Day 40 Thursday, August 18 Craig to Dinosaur, CO 88 miles
This was an unbelievable day. It was surprisingly richer than I could have imagined and it was painfully more difficult than I expected. I knew it was going to be a long day. The altitude in Craig where I departed this morning was just slightly higher than the altitude in Dinosaur where I arrived tonight. I don’t have my nifty Adventure Cycling maps for this stretch. They actually show a graph of the altitude gains and losses on the routes covered by them. I assumed that the day would be reasonably flat with some minor rollers (as we call rolling hills). I was wrong. The first 30 miles were what I expected. After I reached the town of Maybell an endless series of significant rollers ensued that did not end—period.
In cycling it’s not the final elevation gain that matters. It’s the elevation gain that you get when you add up all the hills you go up—that’s what saps the legs of their strength. I actually lost about 200 feet between Craig and Dinosaur, but climbed 3,000, 4,000 or more feet during the final 60 miles. That would have been enough but in addition to that the day reached 97 degrees and the headwind was simply demoralizing. We arrived in town at about 5:00 p.m. I set up my tent in the community park where they also have a community shower. I had a good hamburger steak dinner and now am sitting at a picnic table writing my blog, drinking hot chocolate cappuccino, and munching on butter toffee peanuts. There is no wireless service, so I’ll need to find a place to send the blog sometime tomorrow.
That’s my sob story. Now the wonderfully surprising part. You might have noticed that I said “We arrived in town” in my last paragraph. The most amazing set of circumstances took place about 10 miles this side of Maybell. The first thing that happened is that I came upon Jeremiah who was walking along the road. This young man could not have just been out for a casual walk. We were 10 miles from Maybell, a town of maybe 100. We were 60 miles from Dinosaur , a town probably double the size of Maybell. And there were no houses or ranches anywhere on this stretch. I stopped and asked the young man, “You out for a long walk” understating the obvious.
We quickly shared why he would be on foot and I would be on bike this far removed from civilization. Turns out that Jeremiah is from Portland and lives just a couple of miles from me. He is running across America (going in the opposite direction as me) with his father, brother and cousin to raise awareness about health and naturopathic medicine. He was ahead of the other runners and their RV support vehicle. Two miles down the road I came upon the RV. I actually went by it as I didn’t see anyone out of the vehicle. I felt a little awkward about knocking on the door of an RV parked on the side of the road. As I looked in my rearview mirror I saw a handful of people emerge and I quickly backtracked in order to introduce myself and find out more about this “Run Across America” that they were doing.
Dennis, the father and creative force behind the project, emerged from the RV and he and I shared our stories. He actually has a theology degree and taught religion at a Catholic school in Milwaukie for about 5 years before moving to Davis, CA. In addition, he also spent a number of years working in Central America on peace and justice issues about the same time my sister and her family were in El Salvador involved in mission work. I shared my story about listening for the story of the shift from institutional religion to personal spirituality and he shared how he is trying to connect our spiritual values with our health and medical decisions.
THEN…up rides Sandro on his bike. Look, if this was Portland this wouldn’t be a surprise. But, this really was out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t think I am offending anyone by saying that because literally, no one even lives out here. Sandro had a support vehicle also following him. He saw my bike parked in front of the support RV that had the therun.org painted on the front. He wanted to know who was out here running and riding their bikes in a place where they even warn the cars about how many miles until the next gas station.
It turns out that Sandro is riding half time and running half time across the country to raise awareness and funds for cancer research in Italy (run4lifeusa.tumblr.com). He and I are going the same direction and using essentially the same route in order to get to San Francisco. It is likely that we will play leapfrog for a few days, if not for the remainder of his trip. He is riding more miles than I am per day, but then runs every other day. We are in the same town tonight but I’ll likely pass him tomorrow running and then the next day he is likely to pass me cycling. He is a much better and stronger cyclist than I am.
I also made a little progress on the “when you’re winding round, my friend, just don’t go winding round alone” issue from a prior blog. Sandro offered to have his support vehicle take all of my gear and then we could ride into Dinosaur together. I immediately brushed him off and said, “I’m fine. I’ve been at this for almost 6 weeks.” A few miles down the road I realized that I had a direct offer to not shoulder this burden alone which is part of my new personal work. I took him up on his offer, and thank God, I did. The day was punishing enough. With the extra 50 pounds I would have limped into Dinosaur in pretty sorry shape. As it was I was showing signs of heat exhaustion and his team either saved me from severe dehydration, or more likely, from limping into town darn close to dark.
In Maybell I came across this church sign that had God asking, “Will the road you’re on get you to my place?” I feel like the answer came back clearly 10 miles later as three separate groups of not quite sane, but very committed people converged in one very lonely spot. I mean, who could have picked this spot to bring us all together to share our stories and journeys? It was wild! Here is what struck me about this God-moment. Sandro is raising awareness for cancer research. Dennis and his clan are raising awareness about connecting our spiritual values with our health. I am listening for the story of this shift from our religious institutions to a spirituality that is on the loose!
I am not completely sure what to make of this yet. But, it does remind me of what has emerged and unfolded at Eastminster as we moved the discussion out of our church and into the community. It resulted in the opening of a homeless family warming center and the soon to be breaking of the ground for a ¾ acre community garden. I am convinced that the lines between the sacred and the secular are dissolving. Three groups of us out on separate missions meet out in the middle of nowhere. I have a feeling that this was God’s place. God does have a reputation for showing up in the wilderness.