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how far is a mile?

Written by Kate on June 19th, 2005

This trip is teaching me a lot about relativity. Take a mile, for example. I really thought I had a decent grasp on how far a mile was – four times around a track, 5280 feet, 1609 meters, 320 perches, and so on. But there’s a mile around a track, and then there’s a mile up a steep grade in rain designed to drench. There’s a mile along the narrow shoulder of an interstate screaming with traffic, and a mile down a lonely, twisted mountain road with the sun shining and snow-capped peaks soaring and the birds singing and the air just humming with life. These are very different distances, and over the past few days, I’ve ridden them all.

After two days of relentless, thigh-screaming climbs over two different 7,000ft + passes, I’ve left frenzied California behind for the desert peace of Nevada. The transition from lush greeness to ‘sagebrush desolation’, as Robert Service puts it, was amazing to experience on a bike. It happened as I raced down the lonely, twisted mountain road I was referring to above – one second I was surrounded by grass and firs and pines, the next I was riding through scruffy vegetation and exposed rock. Maybe it’s partly the change in scenery, but I prefer the latter landscape. There’s something so raw and harsh and honest about deserts that appeals to me. I’ve got to be careful how much I rhapsodize about them, though, because my next update (post-desert traverse through Nevada) might tell a different story.

About stories – this trip has been chock full of them already, and I don’t know where to start, but I’ll at least cover the latest and greatest. After descending from the Sierras, I eventually rolled into Genoa, Nevada, a quaint town nestled at the edge of the mountains, and parked my bike in front of a pub with a parking lot full of Harleys. My poor, mottled bike (spray-painted gray to render it unappealingly ugly to potential bike snatchers) looked scrawny and pathetic next to the gleaming, muscular motorcycles parked next to it. I ventured a hopeful “I’ll trade ya?” to one of the leathery biker dudes, but for some reason he didn’t take my offer seriously.

As I was sitting on a boulder next to my bike, munching on a power bar and mentally calculating the ride to the next campsite (how far is a mile in the desert heat with jellied legs?), a lady came up to me and asked, “Are you Canadian?” With a huge Canadian flag patch sewed prominently onto my handlebar bag, my national loyalties weren’t exactly discreet, and it turns out she’s a displaced Canuck herself, now married to an American and living in Genoa with her family. To make a long story short (it’s late and I’m beat), she and her incredibly generous family took me in for the night and have treated me like their own daughter. Right now my belly is full of salad and steak, I’m clean and so are my clothes, my bike is stocked with enough Gu and MREs to see me through a marathon of desert, and I’m about to collapse asleep in a cushy bed.

The only certain thing about this trip is that everything – what I see, who I meet, what I eat, where I sleep – is uncertain. And I’m loving it.


2 Comments so far ↓

  1. EODRAT says:

    I am very impressed with your will to finish this ride from “HELL”! I will say one extra pray for you each night since that is all I can do for you. It was a pleasure to have met you this pass Sunday with Paul and Lorna in Geona. I hope you have a smooth ride and there are more down hills than up. You are living on the edge, so you are not taking up to much space! I know someday I will see you going for a ride into outerspace.
    God bless you and keep you safe.

  2. EODRAT says:

    It’s been afew days since I have checked in on you, but you have been in my prayers. Hope your belly is full and your legs are lose as a goose! Okay maybe I will never make it as a poet, but I just wanted to make you smile. After all that is the only thing I can give you along your ride to help you through this long ride. So from time to time beside a prayer I will try to send you a smile. Good luck and God Speed Kate.

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