“I shared my bed with a black cat. Ominous. Very ominous. “
Four mountainbike riders came strolling along my way. Two nodded to me when I moved out of their way. The next two stopped in front of me, looked me over, and said “Hey, you’re Nicholas, aren’t you? Nicholas Kennedy?”
I didn’t really know what to say at this point. My brain was kind of blank. These guys knew who I was?
I suspiciously nodded my head, watching the two men closely as I expertly retorted,
My razor wit knows no bounds.
“Hell yeah man, we’ve been watching you race! Youngest guy out here, total rookie, but you’re tearing it up! Keep it up man, just one more day!”
The other rider then followed this with, “You’re doing amazing dude, almost out of this mess!”
I stoically thanked them for their kind words, and kept my tears in until they were out of sight. Then I had a slight emotional attack. I couldn’t believe it, here I was out in the middle of no where on a god-forsaken trail with lingering food and water, exhausted to the point of frustration, and I get a greeting from a bunch of local riders cheering me on and telling me how great I am.
So as tears rolled down my cheeks, I began pedaling onwards while saying to myself, “You know what? I am great. I am awesome. I am amazing! I’m doing this and nothing’s stopping me. I’m the best rookie out here, and nothing will get in my way! You hear me? NOTHING!”
As my heart swelled with pride, a thorn tore its way through my tire and punctured my tube.
If you’ve ever wondered if God has a sense of humor, take my word for it. He’s got one, and he loves deflating egos.
I’m not certain I will ever experience the kind of emotional waterfall that assaulted my mind at that moment again. I certainly hope not. In the time between synaptic action-potentials, I went from cloud-nine elation to Travis Coates just shot Ol’ Yeller depression.
The resulting burst of anger reverberated throughout the hills. I sure hope the hiking parents covered their children’s ears. I wouldn’t want to be the cause of their expanding four-letter-word vocabulary.
I sat down and rather angrily tore the tire off of the rim and checked the tube. I pulled the thorn out, checked the tire, and reached for my patch kit. Of course, I was out of patches (Thanks, Wyoming.) and resorted to using my spare tube. I was back on my bike in a quarter of an hour.
More bike-hiking through old slightly-burnt hillside forests, up and over large ledges, down through dried stream-beds, and finally into a campsite. I met a nice couple there who knew of the race and wanted to hear all about it. I was in the mood to keep moving. But then they offered me a beer, and who am I to disrespect their generosity?
The woman was a race organizer for the Tour de Gila, a road ride through the gila national forest. I swapped stories for a bit while they fed me a sandwich. I was very thankful of this. They told me of a place in Silver City where I could sleep for the night. It was called “The Bike House” and was owned by one of the people I met while trudging through the CDT section.
I bid my farewell and hit broken pavement out of the campsite. A few hours later I was rolling into Silver City. The climb and descent from Pinos Altos into Silver City was uneventful. Lots of steep asphalt climbs and descents, dodging a few campers, and sucking down water in the afternoon sun.
Following the directions and address given to me, I found the bike house easily (It was the one with all the bikes in the yard). I knocked on the door, introduced myself, and was given a grand tour. I had a bed up in the attic/loft area, and full use of the house. They even gave me an extra tube. I thanked them and headed out to find some Mexican food.
After stuffing my face with a burrito or two, I strolled through downtown Silver City for a while. It’s a neat place, with all kinds of old shops, restaurants, and even an old theater. The current tenants of the Bike House all worked at the theater, creating set pieces and such. I bought a few supplies for the next day and walked back to the bike house. It was a beautiful night. A great night to ponder what it was that I had been doing for the past few weeks. Had it really been that long? Was I really going to see Mexico tomorrow?
Had I really last washed my bib in Colorado?
I thought on all of this as I climbed into the second story of the house. It was a weird house. It seemed like every room was built by a different person, and each person was not on speaking terms with the other. The rooms were nailed together whatever way seemed to fit. The only way to the second story was a home-made ladder made of 2x4s. The house had a dirty bathroom, bikes everywhere, and unsurprisingly smelled very strongly of marijuana.
But the best was yet to come. As I scaled the ladder through a hole cut in the ceiling/floor, I was greeted by eyes.
Cartoonishly-large eyes gazed down at me from every angle. The eyes belonged to giant masks, and the masks hung from the ceiling and walls of this second story workshop.
Apparently I was sleeping in the main workshop used for the theater downtown. I stood in the rather vast expanse filled with huge masks, looking for the lofted bed I was promised.
It was right next to me.
Next to the hole I crawled from, a step-ladder lay against a wall. And at least eight feet above the floor I saw the loft. It was the tallest sleeping place I have ever seen in a house. It was at least two feet above my head, and I had to climb an unstable ladder that wobbled precariously over the hole I had just climbed out of to get to the second story.
Weariness won over, and I began my climb. At the top, a large black cat hissed and jumped off the bed onto a window ledge at least four feet away. At least it kept the bed warm for me.
As I settled into my lofty position, much closer to the ceiling than the floor in this odd little house, my final sight before drifting to sleep was of a wooden puppet staring, unblinkingly, into my eyes.
I was only partly disturbed by the soulless visage keeping watch over me that night. Those eyes weren’t the only thing keeping me awake, though.
Tomorrow was my last day on the Tour.