The Last Day The beginning of a new adventure, Day 14
We left the Interstate today, but never got away from a violent crosswind. When we went east, the wind went west. When we turned south, the wind turned north. We had over fifty miles to travel from Green River to Moab, and despite disappointment that our trip was almost done, this was a stretch we just wanted to get out of the way.
A relentless stream of traffic clogged the narrow pavement of U.S. 191. Construction tore up the shoulder of a 10-mile stretch, and we inhaled the thick fumes of fresh tar as we dodged rocks and chunks of pavement. Those “wake up” grates filled the entire shoulder, less than a foot wide, jarring my neck and head until my vision blurred. The sun and the wind beat us down, and we counted the slow miles to Moab with the diligence of a restless child.
As we ascended our final climb, one last good push before dropping to the Colorado river, I glanced over at a slow-moving train, chugging in the opposite direction. Traveling at no more than 10 mph, the train and I met in an rare break in traffic, and I locked eyes with the engineer. He smiled at me and pulled his horn, a loud, long blare that echoed across the barren valley. I raised my arm in a hapless wave, and the hill in front of me looked a lot friendlier. As we reached the top and realized the end of our trip was only nine more downhill miles, I suddenly felt very disappointed.
Geoff pulled over at the Dead Horse Point cut off and asked me if I wanted to find a place to camp for the night. Somehow, he didn’t want to trip to end either. It had been a day from hell and I wanted nothing more than to pull off the road and drift into oblivion by a comfortable fire. But that wasn’t the reason I wanted to stop. I wanted to stop because I couldn’t imagine getting into a car and driving home, as if it was that easy.
After some discussion, we decided to go on, though the wind raged and the sky grew dim. Camping in the area was scarce, we were tired, and we realized that one more night wasn’t going to change to fact that we were through. We had finished, despite the barriers placed in front of us, we never turned back. But it wasn’t enough. We weren’t really done. Though we had reached our destination, it felt as if we had just begun.
There are hungers that burn deep inside of everyone that most can not explain, and can not satisfy. Dreams are the mental manifestation of these hungers, an abstract picture that’s all too often impossible to decipher. But every once in a while, dreams and hungers intersect. These moments are like road signs, a distinct image of direction when life’s paths are muddled and strange. As I barreled down the hill watching the road wind deep into the trip’s last canyon, I saw an image of myself passing through Moab without stopping. And despite my job, my house, my life back home, this seemed like the most viable option.
However, in this world common sense rules, and we stopped along the Colorado River and cheered when we discovered the car was still there. We were excited to go home. But I couldn’t ignore that road map. There’s something about traveling on my bike that made so much sense to me, had so much of an impact on my thoughts, that I couldn’t avoid it. So I made some plans.
On August 20, 2003 I will leave on my cross-country trip, come hell or high water. By that point, almost a year will have passed since I finished this trip, and that image won’t fade. I’m anxious for the future, but every day that I displace myself from bike touring the hunger just grows stronger. If I ignore it, my dreams will continue to haunt me. If they happen to again meet, I’ll know where to go. And I’ll follow.