Thursday, July 29, 2010

Independence Day

Friday, July 4th. Independence Day. We awoke around 10am in Buffalo. About a week prior we had been discussing spending the 4th of July at Mount Rushmore but the distance just simply wasn't feasible. I'm sure they put on one hell of a fireworks show though. The plan for the day was to cycle along I-90 to Gilette, a city about 70 miles East of Buffalo. There was no towns at all between these two points so I was frankly concerned about water. It was hot out today and I knew it was going to be upwards of 90. I asked some locals if there were any stops along the way and they said there was a rest stop about 25 miles outside Buffalo which was essential. We could bike 25 miles, stop, refuel and go the remaining 45. Solid plan if you ask me.

We got underway and compared to yesterday things were a breeze. The topography was definitely hilly but I was expecting that and therefore was less pissed. The hills were in fact rather large and I started playing a game with Josh to see who could more accurately guess the distance from one summit to the next. We were both a bit too good at it. We've been on these roads way to long, man.

It was a pleasant ride in the morning. There were these lovely Yellowish-Green plants all along the road. The locals told me they typically aren't there but since it had been such a wet Summer there was a lot of unique vegetation.

About 20 miles in there was no sign of a rest stop. We came across men who's car had broken down (they were headed West, opposite of us). We asked if they needed a hand or to use our cell but they had it under control. I asked them if they had seen a rest stop when they traveled from Gilette but none of the men could recall seeing one. That definitely made me nervous. I decided I needed to start conserving my water a bit more just in case this rest stop didn't actually exist..

I was making real good time. For once I was actually ahead of Josh. I kept thinking there was no way the locals could make up a rest stop. It just had to be there. But I was still nervous. I kept watching my surroundings. I'd see a stream or dirty river and think "I guess if I have to I could drink that." Josh was far less concerned. The man's really a machine. He was quite convinced he could make the 70 mile trip on one water bottle and sacrifice the other to me. I appreciated the sentiment but honestly sometimes I feel Josh doesn't know his own limits. Not that he wouldnt make it on one bottle but he shouldn't make it on one bottle. The man really needs to drink more water.

Luckily though not too far down the road was the rest station. I eagerly pulled off and Josh followed suit. We got a nice spot in the shade and sat, filling our bellies with food and water. I chugged every last drop I had. I went inside the station (little more than a bathroom and a water fountain) and took a swig of the water and there was something wrong.

Sulfur. More of it than I'd like to admit. Sulfur has been a bit of a plague throughout Wyoming. Ever since we got to Cody I had noticed the air itself had a smell of sulfur. It was simply displeasing. It seemed the well this fountain was connected to definitely had some sulfur in it also. So I weighed my options- fill my bottles with sulfur water or go without it for 45 miles in 85+ degree heat? Life isn't always glamorous on the road. I knew I needed to stay hydrated so I chugged a bottle of sulfur water and filled up.

We finished eating and waited for the temperature to drop a bit before heading on. I inspected Josh's head to find spots of sunburn. Perhaps that's what had been causing all the issues? Also, check out this huge puff ball I found! We got to talking with a kindly old man while waiting there. It turns out his son was also biking across the country! What are the odds? We talked a bit and somehow got on the topic of sulfur water when he offered us some fresh filtered water. Josh declined at first but I certainly wasn't going to pass it up. He ended up filling a little over one bottle with the fresh stuff. We weren't going to wait around for more to filter so we thanked him and got on our way.

It was hot. Damn hot. We had 45 miles to go, but frankly it felt like an eternity. After about 15 miles Josh had acquiesced the lead from me and I was starting to lag behind. It was the smell. And the heat. It just smelled like hot, clammy sulfur and it was gross. I had a belly full of nasty H2O and it just wasn't working. After another 10 miles I pulled on the side of the road and just had to sit down.

My head was pounding. I felt light headed. I just wasn't doing okay. I literally laid down right on the side of the road. Josh thought this was funny because it later caked my back in pebbles and he thought I'd find it funny in hindsight. I guess my dehydration and nausea was a tad humorous looking back. We really didn't have many options though. We still had plenty of miles to put on and little choice but to go all the way tonight. I thought perhaps I had sweat out a lot of my electrolytes and munched on salty snacks. If nothing else I figured maybe I could "placebo" myself into feeling better. Although I'm not too sure that works when you do it to yourself? Regardless I felt slightly okay after 15 minutes and we continued on.

Josh was clearly in the lead at this point. He was like a graceful gazelle- powering up hills and gleefully rolling down them. I was like an awkward turtle- sluggishly making my way, looking sad and hopeless while doing it. Another 10 miles down the road Josh was way ahead of me. At least a quarter mile if not more and he was flying up a hill. I needed a break. I was hurting. I screamed at him. No response. I pulled out my rape whistle and blew as hard as I could. Nope. Nothing. He disappeared over the hill. I was getting annoyed. What if something happened to me? How far would he go before turning back to check up? I was so pissed I kept going, no break for Ross. I found out later Josh kept a good distance ahead of me to try and motivate me to keep going. You bastard Josh. Guess it worked.

A bit further down the road Josh waited up for me. We agreed we'd take a quick break while I snapped a photo of our 1300th mile.

Milestone 13 of 35ish!

After this brief break I was feeling a lot better. I knew we were getting close to the end of the day and the temperature was dropping. We were starting to see sporadic houses so I knew if absolute worst came to worst I could beg someone for water. I just felt safer. The landscape also was getting real interesting the closer you got to Gilette. There were all these small bumps in the fields. It was practically flat everywhere except for these "pimples." I didn't know what to make of them.

Not long after we arrived at Gilette. I was thrilled to be there! We stopped at the first subway we found and we scarfed down exactly one buttload of food. Afterward we were hanging around outside the restaurant making some calls and in general not doing much when a man approached us. His name was Jonathan and saw our bikes and had gotten curious. He too was a biker and was traversing the states as well! We stayed and talked to Jonathan for at least an hour before parting ways. He was a real cool guy, I believe he worked for Apple and started in California. He biked through the desert and was headed to Glacier National Park which he was highly recommending. Apparently this wasn't his first ride either, although I commend him on going solo. I really do think that takes balls (although he was hoteling it the whole way). Was great meeting you Jonathan!

It was late already and we had still yet to find a place to sleep. We heard of a camp ground called "Crazy Woman Campgrounds" and rode over. We made camp for the night and faced some tough decisions. Josh's head wasn't getting any better. If anything it was getting worse. There was a hospital right next to the campgrounds and we decided Josh was going to have to go to the ER to get this checked out. I was beginning to get fearful Josh would not be able to finish the trip. It'd be real shitty to make it this far and have to leave due to medical issues.

It took until late in the night for Josh to see a doctor. I offered to stay up with him but he told me not to bother and to sleep. I mean, what could I really do sitting there? I felt like a prick but I was exhausted. I asked again but he declined so I went to bed about midnight.

I woke up as Josh crawled into the tent that night. I asked him how everything went and he told me he had a blood test done to see if there were any kidney issues. Apparently he had a bit of low Potassium and was dehydrated (shocker). The doctor felt the culprit for the swelling was likely the bandanna he was using to shield his head. Perhaps it was an allergy to the fabric or perhaps it was too tight but either way she recommended not using it.

By the time Josh got back from the hospital the sun was rising. Sorry you had to go through all that buddy.... hope you feel better tomorrow.

Trip Summary
Day's mileage- 72.1
Total mileage- 1308.6

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