Day 42 Saturday, August 20 Roosevelt to Helper, UT 76 miles
I am writing from a barely functional motel room in Helper, UT the Sunday morning following. My emotions are conflicted this morning and I think it has to do with the combination of the intensity of the ride yesterday with the quality of the motel room last night. It is the first time that I have reserved a room in advance, and given the other choices in town it wasn’t a bad decision. It is more a reflection of what I am needing right now than it is the room itself.
I needed to make a choice yesterday after I rode into Duchesne 30 miles west of Roosevelt where I was stayed the night before. I had two routes that would take me to the same point just south of Provo. The route south is 23 miles shorter, but over what appeared to be a significant pass. In Duchesne I asked about the two routes and discovered that both had long climbs and the southern route was supposed to be splendidly beautiful. So my decision was easy. If I was going to have to climb either way I might as well take the shorter, beautiful route and stop in Helper halfway.
I don’t mean this as an ego thing because what I want to express is how humbled I felt. I expressed to a close friend that morning in what has been only one in a handful of calls that I really had no more need to prove anything by climbing mountain passes. I really am ready for the more casual, sightseeing pace that I expect to get in parts of California and Oregon. Nonetheless, I didn’t really have a choice about the matter. After Duchesne there were 28 miles of climbing culminating in an exceedingly steep summit climb. The last two miles I literally carved “S” patterns across both lanes (yes, I watched for traffic!) in order to take some of the pressure off my legs by going straight up. When I reached the top I was simply humbled by my own strength. Six weeks ago when I started I could not have pulled this off. Despite the fact that I would prefer not to climb like this anymore I am humbled by how strong I have become. Where did this physical and psychological strength come from?
The route itself has brought me once again into a new world. After cresting the summit I enjoyed a very quick and smooth descent through a towering canyon of rock bluffs and cliffs. I have never seen anything like it except in pictures. I imagine I will have occasion today to stop and soak it all in. I don’t know that pictures will be able to capture the feeling of riding below these magnificent rock sculptures and cliffs.
Which gets me to the town of Helper. I arrived about 6:30 p.m., much later than I like, but I started the day off with a flat tire and it just took longer to pack everything up than usual. I also read another chapter in my book, The Cellist of Sarajevo, during breakfast and enjoyed a leisurely pace for the morning. I had two surprises in Helper. The first is that I discovered the toilet in room isn’t really working. I took a shower and the shower handle came off. I tried the password to the internet that the manager gave me and it didn’t work. All of these things I could have tried to address, but if you were here you would understand why I felt that would just be a waste of my time. It is one of those motels that rents out by the week and the month and I had a feeling my room was quickly “spruced up” in order to make it functional for a night.
The second surprise is that I just happened to show up during their Helper’s annual Music and Art Festival. I went out for a nice dinner, toured the dozens of booths, many featuring Native American jewelry. I enjoyed some delicious Indian fry bread with honey butter. And I sat on the lawn of the park while bands that were brought in played music. There was a fun salsa band that had the feel but not always the crispness to the music. I especially enjoyed the closing band, Old California, that had written most of their own music in the rock and rhythm and blues style.
Which brings me once again to the conflict of emotions. I posted on June 26, two weeks before I left, that I felt like the first question of the Shorter Catechism reflected something I was needing to work through. The question is “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” I felt like I was ready for a movement of “working for God” to “enjoying the riches and goodness of God in all Her beauty.” In recent days I have felt myself yearning for more and more of that. I took that day in Craig where I read, ate, had a massage, went to a movie and ate chocolate donuts. Now I am finding I want more of that each day.
Yesterday just highlighted that for me. I didn’t have much choice about riding over a steep mountain pass yesterday. I arrived in town late which makes for less time for recovery, finding places to eat, and planning the next day. And here is where my emotions take over: “The least I could expect is a working toilet, shower, and internet!” Weeks ago I would have just seen this as another challenge to handle as part of an unpredictable pilrimage where one has to improvise and make it up as one goes. Now, I feel annoyed and a little resentful! I can feel myself saying to noone in particular, “If I am going to have to ride that hard then there better be someone to take care of me on the other end!”
So, there it is. I do need to move on today. I find myself singing John Denver’s song again, “Lost and alone on some forgotten highway…” I didn’t get what I needed last night. But, I was treated to a great small town festival and physical beauty that will stay with me for the rest of my life. It is breathtaking! I can’ t stay here and I am not sure what is up the road. But, I do know that I need to take the time to enjoy the ride today and trust that there will be an oasis down the road. Maybe it will a campsite by a stream or a room with a comfortable bed and working toilet. Either one is fine. Somewhere in between is not!