Day 9: A Bad Man is Hard to Find (71 miles; Austin to Eureka)
We stumbled bleary-eyed into the International Cafe (not so aptly named, since it seemed only interested in Nevada) across the street for brekki at around 6:15 AM, all admitting we could have used 4-10 more hours of shut-eye. We hit the road by 7:45 and began the morning with three steep climbs. At the start of the second, we passed two sixty-something men on very fancy equipment. (I can only say "fancy" because I've chosen to remain blind to the many conversations the boys have about bicycles, rendering my understanding of what makes a bike particularly "sick" next to nothing. During these conversations, I am generally playing a mental Pandora radio station set to "I Will Survive", and thanking my thighs for doing, for the most part, the silly things I ask them to.)
We rested at the top of the second summit, and one of the men caught up with us. He explained that his brother is a "throat-breather" and they were off to a slow start, but planned on reaching Eureka (71 miles from Austin) and staying at the Best Western. Due to the fires to the east, the hotels would all be booked up but if we needed anything we were welcome to knock on the door of their suite. His brother came chugging up the last of the hill and, through his tracheostomy tube, explained that he had had throat cancer a year ago. Since the surgeons thought they got it all, he decided he would continue having fun; the brothers were planning to do all of Highway 50. The story was both humbling and inspiring, and the men donated to LEA's when they found out our cause.
We hunkered down to the meat of what Nate had mistakenly predicted would be an "easy" day. Though the heat could've been worse, we experienced the toughest wind yet. I now understand what the guys last year meant by feeling like you're pedaling uphill when the grade is downhill. Nevada hasn't ceased to yield an incredible countryside. It seems like someone picked up the Cascades, dusted off all the snow, shrunk them down and plopped them all over the flat expanse of desert. My faith in my eyes to be able to tell longitudinal distance has been proven insufficient again and again; a hill could be 3, 10 or 20 miles away. The monotony broke for me today when I spotted a coyote about 10 feet off the road, staring at my as I descended. I had the sudden urge to pedal faster as if it were going to chase me and bite my bike tires the way my dog would, but it didn't seem interested in me, as my several backward glances proved. Nevada really is beautiful, rugged country.
It was midday when we caught up with our third character, a seventy-year old guy wearing a baby blue tee, khaki shorts and New Balance sneakers cycling like he stole something. The amount of time this guy dropped knowledge on Mark Twain, geography, his personal history and any topic in between directly correlated with the amount of time we remained in earshot. The boys and I gladly soaked up his quirky bank of facts. One bit of "lore" was that when it grew too hot in the desert, one could dismount and crawl inside one of the corrugated pipes lying under the road to enjoy the cool draft coming through from the other side, being sure to first check for noxious desert creatures inside. He said he had been doing just this a few years ago when a Mercedes stopped, and two women got out because they thought he was dead. Also of note, he carried very little water because it made him more thirsty. For the whole day he had packed one gas station apple streusel, and one bottle of Gatorade.
We're in Eureka (Eureka!) for the night, population 650. We're planning on staying in the local park and trying to shower in the Best Western, if we can catch up with the two brothers.
About Lea's Foundation
In 1998, Lea Michele Economos, a young woman who died of leukemia at the age of 28, made a dying wish to her parents that others would not face the hardships she encountered by finding a cure for this disease. Her family started this charity to carry on that wish. Today, Lea’s Foundation takes an active role in finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma and to better the lives of people living with these diseases. At the UCONN Health Center, the Lea’s Foundation Center for Hematologic Disorders sponsors research in this field. A new program covers the cost of bone-marrow testing to help recruit life-saving transplants for patients. Also, annual scholarships are given to children with leukemia who are planning to attend nursery school. For more information on other projects carried out by Lea’s Foundation, please visit their website at www.LeasFoundation.org.