The turnaround point - Bikepacking the Fool's Loop - CycleBlaze

December 9, 2018

The turnaround point

I'm lying underneath my quilt trying to both lie as still as possible to not incur drafts of frozen air into my insulated sleep while at the same time trying to think warm thoughts and generate heat. As the sun starts making its trek to rise and provide light (and heat) for the day, my buddy Craig rustles in his bivy sack. I hear him announce, prefaced with a groan, "that was the most miserable night's sleep I've ever had." It wasn't all that comfortable for me, either. Temperatures easily went into the 20's, and in the middle of the night, I broke out my hammock under-quilt and threw it over my down quilt to keep me warm(er). We were in a sort of valley, so the cold settled in on us, and the water vapor we created from our body heat made Craig's inside of his bevy "rain" while my second quilt frosted, and then melted soaking into the down. Wet down = not good.

If you're comment is, "say, isn't that frost on the bike?" my answer is "yes." This basically made our stuff wet in the morning, and with morning temps in the 30's it made for a cold morning
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As I'm packing up camp, my phone starts vibrating indicating an incoming call. Which is really strange since I haven't had cell service since we rode out of Phoenix. I pick up the call and notice I have the maximum amount of bars on the phone, and my wife lets me know the connection is super-clear. So while the connection is good news, the reason for the call isn't. 

My dad was taken by ambulance to the hospital the night before with breathing difficulty. It turns out his lungs were filled with fluid and they were going to drain them and put him on some medical procedure to get him to start breathing normally again. He was on a ventilator and my brother arrived at the hospital to be with my mom and was helping her through this. And I'm helpless out in the desert. The doctors are going to try a procedure to see if they can get the lungs working again and that's scheduled for later in the day. Nothing to do but sit and wait. Or ride and wait, really. We continued packing up camp and hit the road.

By mid-morning it's warm enough to ditch the insulating layers
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After crossing through the stream, we filtered water and topped off our water supply before heading to a convenience store to resupply
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The rest of the morning was really just a ride. Lost alone in my thoughts I resigned myself that this is probably it for my father. He's had health issues for the past few years but kept joking that the devil isn't taking him just yet. But this one felt different to me. I accepted the last time I would see him was during my last tour in PA. A man who would love dinner and dinner conversations and humor found it hard to even laugh the last time we did dinner. He was probably in more pain than he ever let on.

A had another call, and my brother and mom told me my father came through the procedure just fine. His lungs were clear but now it was up to him to heal. In such a weakened state, the doctors were not sure he'd have the strength to pull through yet one time. My brother was communicating with my dad through "1 eye blink yes; 2 eye blink no" responses since my dad could no speak with the ventilators and machinery plugged into him. Even that, though, he said my father was straining to do just that. I was put on speakerphone so I could say my (potentially) final things to my father.

What does one say at that moment? How does one communicate a lifetime of having someone in the world and then to think they will no longer be there any longer? Basically, saying goodbye to someone who raised you, taught you, provided a lifetime of memories and experiences? I gave him the first thing off the top of my mind, "Hi dad - guess where I am - in the middle of the desert, riding my bike. From a young age you always took us traveling and of all the things you imparted to us, the sense of adventure was one that you basically wrote into my DNA." It was about 30-40 seconds of that and my brother said my dad blinked once. And then they let me know following that conversation it was up to my dad to fight the infections, the procedure, to stay alive.

This was my dad's turnaround point; it was my tour turnaround point.

Drying out the gear at the truck stop in Cordes Junction. A 1-hour stop to purchase some food, let our gear dry out helped get us in better condition for the evening
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We had our dinner at the truck stop around 3:30, and then wound our way to the fantastic singletrack on the Black Canyon Trail. From the point where we embarked on the Black Canyon Trail, we were heading south towards Phoenix, and the final destination. In a way, this parallel both my experience and my dad's that day.

Campsite in the middle of the desert. Using the bikes as tie-anchors, we jury rigged my hammock tarp over top of both of us for some sort of shelter that night
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Today's ride: 41 miles (66 km)
Total: 127 miles (204 km)

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