Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 3 – Buffalo to Dayton

AKA, Harry Potter and the Cyclist’s Soreness

Another morning in the tent, listening to zippers zipping and grass swishing. Breakfast was in the school, so we all trekked up the hill and queued up. As at dinner (which I forgot to describe yesterday), BHS students served. They were remarkably cheerful for ambulatory teens at 5:30 in the morning.

That morning marked my first true repair: my back tire went flat in the night. Luckily, in the course of training, I’d spent enough time (and money, God knows) at the local bike shop to learn a thing or two about fixing flats. In this case it was nothing more than using a CO2 pump for the first time.

Once aired up, I hit the road. The day’s route was a mix of high plains interstate, old back country highways, and traffic-heavy maneuverin’ at the halfway point in Sheridan.

My body felt creaky. The ride through Buffalo, north to the I-80 onramp, felt like pedaling against the universe’s will. Once on the interstate, though, the ride improved – WYDOT is pretty awesome about maintaining shoulders and we had a broad, relatively smooth shoulder for several miles. We eventually exited at Piney Creek and angled back toward Story, hitting the first rest area of the day.

College representation makes up a large percentage of cycling jerseys. The first two jerseys I bought, for example, were from the universities of Illinois and Wyoming. And I’m compelled to add that I wore that Wyoming jersey with this weird blend of pride and authority on Day 2. You know, some insecure part of me probably wanted to show off; “I’m from Wyoming, I belong here, blah blah blah.” Sheesh, we’re such children, aren’t we? What would Socrates think of this behavior?

And so at our first rest area, I noticed an older gentleman in a Wisconsin jersey. I’d seen a few Michigan jerseys on the previous days but never got around to making pals. I say, my good man, I see you’re supporting a university from the Big Ten Conference. Might I induce you to discuss how awesome we all are?

What I really said was: “On, Wisconsin!” Nothing like sucking up to start a conversation.

But Wisconsin didn’t say anything more than, “Right.” And that was it. He and his chums just stared at me for a few seconds. Feeling as awkward as I’d ever felt on the Tour so far, I exited stage left and pedaled out some embarrassment.

A mile or so down the road, Wisconsin passed me with very little conversation. Several minutes later, one of his friends passed me. “Are you an Illini?” he asked. We struck up a conversation, and as it turned out, he’d gone to Minnesota. “You shouldn’t have said anything to my friend,” he said. “We’ve learned not to encourage him with that ‘On Wisconsin’ stuff.” Okay, well, that explains it.

On to Story, and the morning was turning well and truly painful. Check Google Maps and you’ll see that Story is tucked into the tail of an east/west hitch in the otherwise north/south Big Horn Mountains. This hitch is visible from the Garber’s place – in fact, it’s one of the dominant features in our wedding pictures. Cycling here felt like a homecoming of sorts, and some family had hoped to meet up with me at rest area two, between Sheridan and Big Horn.

The highway just north of Story turned into a huge downhill. Roy had told me that once we made it to Story the rest would be mostly down hill, but I hadn’t envisioned this plunge. Having gained a little confidence from lots of downhill practice the previous day, I opened it up. The fastest speed I saw on my bike computer was 45mph, but that was just the fastest speed I saw. I didn’t exactly have time to check the computer that often during the descent.

Although I was in familiar territory here, I wasn’t enjoying the ride once it leveled out. In fact, I was in a lot of pain. Frankly, I wanted to see Harry Potter. And was that one of my notorious headaches I felt coming on?

That sealed it. Somewhere around the Meade Creek intersection I decided that if Kathryn really was at rest area two, and I had little reason to doubt she would be, I’d call it a day. It’d be nice to spend the day with her, and I could use a break. I’d lived through the previous day, pedaled my sorry butt from Ten Sleep to Buffalo, and had the second most important goal of the entire Tour tomorrow.

Would there be shame in not pedaling from Sheridan to Dayton? No. Not one little bit. I wouldn’t miss that stretch at all. And frankly, I wanted to see Harry Potter.

Here was “The Junction,” an intersection with a gas station and convenience store just north of Big Horn. At holidays, this is where we buy our wine. A right turn. A few miles of pedaling with what was most assuredly becoming one of my notorious headaches. And I wanted to see Harry Potter.

Kathryn and Nancy were waiting for me at rest area two. Dismounting the bike, standing there in the heat, I’ve never been as sure of anything in my life: I was done riding for the day. My stepbrother Chad showed up too, and it was really nice just talking to the three of them. Chad headed back to work, we took off my front tire and put the bike in Nancy’s car, and headed to the Garber homestead.

I took some ibuprofen and passed out on the Garber couch. This wasn’t mere sleep.

The headache woke me up a few hours later, and I spent the next few hours in and out of consciousness, watching yard improvement shows and contending with the armed gnomes inside my head. Harry Potter was at 4:00, and if I wanted to see it, I’d need to overcome the headache. Time for the big guns. Why hello, Maxalt.

To Harry Potter!

And can I just say that, given the trainwreck that was the Half Blood Prince movie, it would have been easy to screw up Harry’s death scene. They didn’t. This movie took a few liberties but nothing as odious as the flaming fiery firesome attack on the Burrow in flames. And somewhere around Hogsmeade I realized my headache was gone.

We drove up to Dayton, waltzed into the dinner line with five minutes and plenty of food remaining, and set up camp. All told, a lovely evening. 

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