We sat to eat dinner – tortillas with refried beans, rice, fresh kale from Melody from Torrey, tomatillos and avocado. Listening to Wild by Cheryl Strayed it occurred to me that it’s probably quite distant to imagine how our days look like. So let’s take 16th October, day 139 on this journey from Canada to Argentina and map our day as it unveiled.
Alarm set for 7 o’clock. I can’t hear anything. I’m stuck in the sleeping bag, knitted cap pulled down on my eyes, Phoebe resting quietly by my side. “Are you getting up?” Tom asks. “Mhm, no,” I reply. It’s well past half 7 when we start talking to each other. We are in Fruita campground in Capitol Reef National Park. We ended up here as Capitol Reef blew our minds away and we took some time exploring it. Campground was full when we arrived but Pat, one of the campers, saw us wandering around and offered to share their spot.
We crawl out of the tent. Pat and her husband Jim are gone, we heard the car earlier. Just hoping they understood, how grateful we were. We walk the dogs and then the usual routine, I’m packing up the tent and Tom’s preparing coffee. We sit to have breakfast and learn some Spanish. Coffee Break Spanish by Radio Lingua. Funny Scots Mark and Cara. Have you heard a Scot speaking Spanish? No? Try it. Today they talk about ordering food and drinks. Useful lesson for our bellies. Overnight oats with peanut butter, bananas and chocolate chips, heated over the stove. Portion for 4. Disappears in seconds.
Wild turkeys visit the campground. Tens of them. Rory goes slightly nuts but his leash is tied to the picnic table as he needs to be physically restrained on a leash not longer than 6 feet according to the park rules. Hate US national parks, truly.
There’s still no sun in the campground. We are shivering, though nothing froze tonight thankfully. Short visit of the bathroom before setting off. I stare at myself in the mirror. Looking old and young at the same time, significant tan as we hate our newly bought sunscreen and don’t really use it. New wrinkles. Teeth have never been so white, maybe from the contrast with suntan, maybe thanks to the charcoal tooth tabs from Lush. I have to take advantage of a mirror, bathroom and no wind, so I braid my hair. Maybe they will last like this to Moab. Unless we’re lucky and get a shower in Goblin Valley State Park.
We changed to the cycling clothes, though the base layer stayed the same. I’m wearing these merino leggings for days straight, sleeping and cycling. Stained with desert sand and dust. And will wear them for at least 5 days more till we get to Moab and do laundry.
It’s half ten when we finally leave the campground. We stop at the visitor centre to buy a patch for doggies’ trailer that we’ll sew on it later. We’ve got 5 or 6 of them, few places we visited on route, Going to the Sun Road, Lolo Pass, Redwoods, Cape Perpetua and then Transcaucasian Trail as a matter of support as well as one coffee roasters in Portland. Now we’re adding Capitol Reef. Few people talk to us at the centre. I personally started hating remarks like: It’s a long way, do you know it? (Yes, I looked at google maps). Aren’t you afraid to go to Mexico? (Not more than here, where you can buy guns like candies). But there’s also nice bunch of retirees who are interested in our dogs and are really nice to talk to.
It’s a beautiful sunny fall day and the contrast between blue skies, red rocks and yellow trees prompts to take out the camera every few minutes. We stop at Fruita petroglyphs, admiring work of Native Americans. There’s a couple talking to us, guy asks about the funding of this trip. I suggested to Tom, we should maybe start giving away our account number for donations as this is quite common question. We carry on to Hickman Bridge trailhead. It’s only 1 mile hike so we’re leaving the bikes at the parking lot alongside with the doggies. No they can’t go with us. No pets allowed on the trail. Back to the classic US national park problem, to me absolutely unreasonable. They should better educate people how not to leave the mess in the parks. But because it’s so short, we decide they can wait for us, otherwise we wouldn’t go.
We are walking quickly, overtaking other people on the trail, so very soon we spot the bridge. It’s huge. The sense of desert is everywhere. Red sand, cacti, my eyes wandering around to spot a rattlesnake (not that I have spotted any so far). The sand is loose, getting into our shoes. Also the cycling version of clothing is not ideal when you’re hiking, It’s much hotter when the wind is not cooling us off. We’re sweating loads in merino thermal underwear. Around the bridge trying to find the best angle how to capture its majestic appearance. Our big problem is we’re only part cyclists. Part of us are photographers and that takes some valuable time for cycling. But who cares, this is not a race.
Coming back to the parking lot, there’s a feeling of relief as always when coming back to the bikes and dogs. They are all we have now. This is our life, 8 panniers, tent bag and the trailer with our best friends. Soon we’re leaving Capitol Reef and planning where we’ll stop for lunch and let the poor fellas loose. The valley continues quite narrow, only at times offers a wider view. From the wonderland of red rocks we get in moon-like landscape. The air is so dry, we have to swallow painfully first before speaking to each other. Seeing a side road, we decide to take it and have lunch there. Pulling out the mattress from doggie trailer, we sit on it and eat bagels with something called Sloppy Joe. Few days ago in Loa we had hard time stocking up in local supermarket. They’ve never heard of vegan diet so improvisation was the key. This is a can with tomatoes, onions, garlic and other veggies that you normally put on hamburger but we don’t for obvious reasons. We put it on bagel and pretend it’s tasty. Being cold out of the can it’s not tasty at all. I follow with the second bagel with peanut butter and orange jam, that’s the best option in the panniers.
Listening to Wild we quietly eat and the dogs are playing in the dust around. Everything is covered in dust. Cheryl Strayed who went to hike Pacific Crest trail to find herself after losing her mum to cancer and dealing with divorce and heroin. We both saw the movie with Reese Witherspoon but thought about it again when crossing PCT twice on this trip. On Bridge of Gods, Oregon and in Sierra City, California. So we decided to download audiobook despite our reservations for audiobooks. It’s brilliant, we love the actress who’s reading it and we use every spare minute to turn it on. It’s 13,5 hours long but we’ll get through in few days for sure. It’s so good to listen to a person, who’s got the same problems. Where to sleep, what to eat, how not to lose track and sanity. And that 12 condoms are probably too many for a journey like this.
Doggies run around and I’m worried and scared. Desert. Spiders, snakes, scorpions. What if… “Keep them on the leash all the time if you’re so scared. They will for sure thank you.” Tom says. Of course. We both would have stayed home, if we listened to everything people told us. We are not on the leash either. I’m trying to re-assure myself.
Back on the road we’re descending from moon-like country to the valley that’s got a small village in it. There’s hardly anything and no water as well. We know that if we continue further we should come up to Mesa Market that Melody recommended. There’s nothing fresh left except from goat cheese but the guy has got some homemade bread in the freezer. When he takes it out, we happily pay slightly ridiculous price for small loaf of bread. But it looks like ours! And it’s got the crust, proper sourdough. If we miss something on this tour from our previous regular life, it’s the fully equipped kitchen, with oven and blender and our own sourdough starter sitting in the fridge. A guy from Colorado in front of the shop is giving us apples from Fruita orchards.
The owner of the shop also informed us that our chosen backroad is not a good idea with fully loaded bikes. I’m hearing “quick sands” and “crossing the rivers” while I’m waiting for Tom in front. Unwillingly, we have to accept the idea of cycling the main road. We stop at the turnout at least and look at the road that (at this point) looks perfectly rideable. But who knows what’s around the corner and we can’t risk it with not enough water as we’re responsible for dogs’ lives as well.
We decide to stop that evening few miles before Hanksville as riding further would mean getting from the safe haven of public lands to the private properties around the town. The sun is setting down when we’re putting the tent up. I start sewing our new patch on the trailer while Tom’s preparing dinner. Phoebe and Rory are playing around, jumping, chasing their bouncy rock. This is how happy evening looks for us these days. Wild and free, not fenced, not leashed. We look at each other and smile. We are dirty from the dust, smelly at times, we have to inflate our beds every night and break down our house every morning and we can’t make perfect espresso every day as back in London. But it all makes sense to be like this. We all make sense together on the road. To us…and now maybe to you also.