Wind blew hard all though the night.
We'd grown accustomed to the heavy breeze while riding and gawking the past several days. You just can't stop long if you're sweaty, or you find a sheltered place to take a break, or you add a layer. Easy cheesy.
But for some reason the wind got to me on this night. No doubt a critical factor was our choice of bivy spot--under big pines, and atop their delicious detritus: Duff.
But what else falls with the duff?
Cones. Bazillions of 'em.
It only takes *one* landing close (no contact need be made) to put your (my) sensors on high alert. Then the gusting wind takes over and rustles the branches overhead, maybe flaps the corners of your tarp a bit, plops a few more cones, and voila--you aren't getting any more meaningful sleep.
TO sawed logs for hours, oblivious to the impending doom. Bastard.
When finally there was enough light in the sky I got up and started prattling around, packing gear, munching on leftovers, happy just to be vertical again. Long nights this time of year = LOTS of camp time. TO stumbled around in a sleep hangover (bastard!) even longer than normal. Then we started up Mill Creek.
The lower slopes were friendly enough grades to ride, even stiff and sore right outta the bag.
But as we got higher the grade kicked up and the surface conditions deteriorated. Then we walked.
Here's a glimpse of TO cresting the Mill Creek climb. On average the wind in this clip is a little heavier than what we'd had the first few days, and a little (OK, a lot) lighter than what we'd get for the next two.
Hairypants the route master had made some last minute trail tweaks just before sending us off, and hadn't actually been on-the-ground for a few of the upcoming miles. We never completely forgave him for the bushwhack away from BEAUTIFUL singletrack and onto another dang road.
This view southeast over the Grand Staircase courtesy of another one of TO's flats.
For the first time in days we felt hounded by the weather. Dark clouds, malevolent gusts, and an occasional spray of rain kept us anxious.
There wasn't any singletrack to speak of, but we enjoyed a little-used ATV track with great flow.
Flowy track gave way to shand.
A few miles of tailwind-aided momentum shot us onto the Skutumpah Road. Hair-o-rama's cues described it as easy cruising, which it emphatically was. Gradual and sometimes steep descending through stunning scenery, vaguely reminiscent of the Entrada Bluffs road a few hundred miles northeast. But Skutumpah was infinitely more enjoyable.
Plus I just liked the way the word rolled off my tongue--it could be noun, adjective, or verb equally well. Skutumpah!
Inches-deep wind drift across the otherwise graded road bed.
Approaching Cannonville we got a good look at what we assumed would be the evening's conquest: Powell Point.
I'd been subconsciously dreading that climb, knowing it was likely to whup me into a sniveling mess. More than normal, I mean.
But once it came into view I got really motivated by the idea of making it up there to camp.
We rolled into Tropic powered by a now-nuclear tailwind. I screamed back at TO that I didn't think I could push this much wind. I don't think he could hear me, but the statement would turn out to be oddly prophetic.
An hour at the main tourist trap gave us our RDA of onion rings, double bacon cheeseburgers and, naturally, coffee. Then we reloaded bikes and packs with 3 days of vittles for the big push over the top and down to Boulder. As I coerced 2 lbs of M & M's into my frame pack, TO asked to borrow my spoke wrench. I dug it out and handed it over, thinking it odd that this was the second time he'd needed it. He disappeared to tend to his truing issues while I finished packing up.
Loaded for bear we prepared to roll out.
But something wasn't quite right with TO's wheel, and he asked me to have a look. I sighted down the left side of the wheel, turned a few nips, and quickly brought the wheel within ~1mm of true. But then I sighted down the right side and my jaw hit my knees. Huge, huge wobbles. TO had had a similar problem with this model of rim a few months previous. He suspected the rim was splitting circumferentially so he removed his tire, tube, and rim strip to have a look. Sure enough, cracks propagated from several of the spoke holes. His wheel was toast.
Our trip was done.
We spent a few minutes discussing options, which given our distant-from-a-bikeshop location included riding pavement or hitchhiking, either way just to get to his car in Boulder. The state of his wheel ensured that the former would quickly lead to the latter.
After much discussion we opted to get a room and find a phone/computer in hopes that we could bribe someone to deliver a wheel. But it's just never that easy. Not a single room (out of hundreds!) was available in Tropic, despite the town being deserted. Sitting roadside in a 40+ mph breeze it was hard to think clearly. We both remembered a motel and campground back in Cannonville, but that was...
Granny gear would have been appropriate against that blow, but in granny you didn't have consistent enough chain tension to keep the bike upright. Not that I managed to keep it upright. We struggled much, I walked a little, and eventually we made it to that haven for weary travelers: KOA.
I chuckled aloud when I walked into the wind-free office and read, "It's not camping, it's Kamping"!
One more day to go...