Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stage 7 - Kelso to Almost Amboy

THE ORIGIN OF PEOPLE (Death Valley, California. Shoshoni)
Part 7 - In the morning, both women were large in the belly. The older one started to weave a basketry water jug. She finished making the jug. Both women put their babies in the jug. When they had finished, they told Coyote to go back home and to take the jug full of babies with him. Coyote started. When he came to the ocean, the old woman put a flat stick across it and Coyote walked over on it. He came toward his home. He went to Owens Valley.

We stopped at the Kelso time station for just a few minutes; we got back on course just as Red-Eye Vireo pulled in. Earlier, on the Kelbaker climb, Vireo and I had exchanged a few words of mutual encouragement as I crept pass him. The fixed gear that he was riding looked lean; but he had it set up with a tall gear that made the lean look mean.

After Kelso the course continues south on the Kelbaker Road adjacent to the Devil's Playground. The climb starts almost immediately. The twelve mile gain between the Granite Mountains and the Providence Mountains summits at Granite Pass. After a brief drop onto the flank of Van Winkle Mountain the descent rolls under I-40 and out of the Mojave National Preserve. The downhill section then continues all the way to the last time station before the finish in Twentynine Palms.

At the start of the climb I felt good. Vireo and I exchanged positions a number of times on the ascent; the last time I saw him on the Granite climb he was huddling inside his crew van covered in blankets.

I was cold and exhausted. I had slept only twenty minutes in the past two days. The stress from everything that happened so far finally overtook all of my training and preparation. More than three years of effort came crashing down in less than a few seconds. The rush of exhaustion felt like a spigot had opened and drained every last bit of energy from me; I cracked.

The climb wore on and on. I was having difficulty staying on the bike. I started a troubling tendency to stop pedaling and get off the bike. At every one of those stops Rob would jump out of the van and talk me into getting back on. I was past the pain but I could not get past the debilitating effects of sleep deprivation and complete exhaustion.

I made the summit of the Granite climb just in time to stave off the hallucinations that would eventually overtake my mind. The fast descent to the National Trails Highway and the Amboy time station slapped me back to reality.

Those miles were the last touch of waking reality that I would see until the finish in Twentynine Palms.

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