Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stage 8 - Almost Amboy to Twentynine Palms

THE ORIGIN OF PEOPLE (Death Valley, California. Shoshoni)
Part 8 - While he was carrying the jug, he heard a noise. He wondered what it was. He pulled the stopper out of the jug. Indians came out; many Indians. When only a few were left inside the jug, he put the stopper back. The woman had told him to pull it out when he came to the middle of the world, but he had pulled it out when he heard the noise. He put the stopper in again and came on to Death Valley. In Death Valley he pulled it out again, and the remaining Indians came out. They stayed here. That is why there are Indians here now.

Whether we are asleep, or awake, we are really watching the functioning of our own minds; we create the reality around us.

It was eleven o’clock when we made it to Amboy. I had been looking forward to the hula skirts and the crazy photo-op that I had read about. But since I had taken so long to get there, the officials at the time station may have lost some enthusiasm. I and the Thrasher crew lost some enthusiasm as well; we had been on the road since seven A.M. the day before.

After a brief tack west on National Trails Highway, the final 58 mile section climbs into the Sheep Hole Mountains on Amboy Road. The difficult climb terminates at Sheep Hole Pass and the subsequent descent into the Dale Lake basin is only a short relief. The final twenty miles are mostly upwind and slightly uphill.

Crossing the tracks and turning south on the Amboy Road was one of my last coherent recollections. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion conspired to crumble my sanity like Sheep Hole’s crumbling granitic domes.

In the darkness the eerily lit path ahead was a dim tunnel. The crosswind played night music through the power lines next to the road. My mind swayed in and out of consciousness; the boundary between sleep and reality blurred and finally disappeared as we approached the steepest part of the climb.

Slowly creeping up the pass I remember watching the tail lights of passing traffic. I wanted to keep the lights in sight as long as I could. My idea was that in the darkness I’d be able to see how much further it was to the top. I struggled to understand why the dim lights just kept going up and up. In my realistic dream state one particular set of tail lights became a UFO and left the planet. My assessment was definitely more dissimilar from reality than usual. The Thrasher crew must have known that I was losing it.

I woke up long enough to safely handle the descent from Sheep Hole summit. Any sense of realism quickly faded as I made the final bend towards the west; a mere twenty miles to the finish line in Twentynine Palms.

My cadence slowed to a near stop. The Thrasher crew must have been doing the math because they frequently reminded me that the clock was still ticking and the forty eight hour time limit was not going to wait for me to get my act together. Somewhere along this portion of the stage Vireo cranked past me like a bullet; that was the last time that I saw George until the finish.

Slogging upwind and uphill I sank into a deep multi-sensory shaman experience; looking back on it now it was truly a form of controlled madness. The wall that separates states of consciousness is a very fine veil.

Time had slowed to a crawl. It was the first time in my life that I truly saw my perception of the world; it was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Unable to perform optimally, my brain had begun to create images.

A powerful artifact of a past experience in this race became a reoccurring theme in my journey tunnel. Standing along the road Coyote, my spirit guide, manifested himself many times. He moved close from time to time, lying along the shoulder and raising his head to look at me as I rolled by. His reassuring gaze spoke. He said, “Keep going. You will do this. I’ll stay with you”.

In my state of cognitive deficit my brain created another set of images; bent and warped as if viewed through a fish-eye lens. The road became lined with clusters of seventy’s era muscle cars. Each collection was accompanied by a sullen few; their arms were crossed as if they were waiting for me to give up. Group after group quietly gestured and laughed at my plight. They were detailed, impressive and as believable as normal reality. I tried to keep their cigarette smoking negativity in my peripheral vision. Maybe I feared them. Or maybe I feared what they represented.

It wasn’t until the turn onto Utah Trail that I began to fully understand what was happening. I knew that I was going to finish; no question about it.

The final few miles on Twentynine Palms highway were waking miles. As I approached the last little climb before the finish line, I could see a light colored figure laying in the gutter near the base of the hill. I was awake. But the figure of Coyote, my spirit guide was right there. Coyote did not move. I kept pedaling straight at him expecting his image to evaporate. Coyote did not raise his head and I had to make a hard turn to avoid hitting him.

Coyote was real. He was there. He was right in my path to say goodbye; He stayed with me until the end. It was so powerful. I will spend the rest of my life trying to understand it. It was the most real experience that I have ever had.

I went through the toilet paper finish line at 4:21 A.M.; 45 hours: 21 minutes: and 31 seconds after leaving Santa Clarita. I fell off of the bike and rolled across the concrete. Vireo and Rob ran over and helped me back to my feet. Desiree hugged me and everything was right. Everything was just right.

1 comment:

Buckshot77 said...

Eric, an excellent read and really puts a point on what I think a lot of the other counts of this ride gloss over. There is a huge amount of personal commitment/suffering involved with anything of this magnitude. I think bravado puts most people to writing that it was hard but fun and thats about it. You actually account for all the suffering. Great writing man. This ride is definitely on my radar to hopefully compete/complete one day.