Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Judy finishes her solo cross-country bike trip.

My friend Judy has a handmade recumbent bicycle which used to be bright green and now is bright red. She was determined to finish her stage-by-stage cross-country bike trip this summer, so she took six weeks off, flew to Washington, started at the Pacific Ocean, and biked east back to the place in Colorado where she finished up last summer. 58 years old, 1806 miles alone, a vegetarian traveling through cow country. Here is her last cyber-space report.


Since I last checked in with you, I have traveled through about 350 miles of wasteland in Wyoming, and then another 150 or so in Colorado.

Imagine miles and miles of open range in all directions, pocked with clumps of sagebrush, and every so often a dot of a cow way in the distance; imagine winds of 20-30 mph (sidewinds or headwinds--never tailwinds); imagine no towns or signs of civilization for 30 miles at a stretch (except perhaps a ranch entrance, with the ranch way out of sight), and then the towns are almost ghost towns--perhaps a gas station with junk food.

Then add a burning sun and mosquitos and biting flies so thick you dare not stop for a break.

Then, up ahead (you are sun-blinded by now, and don't trust your eyes), there is a long, slow hill winding up out of sight. You eventually climb the hill, hoping for the end of sagebrush--and there is another vast stretch of range just like the last, but about 500-1000 feet higher, and windier.

BUT--that said--it was totally beautiful in its own way, and there was lots of time to think. Camping was iffy: one night I slept in a deserted town (former uranium mining town) in a deserted Lions' Club Park shelter--on a concrete floor!

Two nights ago I found myself in a small town called Walden, where there was free camping in the town park. Seven bike-tourers that I have been seeing off and on also by chance ended up there: one whom I hadn't seen since Oregon, a pair of sisters who were traveling with a pair of brothers, and a couple of single men (one being our "road angel"--a bike mechanic with all the tools and know-how and the willingness to help us out).

One of the brothers has been toting his 50-pound dog in a trailer since the west coast: he's trained her to jump out and run up the passes, and then jump back in for the down-hill runs.

We all had dinner together, and shared our "gigs" for our cross-country trips: seems most cross-country bikers figure out something to keep them entertained along the way.

The dog-toting guy, Brent, was making a documentary film of people's stories of their first kiss! One of the girls got a grant to write songs of the road and was carrying along a small banjo and a digital voice recorder. One man, Mel, who is doing an 11,000 (!) mile fundraising trip across the country, is photographing barns for a book, and another guy said he was just imagining the whole trip as a virtual reality video game--he figured he's made it to level 9 now!

I was delighted to get deeper into Colorado at last in the past day or so, though it meant real mountains again. I climbed my last high pass yesterday, and then followed the streams and rivers that began to form the Colorado River. I flowed down through canyons as I joined the Colorado, and today have slowly been climbing away from the Colorado up to Silverthorne, CO.

Tomorrow, when I'm done, I will have completed 1806 miles through 5 states in 33 days. ...

This is not vegetarian country: I haven't seen a sign of tofu or good grains the whole trip, so I think I've suffered a little for that (the group at dinner ALL had steaks, while I had to have a salad, since everything else had meat in it). I've lived on yogurts, oatmeal, eggs, occasional pasta, and grilled cheese sandwiches, along with my gorp and power bars, etc.

But I wouldn't trade one minute or one experience of this whole, wonderful tour for any comforts or any favorite foods! I've seen and smelled and felt this gorgeous country one mile at a time. I've met wonderful people. I've dug deep to find strength and resourcefulness to get me through tough stretches. I've done what I set out to do. And I got lucky--I've had 32 days of sunshine so far, with just one brief thunderstorm on a high pass. I've had only good encounters with people. I've been safe and healthy. Whew!

I'm a little sad that the end is so near, but I'm also looking forward to seeing friends and family and sleeping in my own bed again.

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At 9:17 PM, Blogger Cap'n Sylvia Sharkbait said...

Wow! I am very impressed!! I'm glad you shared this because I just started riding a bicycle again and I'm very out of practice and discouraged. I gasp and pant up the hills and then my friends tell me we're not on hills yet. Gah! Hearing about Judy impresses me and inspires me too. Thank you.


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