It was time to part ways with Tara. I had the same nervous energy I always get before change occurs.
We went to the fanciest lunch at a Brazilian Steakhouse. Meat was cut from three pronged knives on a continuous basis until I could take no more.
We walked to the train station. If I was to stay sane, I would have to get on the Hoopty and ride far from town. I said my goodbyes with my heart beating too hard. I rolled away slowly in the general direction of the huge looming mountains.
Two days back to the ACA route. Two days of huge ascents and Google directions. Google Bicycling directions are a mixed bag. They are not fact-checked by humans who have actually ridden the route. People with local riding experience are a better source, but if Bikely.com doesn't have a route (or if you're lazy) then you go with Google. The routes generated by Google don't take towns into account - often they avoid populated areas to the extent that necessary services are unavailable. Like water. Google has put me on some of the best roads and paths I've seen, and I'm grateful for that. But I would always prefer human-generated information: bicycle maps, guidebooks, bikely.com routes, etc.
I rode out of Denver on more wonderful bicycle-friendly paths, until I came to Golden. After the Coors factory, it was obvious that I had reached the mountains, and I would now experience them. I reached an intersection with a road curving through peaks, and I began a climb that lasted 13 miles. The grade was reasonable. I was able to climb with momentum, and I didn't need to drop the chain to the granny ring.
I continued to climb. I began to sweat. I was covered in sweat. I was hot and low on water. I wanted to pour water over my head, but I couldn't waste it.
I continued to climb. I went through another bottle of water. I was grateful when I came to a visitor's center at a park. I was dismayed when it was closed. No water outside. I had a pitiful half bottle, and I was dehydrated. I should have asked an RV parked there if they had water to spare - but how far could a source be inside a state park? I continued.
I followed the Google directions onto a tiny road, and was concerned when I saw a sign that warned "No RVs. 19% grade." I rode along for another mile before I forced myself to stop and become sane. Fuck this! Half a bottle, and you're continuing into nothing! Stupid, stupid, stupid!
I turned around, and reconnected to the "main" road. I saw a lady getting into her car beside a sort of large garage that looked like it housed offices for the park. I called over to her and asked if there was water inside. I was baffled to learn that there was not. I didn't explain that I was nearing desperation - I just asked how far. She told me there was a gas station and market in 6 miles. I can do that, I thought.
I began to climb again. Half a mile up the road, I was done playing games. I saw a light on in a house, I rode up the driveway, and I rang the bell. A nice couple filled my bottles with the most delicious water I've ever tasted. Mountain well water that was delicious in it's surprising tastelessness. I filled my reserve bottles, too. We chatted for a bit, and they told me to expect a cold night. (It wasn't that bad.)
I continued on the main road, deciding to connect with the Google directions at a more sane point... after the crazy road with the long 19% grade. The sun was going down, and it was time to camp. The official campground was $26. Ha! I would never touch that.
I continued up the mountain, and pulled into the woods at a place that looked good to me. I pushed back far into the trees where I knew I could not be seen from the road. I unloaded some gear and set up camp. I got out my warm clothes and prepared to find out whether my sleeping bag would be adequate after all.
Tara brought my bivy-sack, and I sent home my tent. I opted to stick with my sleeping bag, as the other one was far too bulky and heavy. I still question both of those decisions.
I was exhausted as I put on long pants, heavy socks and the wool thermal that Nick gave me back in Annapolis so long ago. My body was sticky and salty from the sweaty effort. I crawled into the bivy and didn't find sleep for many hours. I was on slightly uneven ground, and felt like I was constantly sliding or rolling. My layers felt twisted, and my sleeping bag has always felt askew.
Am I ready to continue this trip? This seems crazy. After finally falling asleep, I woke up in the early hours to the sound of coyotes attacking baby foxes. Or maybe it was dingos murdering screaming infants. I don't know what it was, but something was getting the raw end of a deal. I pictured coyotes storming through my camp and tearing me to shreds as I was encased in my bivy sack, not even able to flail my arms properly. Logic told me this was unlikely if not impossible. Contrary to nature.