get over the pass," he said, "you'll get down to the bottom and you'll see a tree. You won't miss it. It's the only thing there and you'll see it from miles away. There's a derelict bungalow there and the guy who lived there has left a hose running from a spring to the foot of this tree. It's the only thing that's keeping it alive."

"And you can drink the water?"

"Well, I cooked with it," he said, "but it tasted pretty good to me. I camped there for the night and I can't see why you shouldn't. I suppose there's a chance the farmer could come by and tell you to move on but, quite honestly, how likely's that?"

We felt smug with the knowledge. The coming stretch of our ride - and we have decided to stay on the Western Express - includes stretches of 130km with nothing at all. At times, as Terry said, with nothing but a single tree.

We chatted for an hour, longer than we should have and certainly longer than he should have. We had only two or three hours to ride; he was headed over the Hog's Back and then the long, high climb that we had ridden in the opposite direction and abandoned before the top. But we got on so well that none of us regretted the time.

We shook hands, exchanged addresses, and watched Terry continue a ride that started in Vancouver, went south to San Francisco, then east to where we met. From here, he was headed for Colorado before riding dust trails back to Canada.

Quite a man.

Today's ride: 59 km (37 miles)
Total: 4,751 km (2,950 miles)

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