Day 24, Hanksville to Blanding (Bud): No Easy Way Out Of This One, The Beast Inside - Searching For a Heart Attack on the Western Express - CycleBlaze

August 15, 2017

Day 24, Hanksville to Blanding (Bud): No Easy Way Out Of This One, The Beast Inside

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Hanksville, UT to Blanding, UT
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Mileage Today; 130 (Bud)   Total So Far; 1,160   Remaining; 439

Climbing Today; 8,047+   Total So Far; 67,901   Remaining; 28,381

Max Grade Today; 14.3%   Average Uphill Grade; 2.5%

Average Speed While Riding; 8.1 mph (approx..)

Mechanical Issues; None

Photos Credit; Bud, unless noted otherwise


Bud speaking;

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF); today was destined to be a tough day regardless of the option we chose, and indeed it was a very, very, hard day. Sis and Doc will provide an account of their own trials and tribulations today on a separate journal page, so check it out. But now that I’ve given you the punchline on my day, let’s roll from the beginning.

The morning alarm went off at 2:45 am. I was up till almost 9:00 pm last night, and I slept fitfully in anticipation of today, so I was a bit groggy as I rolled out of bed. We all were, and we didn’t get rolling until 3:45 am. Since we had different plans today, I slowly pulled away from Sis and Doc. They were going crazy long today, and I was going super-stupid ridiculously long, so we knew we would separate. I could see their lights behind me in the early morning blackness for many miles, but eventually they faded away and I was alone.

The morning was warm so for the first time in a while it wasn’t necessary to wear a jacket. The winds were variable; sometimes a bit of a headwind, but usually light enough to not be noticed. I moved on steadily, and after a few hours and 30 miles I came upon this sign;

It's Going To Be A Very Long Day
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Yeah, I thought, it’s going to be a long day indeed; I’ve been at it for a few hours and still have almost 100 miles to go. Sigh… But no time to think about that, now is the time for steady work. The sunrise caught me in the canyon near Lake Powell;

Sunrise Near Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
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I stopped to put on the telephoto lens as the canyon floor had lots of cover for wildlife. Rolling along I spotted a doe and soon her fawn emerged;

A Doe And Fawn Move Silently Through The Cover In The Canyon Floor
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I will travel through part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area today;

Today I Passed Through The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
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I’d been rolling mostly downhill towards Lake Powell, but now I encountered several climbs as the road rises up along the bluffs surrounding the lake. Here’s a shot near the Hite Recreation Area on Lake Powell;

Lake Powell Near The Hite Overlook
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I pulled off into the Hite Overlook for the scenic view. I probably shouldn't have done this as it was a lot farther off-road than I had expected, plus it was uphill; but as Doc is fond of saying, "we may never pass this way again." So maybe I added a mile and a few extra feet of climbing; surely that won't kill me.

I crossed the bridge over the Dirty Devil River and then the bridge over the Colorado River as I neared Hite. Here’s some typical scenery in that area;

Scenery Near Hite Recreation Area
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Finally, I reached the turnoff to go down to the Hite Recreation Area. It’s 1.6 miles down to the store, and I needed to eat and to stock up for the remainder of today’s journey.

The Hite Turnoff; It's Really 1.6 Miles
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I had some cereal with milk, a chicken chimichanga cause I felt like I needed something “solid,” and a chocolate protein drink (basically just chocolate milk). The folks at Hite are very nice and they had an inside area where I could eat and relax. After all, I’d already traveled more than 50 miles this morning. I was trying to convince myself that my day was just starting, cause I had almost 80 miles left to go and most of it was uphill. After eating, I filled all the tanks (I had traveled with minimal water from Hanksville to save weight, as I don’t need a lot in the early morn) including 2 “emergency” bottles of 18.5 ounces each that were stored inside the rear panniers. I bought 2 gatorades that went into some of the tanks, but mostly it was just water. All total I had 6.5 liters of fluid on board; there would be no resupply until I reached Blanding, unless I went off-route 5 miles at Natural Bridges. Given today’s mileage plan, adding 10 miles to it wasn’t feasible, so I needed to leave heavily laden.

I bought a frozen chicken-cranberry sandwich and Doritos for lunch later, and a Snickers bar to supplement my energy snack food. Once it was all loaded, I hit the restroom and was about to roll out when Sis and Doc pulled in. So I stayed a bit longer to chat with them and then left; I had spent 1.5 hours at Hite, and I knew I needed to move on smartly (given today’s plan, one can argue my use of the term “smartly”). It was about 10:40 am when I finally got away. FWIW, that’s about an hour and a half later than I had planned (hoped) for. I left Hite, pedaled back uphill to the road, and then commenced the fairly steep climb immediately east of Hite. I was laboring and breathing hard, and I had just commenced! Here’s a shot of the road ahead;

The Road Ahead
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And a bit of scenery along the way;

Typical Scenery; Glad For The Cloud Cover
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A motorcycle slowed as he caught up to me, and a guy on a dual-sport bike asked if I was OK and if I needed water. That was nice! It’s pretty desolate country out here, and having enough water is absolutely essential. I was stocked from just having left Hite, so I politely declined and thanked him, but as he sped off I found myself thinking that it sure would be nice if someone asked me that in about 40 miles or so. The Harley riders just speed past making lots of noise; occasionally some going the opposite direction will wave, but that’s as good as it gets. A guy on a dual-sport bike with camping gear on the back recognizes a fellow adventurer; that little gesture encouraged me that maybe I would make it through the day. It certainly wasn’t a guarantee.

I tried to get into the best rhythm I could and zone out so I could maintain a constant steady output for the next 4 hours. The grade was constantly uphill, but it was mostly gentle. And the best part was that the sky was overcast and I was riding in the shade! Thunderstorms threatened all day, thunder was occasionally near me, and several times I got a smattering of light rain, but I never got in a rainstorm. I was burning energy at a steady rate and moving along well, only stopping for quick breaks to take a pic or grab a quick bite; these were 1-minute breaks wherein I didn’t even get off the bike. Some 4 hours after leaving Hite, I simply had to stop and eat some real food, and it probably took 20 minutes before I spotted a boulder near the road that I could sit on. The frozen sandwich I had wrapped in clothing in a pannier was still cold and a bit solid in the center where there were still ice crystals, so that was good. I ate half of it and stowed the other half, then forced myself to get up and get rolling.

I came upon Cheese Box Butte and wondered why such a name;

Cheese Box Butte?
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It was pretty obvious when looking at the butte;

Yeah, By Golly, That Is A Cheese Box
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I labored hard to reach the vicinity of Natural Bridges National Monument, and was disappointed to find that even though I was relatively high in elevation I couldn’t get out a text message to Sis and Doc. We had promised to keep each other apprised of the other’s fate that day, but no go with the cell signal. I was near exhaustion at this point and found myself wandering from the middle of the lane to occasionally almost riding off of the shoulder. And I was riding slower in smaller gears and breathing heavily.


It was in this state of near-delirium that a once-familiar voice called out; “Dude, you’re not going to make it like this.” “Harvey!” I exclaimed, “Where have you been? I haven’t heard from you in years, I thought you had left me.” “No way,” he said, “I’m always here, I just couldn’t talk to you while you were riding with Sis and Doc, and besides, there was no reason then.” “It’s good to hear you again," I replied, "I’ve always enjoyed talking to my bike. But this isn’t the best time for conversation, I’m really struggling here and I’ve got nearly 40 hard miles to go today.” “That’s why we’re talking,” he said in a calm but authoritative voice, “you aren’t going to make it like this.  I’ve been monitoring your performance; you’re getting weak, your steering is erratic, your breathing is labored; you just won’t make it. And if you don’t make it, I don’t make it. If you fall off a cliff and die, I die. So call it self-preservation if you want, but we have to do something. You’ve got to let him out.”

“No!” I said sharply, “I won’t let him out. I can’t control him, it’s too risky. I won’t do it.” “Then we both die,” said Harvey. “You may be old enough to accept death, but in bicycle years I’m just a youngster. I don’t want to die yet." “I can make it,” I insisted. “OK” said Harvey, “I tell you what; let’s see how well you do between here and Salvation Knoll. If you do fine, then you continue; if not, then you let him out. Is that a fair deal? ” “Yes,” I said, “That’s a fair deal, I will do fine and you will see.”

Salvation Knoll was 10 miles away. I did my best to keep a steady pace and to keep the bike tracking straight, but I found myself slowing and then speeding up and wandering all over the road. There’s a short climb to the summit of Salvation Knoll, and it was all I could do to pedal up the climb. I was spent, totally exhausted; I wasn’t going to make it.

“Well,” said Harvey, “Now do you agree?” Without answering, I struggled to take this pic at Salvation Knoll;

Summit of Salvation Knoll
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“A deal is a deal,” said Harvey, “You’re spent, exhausted, totally gone, and you know it. Let him out or we’re both going to die somewhere along this next downhill run when you pass out.” “But I can’t control him Harvey,” I protested weakly. “Let him out!” said Harvey, “I'll burn him out so he can’t do any harm. We're in the middle of nowhere, he can't hurt anyone; well, probably not, anyway.”

Harvey was right. This was do or die, but even so I was reluctant to release the Beast. I laid my head on my handlebar bag just for a minute to rest; just a minute of rest was all I needed. I felt an upwelling from deep inside me, as a wild uncontrollable anger took over. Anger at the current political state in the U.S., anger that we disrespect science when it’s the very thing that has advanced our society, anger at the way we belittle education, anger that anyone could seriously doubt that man is the cause of global warming, anger that the rich get richer by cheating the poor folks, anger that religions control people and prevent them from thinking for themselves, just wild uncontrollable emotional ANGER. And this wild uncontrollable anger was STRONG; it was frighteningly strong. When I opened my eyes I was seeing through a greenish haze and I knew the Beast had taken over; I was no longer in charge.

“Beast hungry,” he said. He ate the other half of the sandwich, he ate the power bar and the Snickers in my handlebar bag, he ate the rest of the Doritos, he even ate the little packet of peanut butter buried deep in a pannier; I wondered how he knew where everything was. “Beast thirsty,” he said, and he drank 2 whole liters of water, leaving only about a liter left. “No,” I tried to protest, but the Beast said “Shut up, petty human, Beast is in charge.” And he was in charge, I was helpless to control him; I just didn’t have the strength.

"We go!” said the Beast, and we rolled away from Salvation Knoll. There’s a 10-mile downhill run when you leave the summit, and it’s curvy and very steep in places. The Beast pedaled like a maniac all the way down and we flew around 25 mph curves at 40 mph. I was helpless; it was like I was in a movie, a very scary movie, and I couldn’t control whatever the next scene would be. Cars couldn’t keep up with us around the curves, and whenever one passed us on a straightaway the Beast cursed at them and pedaled even harder in pursuit.

When we finally reached the bottom of the descent I was relieved to get away from the crazy breakneck speed of this wild animal; we had hit 62 mph at one point, and that’s crazy fast for a loaded touring bike. But it wasn’t enough for the Beast; he’s never satisfied. We were facing a long steep uphill now, and I thought that surely he would tire. Here’s a view looking down a canyon as the Beast headed up the adjacent mountainside.

Typical Canyon View
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The Beast was pedaling furiously up a 10% grade, and we were climbing at 10 mph; that’s not possible, I thought, the bike and gear weigh 80 pounds, he can’t be doing this. But he was, and it wasn’t enough for him; he was snorting and blowing snot and sweat was literally dripping off of him, but he wouldn’t stop. I was glad when we crested the top and headed through this roadcut;

Impressive Roadcut Near Blanding
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But now we headed down the other side, and the terror commenced again. “Beast go fast!” he exclaimed and he was spinning 200 rpm in the high gear while riding in the drops to be more aerodynamic. There were crazy curves going down but the Beast never touched the brakes; I thought I was going to die but I was too weak to resist, the Beast was firmly in control. He threw the bike wildly from side to side and the tires squealed as we lost traction on a curve, but nothing slowed the Beast. The anger he felt inside was driving him, and it was substantial. We hit another crazy steep uphill, and the Beast attacked it; this time he stood on the pedals all the way up and was pulling hard on the handlebars while exerting all his strength on the pedals; the pedals creaked and groaned and I thought they might snap off, but they held. We ran up that hill at 15 mph on 9% grades; that’s just not possible, I thought, I must be dreaming. But I knew I wasn’t. I desperately wanted to regain control, but the Beast was still strong.

We flew down the other side of that steep grade with the Beast screaming and cursing at any vehicle that tried to pass, and he swerved all over the road and successfully kept most from doing so; they were just too afraid of this wild thing. We headed up the next ridiculously steep hill, but this time it was different; I think the Beast was tiring. “I need more food,” he said, “Beast is hungry.” I was too weak to speak, but Harvey spoke up; “There is no more food,” he said, “You ate it all. Are you so puny that you can’t ride without food?” “Shut up stupid bicycle!” screamed the Beast, “Beast doesn’t need food. Beast will show you!” And with that he charged on up the hill, straining so hard that I thought surely the chain would break. But it didn’t, and we hit 17 mph climbing up an 11% grade with the Beast cursing and yelling at everything; and I mean everything. He cursed the moon that had came out, he cursed the trees beside the road, he cursed the hills and the canyons, he cursed the road signs, he was ANGRY and he wanted the world to know.

Going down the other side, it was now obvious that he was tiring as we only hit about 48 mph. “What’s the matter? “ Harvey taunted, “Is the Beast too weak to go fast?” “Beast not weak!” yelled the Beast, “I show you, you stupid bicycle!” And with that he charged up the final hill. But he had slowed a lot, and strain as he did, by the time he crested the hill we were barely moving. “Beast need to eat,” he said meekly. “Pull over here and stop” said Harvey, “I know where some food is.” The Beast pulled over, and Harvey said “Lay your head on the handlebar bag just a moment while I get you some food.” “But…” the Beast tried to protest but Harvey said, “It will just be a minute. Lay your head down now.” The Beast was weak, and he complied.

When I opened my eyes, the strange green haze was gone. I was as weak as I had ever been in my life, and it took all my strength just to raise my head. “Is that you?” said Harvey. “Of course it’s me,” I replied, "who else would it be?" I didn't know where I was, "Where are we?” I asked. Harvey said to look ahead and this is what I saw;

A Late Arrival In Blanding
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We were in Blanding! “But how did we get here?” I asked. “You did it,” said Harvey, “I knew you would get us through, no matter what.” I was too weak to talk anymore. Slowly, ever so slowly, we rolled the last few miles to the hotel and checked in. As I was unloading Harvey, I said “I don’t ever want to let him out again, Harvey. Do you hear me, never again.” “Let who out?” said Harvey, “it’s just you and me out here on the lonely road. But Dude, you really need to work on those anger issues.”

I cleaned up and prepared for bed, and then I got some horrible muscle cramps. I thought I was in better shape, but I guess not; my muscles feel like they really took a beating today. Good night folks; I hope whatever it is that makes you angry can be focused and put to some good use. I’m really sleepy now…

Today's ride: 130 miles (209 km)
Total: 1,159 miles (1,865 km)

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