The Rim Ride is over, and all I can think about are some of the bizarre thoughts that crossed my mind during the endless miles along Gold Bar Rim.
I finished. I finished well after dark. I never anticipated being out there that long. Which is ridiculous. I knew how arduous the route was. I knew it plays to all my weaknesses on the bike (slow technical rider, slow technical climber, and slow). But even still, I thought I ought to roll into the finish around 6 or 7 PM. Instead, at 6 PM I was having a running dialogue with myself on the Gold Bar rim about what the jeepers must have been saying about me as I skittered past them, feeling nimble compared to the laborious lumbering of the whiny, modded vehicles filled with mulleted men, anxious women, and oblivious children. And I thought I had a strange recreational hobby…
The day was very even keeled. I never hit the wall to hard, but never felt real high either. The weather was great, and the company even better. One of the best views all day came just minutes into the ride when the sun peeked over Arches, illuminating towers and stone in a misty morning. I reached for a camera that I did not have.
Later in the day, as so often happens with me, I found myself in a bitter argument with myself about whether or not to finish. The bickering continued all through miles 50 through 67. I knew that at mile 67, the last bail out point, that it was all or nothing. As I rode along I said, aloud, and probably a little bit angrily, “you have no excuses!” If anyone was around to hear me I am certain they would have been alarmed at the sudden outburst.
Tom and I had spent a lot of the day together. As we approached the Gold Bar trail I asked him if he was planning on heading home, or continuing on. I was hoping he was ready to quit, because then I could go along with him. He didn’t hesitate in his answer. “Nope, I am going on” he said. “I bailed at this spot last year, that’s not happening again.”
I pretended to share his enthusiasm, but inwardly I was annoyed. I had no excuses, but I was determined to find one. However, the bail out point came and went, and I found myself pedaling upward toward the summit of the mammoth rim, instead of heading downhill to the highway. I caught a glimpse of Tom as he spun along out of sight. I stopped for a moment, and then decided it felt good to not be moving. I sat down, washed my face, ate the last of my food, some Excedrin, and had a chat with a guy in a Fat Cyclist jersey who was enviably descending toward food and ice cream probably.
After this is when things started to go bizarre. In my head. Thoughts that cross through one’s mind late in events are golden. Some funny, some dark, most, at least for me, strange and random. Yesterday I reached a new high, or low, with these bonk induced musings.
As I climbed Gold Bar Rim, I started quoting The Little Mermaid. “Somebody’s got to nail that girls fins to the floor.”
I also started to commentate on the ride. “Oh, he’s in a world of hurt now, he’s off the bike again, hiking things young children could ride.”
The commentating led to me imagining the riders back at the park who had finished were gathered around a screen and were watching me creep along, heckling and hooting as needed. So of course, I was vocalizing the heckles and hoots.
“You call that a line!? Learn to ride!”
“Is he off the bike again?”
“What’s with the really dorky, but really actually super cool argyle jersey?”
“I’m going for drinks, someone holler if he actually rides down one of the ledges”
And so on. This game went on for what seemed like hours. In fact, the rim itself seemed like an eternal abyss, some sort of parallel universe where I was the only man on the planet. I envisioned myself coming across ancient rusted jeeps, artifacts of a forgotten time. I wondered if somehow I had been trapped in a time continuum, and that it was actually the year 2156 or something. Everyone I ever knew was dead, and yet, I was still traversing the forsaken rim. I thought of No Exit by Sartre, and then the immortal words of Heston, in Science Fictions greatest accomplishment, “You blew it up! You blew it up! Damn you all to hell!”
And that’s when I looked up and saw Tom. I was struck speechless for a moment. His presence contradicted all my rational thought. All the commentary, the twilight zone, the parallel universe… he was not supposed to exist!
Together we crept along, and slowly my presence in the real world started manifesting itself again. Forward progress seemed tangible, and almost suddenly the rim was behind us, with only Poison Spider left in front. The sun sunk below other, far off rims and not long after I heard the trickle of the Colorado River. I don’t know that I have ever heard a more welcome sound. We rode Potash Road in the dark, our lights flickering off the red cliffs, cliffs that hours earlier we were peering off the tops of, wishing for the ability to fly, or at least fall slowly.
A camp fire and friendly faces greeted us at the finish. I am pretty sure I made lame jokes about doing the “hardest 300 miles of my life”. But the fire was warm, and so were the smiles. Eventually I was back in the trailer eating a Wendy’s frosty, and fighting off sleep. And again, the imaginary TV schtick started up again, and somewhere out there, someone watching was saying,
“Oh, he looks terrible. He should get some help.”