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Dear Ladies and Gentlemen: The word for the day is "wash-out." Or, perhaps, "abort;" or "scrap." I was, quite simply, defeated by the Wyoming grasslands. The physical and emotional exposure; the non-negotiable heat; the non-negotiable distance increments. I found this surprising, since four years ago I was so enchanted and empowered by West Texas. But then West Texas was in April, not August; I was not riding solo; and I had 1500 fewer miles under my belt when I got there. Makes a difference.
At Chugwater, on the way to Cheyenne, I did a very critical assessment of the past several days, and found I could not avoid the conclusion that I was making a whole slew of bad choices at each and every opportunity. My decision-making faculties appeared to be seriously impaired; and that being the case, I needed to be off the road. I had enough clarity left to be able to see THAT. In Chugwater, I also made my fourth or fifth call to my friend Dan, who has been doing cross-country hauling of late. We'd hoped to be able to cross paths at some point during the summer, but each time I'd called we were not even close. This time, serendipitously, when I said "I'll be in Cheyenne tomorrow" in response to his "Where are you now?", he then replied, "Oh. I'll be in Cheyenne the next day." Without an instant's hesitation I said, "Please pick me up." And so it was.
We rendezvoused at the Big Boy locomotive. Dan's existing load consisted of: 1) a 1964 English Ford (Lotus Cortina); 2) a 1937 Chevy pick-up; 3) an Amish-built two-wheeled horse cart. To these eclectic vehicles he added my bicycle. I had no idea, when I climbed into the cab, how far I'd go with him; his proposed route was identical to mine well into Oregon, so I could jump ship at any time. I was dead-heading and it was all open-ended, and thus began yet another odyssey (odd-yssey?) of my summer.
I did get an all-too-brief lunch visit with my Pocatello friend, but I got back into the truck. We then visited with a friend of his in southern Idaho, and again I got back into the truck. I traveled as he traveled, seeing yet another new world: sleeping by the side of the trailer in highway turnouts (I slept in the cab); cooking on the flatbed; buying showers and munchies at the truck stops. It wasn't all that different from hobnobbing with the Harleys. At every stop people would inquire about his load, much as they previously had about mine. And every day we passed new smoke columns or actual flames from at least two or three fires. There was indeed a continuum operating, even if I was not pedaling. I never got out of the truck. I slept or dozed all the way, into Oregon to drop the Chevy, and then back south again. Eventually he dropped me at the end of my little street, where I hung all my gear back on the bike and crept up the block to find indoor sanctuary and hide out for a few days.
And so I am writing this at my desk, at home. (I'd begun it at the public library at Glens Ferry in Idaho; but the time slot on the machines was 30 minutes, and my thoughts were too disorganized, so nothing got sent.) The post-mortem process will, of course, go on FAR too long. All the uncontrollable external factors, and all the controllable but not controlled personal factors. Hubris plays not a small role here, also. No doubt about that. But I have a sneaky feeling that when the smoke clears, as it were, what will emerge as the bottom line is that I was just sick and tired of ME. I have always been a lover of solitude, but I really overdid it this time. And the lessons of that truth are the challenge I will now have to incorporate into my life. Hard-won, as always.
The possibility exists, of course, that the choice to abort was simply yet another wrong choice in that sequence of wrongness I'd identified in Chugwater. But I don't think so. It's true that the extreme 'everythingness' of the West Coast is actually frightening in contrast to the nothingness of the grasslands. But it IS home. And I AM here. And I'm glad. Bunni PS: I deeply thank all of you who have followed along with this jaunt and have offered encouragement and support and contacts. I couldn't have done however much I did do without you. There will be one more "letter" with a South Dakota story that I want to tell, but that one's a few days off yet. This is enough for today. I need to take another nap.
© 2000 BFZ
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