Day 70 • May 10, 2012 • Hite to Fry Canyon, UT • 30 miles
Day two on meds was more challenging than the first. The usual intestinal side effects had kicked in. After christening the trowel, another item I can take off the carried-but-never-used list, I was climbing out of Hite at about half power. And it was hot, in the mid 90’s, with a slight breeze that about matched our slight forward motion. A cloud of sand fleas took advantage and followed us most of the day. Better than circling vultures I guess.
At Hite we’d loaded up to full water capacity, some fourteen liters, but were using it so fast we might have to limit our evening meal to save enough for tomorrow’s ride. Our traditional late start allowed us to hit the two hour window for the Hite convenience store but the Gatorade was long gone and the water was getting so hot it was hard to drink. Our under-seat water bladders usually help to keep our drinking water cool but they were no match for this day. We didn’t expect water until maybe Natural Bridges National Park, at this rate another day out, but Zoe had begun fantasizing about a little blip called Fry Canyon that showed up on some of our maps. She was convinced there would be an RV park there which, after a motel, is her holy grail. I was thinking we were setting ourselves up for disappointment. The day was getting grimmer but, in the words of a hang glider pilot I used to know, “at no time was I in fear for my life.”
We were slogging up the continuous climb at less than 6 MPH average speed so it took a long time for Fry Canyon to appear. When it finally did arrive we could see a modern building and RVs shimmering in the heat. Suddenly Zoe kicked in some reserves she’d been holding back and we zoomed up to the entrance of the Fry Canyon Backcountry Lodge. Past the No Trespassing sign and the weathered Closed sign and up to a building that looked more like a faded hope of a business than anything that was going to help us today. Then we noticed a bunch of dusty but modern pickup trucks in the parking lot. It looked like the owners were preparing a little barbeque so we inquired about lodging, food, water… anything. They told us no, there was no business here, but would we like some water? and proceeded to toss ice cold bottles of water in our laps. Cold water! We filled both of our bladders, Fry Canyon wasn’t a mirage after all.
Refreshed and with a more positive outlook, we continued up the hill in search of a good camping spot within striking distance of Natural Bridges the next day. This was going to be easy with vast stretches of BLM land ahead. As we were pedaling I started thinking about the conversation I’d had with the man who gave us the water. When I’d asked him what we could pay him he said he didn’t want money but joked that he’d take a beer. At the time I thought this was funny—the last thing we’d be carrying around is a 90 degree can of beer– but now it seemed tragic: did I misunderstand and turn down an offer of ice cold beer?
Still climbing, a truck passed us and stopped ahead. A woman stepped out and walked toward us on the shoulder. She was walking downhill faster than we were climbing up so it was a very slow greeting. When we were close enough to talk we found out Jacque was a cyclist herself who had travelled this road and knew how scarce water was on this stretch. She offered us water which we had to turn down because we were flush from our earlier good fortune. An hour earlier and we would have taken every drop she was willing to give. We talked some more and learned we actually had mutual acquaintances! She lived in Boulder, our new favorite town, and of course knew everyone we had met there. And she was looking for a young woman on a touring bike. Sarah! We were able to tell Jacque we’d seen Sarah the day before and that her plans had changed and she wouldn’t be on this road. Jacque was expecting Sarah at the Universal Peace Dance which was starting tonight at a campground up ahead. Too far for us but maybe when Lisa arrived we’d check it out.
We had just pulled in to a perfect camping spot in a bluff overlooking vast vermillion canyons when Lisa pulled up in the Prius. Saved! We hadn’t expected her until the next day. As I was loading the trikes on the rack I reached into the cooler and pulled out an ice cold bottle of Wilco Tango Foxtrot, the “jobless recovery ale” from Lagunitas brewery. One of my favorites since having it on tap in Boise a while back, and quite appropriate for this situation. Lisa knows me well.