Day 46: The Narrows to Pie Town - 42 miles
|It was another cold night and morning but at least the sky was blue which
augured well for the day. However, the radio indicated that there was rain expected in the
afternoon which was a bother. I was not at all keen on being caught out again so I
resolved to make it to Pie Town by about 14:00 if possible, thereby hopefully avoiding the
After breakfast I had to do some repairs on my bicycle. The front panier frame had failed in the same location that Seans did about a month ago. I did a temporary repair using my camera tripod legs and cable ties. It should hopefully last the remainder of the trip. Bob came by and gave me moral support. He agreed that it should last the distance. We agreed that whoever invented cable ties deserves a nobel prize. He also included duct tape among life's essential inventions.
I eventually headed out at 9:30 and for the first 10 miles enjoyed a paved road which wound its way out from the hills towards the flat land. Unfortunately, I had a headwind (what a surprise!) and it would be with me for the whole day.
The road turned off towards Pie Town and it became unsealed. The photo below shows the road. Not much different to the last few days!
When it comes to categorising states Montana will be the most beautiful; Wyoming the windyest; Idaho the briefest; Colorado the highest; New Mexico the most contemplative. There is not much else to do when peddling for hours across such barren landscapes. It never ceases to amaze me how few songs I know all the words to. I pass the time by thinking of new instruments to build or, lately, lists of the best and worst of the trip. Things like the best meal, worst experience, etc. It's going to be quite a list.
After a while the terrain began to change and it became more hilly. Although it took more effort to cycle, I enjoyed the trees, and some lovely views. Unfortunately, the road changed from gravel to sand. Yes, sand.
It was quite strange. There was a firm base but the top surface was sand, sometimes 100-200 mm thick in places. When combined with corrugations it made for difficult travel. I would try to navigate a path which took me over the patches between the sand, but it wasn't easy or even possible at times. In some places I would just skid out and sink into the sand, as the photo below tries to show. I wished that I had a bucket and spade with me so that I could have built a sand castle in the road. After all, it wasn't much of a road. The effort was very hard on my knees and my medial ligaments were quite sore from all the effort.
The skies were becoming quite dark ahead of me and the wind was increasing in strength so I did my best to go as quick as I could. It was difficult with all the sand and often I had to push my bike uphill when the sand had innundated the road to such a depth that it precluded cycling. I definitely didn't want to be caught in this area when it rained; if I couldn't cycle it when dry I couldn't imaging what it would be like when wet -- and I didn't want to find out!
Like all bad things the sand eventually came to an end and I had a semblance of a gravel road. It was possible to get my speed up to 8-10 mph (as opposed to 6 on the sand when I was lucky) and with the threatening skies I was becoming more concerned. Fortunately, God answered my prayers and the rain held off, although the wind didn't. I finally came to the main road and turned left to the thriving metropolis of Pie Town. Population? Small. Commercial activity? Two cafe's, one of which was the famous 'Pie - O - Neer' with a reputation for supplying great pies.
I went inside and was thankful to be out of the wind. I found a table near a power plug and the very busy waitress brought me a menu. She didn't know it but I was planning on spending a while here. It was 14:30 and I had reached my destination only 30 minutes beyond my planned time. Not bad given the cycling conditions.
Upon being asked what they had for vegetarians I was given this horrified look which so many waitresses have had over the years. Eventually we agreed on a large salad and a plate of fries since that was all they could supply. She didn't mind at all if I brought in something from my larder so I supplemented the meagre fare with one of my 'Spanish Stakes' made from soy protein. I was famished and I enjoyed the meal immensely.
Since I was in Pie Town I had to have a pie for desert and my favourite, pumpkin, was on the menu so it was a no brainer what to choose. Absolutely wonderful. Indeed, I had a second helping. It's always been a paradox to me that in New Zealand they don't eat pumpkin pie; pumpkin is reserved as a savory vegetable. Fortunately, my wife Lis occassionally makes me pies as a special treat, but not often enough for my liking. When we were first courting she worked at heatlh centre in Virginia and made me a 'healthy' pumpkin pie which, among other abberations, used dates for the sweetening. Over time she has acquiesed (and found a less healthy recipe) and now makes a pie which tastes like they should.
The rest of the afternoon was spent working on my journal and chatting with the staff and other patrons. An elderly fellow named Eb bowled in who was walking across the country. He had been walking since April 11 and covered over 2000 miles. And I thought that I was mad. At least with a bicycle one can carry food and water for any eventuality but he was travelling very light.
About 17:30 the skies opened and the rain started. This was and answer to prayer since when I saw the skies darkening earlier I had asked God to hold it off until I was in Pie Town. Although it meant that I would need to set my tent in the rain I wasn't complaining. It was a lot better than having the rain while cycling -- especially on the road I had today.
Eb and I dawdled around while the rain came down. The fellows running the restaurant had announced that they were shutting before 19:00 so that they could watch the Monday Night Football. The game was between Chicago and Green Bay which is apparently a great rivalry. They were doubly interested since they had only moved down here a few weeks before from Chicago.
It was still raining about 18:45 when Eb and I moved out onto the veranda to allow them to shut up shop. While Eb worked on his journal I put on my rain gear and then sat on a chair with my feet up watching the world go by. Which it does at a very slow pace in Pie Town. I saw no need to rush out since the rain was still falling, and the sky was definitely clearing. In fact, we were rewarded with a brilliant red sunset.
The guys inside must have felt guilty about these two vagabonds sheltering on their veranda since we were invited in to watch the game. It was very kind of them but we both declined; I wanted to call Lis and get to bed. My cell phone didn't have good enough coverage and the local pay phone was unprotected so I would have got wet and cold making the call.
When the rain let up Eb went to use the phone so I cycled across the road to the free public campground and pitched my tent. By the time this was done and I went back to the phone Eb was gone. Lis was not at her hotel so it was a wasted effort. I returned to my tent and quickly climbed into my sleeping bag. It was damp and cold out there. So ended another day of cycling. At least I was dry, warm and well fed which made me a happy camper.