An exhilarating descent down sharp switchbacks drops us in Colorado, land of extremes. As Geoff and I spin through the Dolores River Valley, our bikes drift into the middle of the road. No car has passed by in half an hour.
We're about nine miles from Bedrock, Colo., only the second town we'd pass through in over 50 miles. Geoff tells me to keep my eye out for a store, as ice cream has become our main motivation on this trip. Sandstone walls box in an sprawling agricultural oasis, still green and glowing from heavy rainstorms the week before.
Bedrock, on the other hand, looks dirty and worn. Those rainstorms that drenched the fertile fields west of here drained into the Dolores in a rush of saturated water. Bedrock, sitting just of the river banks, took the brunt of the drainage. Streets, tree trunks, and foundations are caked in red silt. Everything else in town appears beaten - 1970s-era trailers, vehicles on blocks, boarded windows, crumbling cabins all occupying a four-block radius that just happened to make it on the Rand McNally map.
"There's not a store here," I say, feeling that disappointed pang in my stomach. There's not another town for 21 miles, and we won't pass it today.
And we're just about to blow on by when I catch, out of the corner of my eye, a sign on one of those deteriorating buildings: "Bedrock Store, est. 1891." And in the clouded window is another one: "Open."
As we pull up to the door a scraggly mutt limps up to me, but doesn't seem to care one way or the other if I'm there. The person I assume is owner, a large graying man draped in dirt-caked denim, stands on the porch chatting with a mousy middle-aged woman and a teenage boy. A sign on the door reads "Help stop cattle theft," and I wonder how - and more importantly, in this day and age, why - someone would steal an entire cow.
The cashier doesn't even look up as we walk inside. A man sitting in a chair in the middle of the small single-room market continues making comments about his newspaper to the cashier. The plywood floor creaks under his work boots - again, dirt caked - as he stands up to get more coffee. We don't even exist to them.
Neatly stacked on dusty wooden shelves is, Geoff tells me, any and every kind of food we could ever want to buy. Cans of spaghetti sauce. Black beans. Macaroni and cheese. Kipper snacks. White bread. All of them already chosen for us. Selection means nothing here. If you want ketchup, you get Heinz. Period.
But here, that makes sense. I settle on grapefruit juice, an ice cream sandwich (the generic kind that come in packages of six for a dollar) and a giant russet potato, chosen from a produce section that contained potatoes, onions, carrots and iceberg lettuce - the hardiest, longest-lasting vegetables known to man. Geoff buys chips and Gatorade, and we sit on the balcony to eat. The mutt shuffles around the gravel parking lot. The cars that pass by keep on going, onto Naturita, only a half hour drive away.
In the early 1970s, The Flinstones established Bedrock as the origin of all human civilization. In geology, bedrock is a description for foundation, the first layer of earth. Bedrock is solid, planted, unmoving. Entire formations grow and then deteriorate around it, but Bedrock stays where it is.
Bike touring is such that life starts to move backwards. Technology gives way to the tried and true. Convenience loses importance in the face of survival. The hectic rush to get things done returns to a lingering meander without a destination. On that path, you'll always end up back where you started. And from there on out there's only the retrospective and rose-colored landscape of history ahead.
Before we leave, I make a stop at the outhouse - the perfect stereotype: all wood, a little moon cut out of the swinging door, the toilet just side-by-side holes with no seats, and no toilet paper for miles. This, by far, is my favorite bathroom of the trip. I could stop at a thousand truck stops that I'll never remember, eat a thousand different kinds of ice cream sandwiches and not recall how any of them tasted, but Bedrock, Colo. is burned on my brain - a permanent foundation.