By Lukas Brinkerhoff – Day 8. It’s hot. We’ve just wasted well over an hour waiting to be able to soak in a hot spring only to be told by some of the scariest people I’ve ever seen that that won’t be happening. Slightly dejected, we buy a couple of beers, gather our bikes and head back out onto the dusty, bumpy road.
We started the day with a big climb. As far as climbs go, it wasn’t the worst. We had shade, the grades were a little steep, but all told we got over it. The challenge of Day 8, as we were learning, wouldn’t be elevation gain, rather it would be the temperatures and the fact that we had already been doing this for 7 days and the end was still hundreds of miles away.
I could tell that Kathleen was not enjoying herself like she had the days prior. We stopped at a couple of hot springs and she didn’t even want to get in. Our objective for the day was still another 17 miles away and would put us at the bottom of our next climb. We left Lotus Springs and within a few minutes, it was clear we just needed to find a place to camp. A couple miles more in the blasted heat and a spot just off the river with some almost flat spots became our home for the night.
We were done. Or at least as done as we could be in the middle of a 550-mile ride.
Several years ago, as I was preparing for my first multi-day tour, a good friend told me that there would be a day that the only thing I would want would be to give up. He told me that every tour had that one day. Sometimes it will come early, like 2 hours into the first day. Other times, it will sneak up on you. Just when you think you have found the rhythm of the road, there will be some obstacle that you know you can get over, you just don’t want to. The secret is to just not give up.
Our lives are made up of decisions that lead us down paths that become our story. When we recognize that we write that story each day, each choice taken, the logical conclusion is to begin constructing that story to be what we want it to be. It’s easy to determine what you “want” to be. Like a child in elementary school dreaming of being an astronaut, I’m sure that each of us has a semblance of an idea of what would be our ideal story, the perfect version of ourselves.
The reason we aren’t that perfect version of ourselves is because change is hard. It is much easier to continue on the same trajectory than to make a 90 degree turn and begin something new. Some may call it inertia, but it’s just life. Just because we realize we have some semblance of control over where we are going, doesn’t mean that we can abandon ship, swim for shore and everything is going to be hunky dory. No, that rarely happens. Life is hard and we tend to give up and return to our normal, way too easy.
Day 10 was my day. I don’t have the space to enumerate all the struggles of that day, but let’s say we peaked out on Dollar Hide Summit, the tallest peak on our entire ride somewhere around mile 50 of the day. Those 50 miles had included two hike-a-bikes, three river crossings and not the kind that involve bridges, all before the biggest climb of our 11 day trip. At the top, I was both broken and ecstatic. We were nearing the end, the point where we could say, “We did it!” and we had a bunch of miles of coasting ahead of us.
We had planned to camp just outside of Ketchum around our mile 65. As we coasted and pedaled toward the end of the day, the dirt turned to gravel and then to pavement. Mile 65 came and went and we had no where to camp. Soon houses were everywhere and we found ourselves on a bike path mere miles from downtown Ketchum. It was late. We had pedaled 69 miles in 12.5 hours. The only thing that kept my pedals turning was the fact that I had no other choice. We stopped and found the closest brewery. There was a bike rack out front, but I was really surprised they didn’t ask us to leave the moment they saw us. We had a full day’s worth of grime and nastiness covering us and we had to smell worse than the bum who was chilling on the corner. Luckily, we were able to sit outside and enjoyed some fresh vegetables and a couple of triple IPAs. This all sounds awesome, except we still had nowhere to stay. Some texts to friends that might have friends who might let us stay, a dozen or so checks of Warmshowers, finding one hotel room at $425/night and we were no closer to having a place to stay than when we sat down. Our food was gone and we both knew that ordering another beer would result in us not being able to find a place to camp.
At 14 hours of being up and working on moving forward, we were, once again, moving forward. I was ready to throw in the towel and find a dumpster to sleep behind. I was done. If you’ve never bonked, recovered, bonked again, got drunk and then tried to find a place to camp, you really don’t know what being “spent” is really like. 12 miles later, we found a campground with one campsite left.
Bike tours are finished or abandoned based on decisions. Do you turn around and coast back to the bottom of the hill and put up a thumb? Or do you just keep slogging your way to the top? The only difference between the two is giving up and not. And such is life.
Lukas Brinkerhoff blogs about mountain biking and life at mooseknuckleralliance.org.