Day 69 • May 9, 2012 • Hanksville to Hite, UT • 51 miles
No disrespect to the fine folks of Hanksville, most of whom I think we met and who, to a person, were friendly and accommodating. But we were going a bit stir crazy here– we’d circled the town countless times by foot and bike, shopped at every grocery store and convenience store, eaten at every restaurant, sampled both offerings of “world famous shakes” (they were good, but “world famous” must have a pretty low bar). We were ready to get out of Dodge and today was clinic day, the only day of the week the local health clinic is open, our ticket out of here. I was feeling somewhat better but didn’t want to cross some of the most desolate desert of our journey without something on board to help clear up my sinus infection.
8I’d called ahead to prep the clinic staff of my situation and got the first appointment of the day, 10:30. This was a one shot deal for me; if they didn’t have the antibiotics I needed with them there was no way to get them that didn’t involve someone travelling over 60 miles one way or maybe postal service to Hanksville. We were so ready to leave that we were prepared to head out with just a prescription in hand and let Lisa deal with the mess when she joined us in a couple of days. But by 12:30 I had Z-Pack in hand and the first two pills in my stomach. By 2:00 we were fed, watered and packed up. We were put of there.
On the way out of town we met two different young women on solo tours through the area. Sarah was on a Novara touring bike pulling a two-wheel trailer on a route that meandered enough to make our own meandering route look direct. Today she’d decided to head straight for Moab instead of looping through Lake Powell and Natural Bridges because her brakes were worn out and she wanted to avoid some big descents. This was a shame, it would have been fun to ride with her a bit. She was very interested in our trikes and when she rolled up and parked next to us she whipped out what looked like an aluminum or titanium rod that was in four small pieces. With a flick of her wrist the sections snapped together to form a long rod. She put one end of the rod in a crevice on her frame and the other on the ground and leaned the bike against it for an instant alternative kick stand. I’ve never seen such a unique and smooth way of parking a touring bike, she gets some serious style points.
The second woman we met had just finished her ride for the day, the reverse of what we were just setting out to do. Her cheeks were still flush from the ride as she ate a bite of lunch at the Chevron station and she didn’t seem too happy about riding in the desert. Her biggest complaint was the lack of any trees at Hite, on the banks of Lake Powell, where we were headed and she had stayed the night before. I think she was about to try to talk us out of leaving for Hite so late in the day but she hesitated. Perhaps she sensed our determination to leave Hanksville or maybe my expression belied my surprise that she would expect any form of shade at Hite. She wasn’t in her home state of Wisconsin anymore. We wished each other luck and, finally, Zoe and I were pedaling again.
All week, the pitch east out of Hanksville had been taunting me. We knew from the elevation profile that we climbed over a thousand feet in the first twenty miles, a modest climb, but all we could see from Hanksville was that initial small hill. Now we were climbing over it and Hanksville was disappearing in my rear view mirror. It felt good even though all that was revealed was another hill.
So were we right to bolt out of town so late in the day still sporting a sinus infection or should we have heeded the (possibly imagined) warning from the cyclist? Well we were carrying plenty of food and water to manage an extra night or two if we couldn’t make the 50 miles to Hite and we were expecting Lisa in two days. Worst case we’d pitch the tent next to a big rock and wait to be rescued. The climb was a little harder than expected but we made it up and over and watched the landscape transform from shades of brown and distant mountains to a bright red canyon as we descended toward Lake Powell. It was another breathtaking descent similar to Capitol Reef but without the interpretive pullouts. We made it to the campground at Hite around dusk.