Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 12 - Oh the Horror of The Inland Empire

I have been dreading writing about this day because I shudder with the thought of reliving it.  I am sitting at a brew pub in Wenatchee, Washington, over a pale ale, and feeling brave.  Lets get this over with, and without too much painful detail.

Sitting in that hotel room in Spokane, I was right to be afraid of the days to come, this day in particular.  My mind and body have never been through such devastation. I have still not fully recovered.  I don't know if I ever will.

I felt great in the morning.  Sixty miles seemed feasible, our longest day having been sixty-six.  In four hours of nice, but hot weather, an uneventful morning rolled by.  In the afternoon we stopped at a town called Davenport and ate a snack at a park right next to the public pool.  Hordes of overweight children stampeded in and out of the pool and Brenton went to the local bakery and bought some delicious bread with huge garlic chunks, that we didn't dare eat, folded into the loaf amongst greek olives, tomatoes, and delicious seasonings.

Brenton took a nap as I recapped the few days before on Microsoft Word and journaled a little.  We spent a little longer than we should have in the shade of that park with the tiny, green, aphid-like bugs that crawled on us out of the grass, or falling from the trees, or blowing in on the breeze; they seemed to appear out of nowhere and we were constantly brushing their itchy little legs off of our laps.

The wind had been a slight nuisance up until this point, but we hadn't realized our blunder of staying at the park about an hour too long until we were back on the road for about fifteen minutes.  It would take us until nearly 10:00 that night to arrive at our trailer park of a campsite.

The high plains of Washington, (The Inland Empire, as the locals call it), are constantly plagued with a nagging westerly wind that only dies down for the early morning.  It picked up, now, and we crawled, and crawled, and scraped along the highway.  The sound and feel of the ever-present wind in our faces crumbled the very foundation that our fragile mood was dependent upon.  Now that our brave faces had given up their ploy and optimism no longer twisted chagrin into hope, we were susceptible to being broken.  The grip of the wind pulled me back nearly as hard as I pushed forward with every stroke of the pedal, and for hours and hours it took all the strength that I could muster to exert more pressure on that pedal than the wind did on my person.        

I had nothing left to give, no more energy to burn, not a last bit of umph to finish the day, but I had hours to go.  Brenton likes to sugar coat the situation, "Only - miles left!"  When really, it is more.  I told myself "Only one more hour. . ." for every hour, for four hours.

The last twenty miles were hell, and the last ten were impossible.  Impossible.  I stopped many times and panted to Brenton that I could go no further, and he looked at me with sad eyes and said that he knew, but that I had to keep going, what else could I do?

Brenton told me that we were only four miles away from our campsite, but we were actually closer to ten.  We were riding at about two to four miles an hour due to the sadistic wind, and were constantly being blown off the road into the rubble on the side.  The dogs were too tired to get out and run and we had to plod on.  The wind was in our faces, but just at enough of an angle that the many, rolling hills did nothing to dissuade it from thwarting our progression.

We crested a hill, and I hoped to see a downhill and a town ahead.  Instead, I could see to infinity and beyond, only arching sickeningly into the sky.  I broke down.  I began to ball, and screamed, "No, no, no, please no," into the sky, but the wind tore my voice away and swallowed it so that I only faintly heard the desperate cracking tone that had seemed to explode from my own poor withering soul.  And it went on this way, when I crested the hill afore mentioned, the same scene replayed itself; and then again another five or so times.

On top of the desperate exhaustion that threatened to derail us from our road, we were fighting the setting sun with the wind.  It seemed that we stood no chance against such magnificent forces.  We had forgotten our tail lights and our intention to buy some just kept getting put off until the next town.  Now, we were faced with the fact that we would not reach our campsite until after dark and were riding along the shoulder of a fairly busy highway.  The certainty that we would get run over before we ever reached our destination was nearly more than I could bear to think about on top of the hopelessness of our situation; but we did not get run over, and we did eventually find our weary way into town.

At the camp site, I cried myself to sleep.  I dreaded waking up, but was so exhausted I couldn't fight sleep.  Brenton ran to the gas station and came back with some little ice cream bits that are something we normally wouldn't spend money on.  I didn't know what the little package was, and still balling pouted, "I don't know what this is, but I don't want it."  I was too distraught to eat, and the boy's face looked crushed.  He said that it was ice cream and that it would melt if I didn't eat it.  I sat in the grass, shivering now that the sun had even abandoned us, and ate the chocolate covered ice cream bits.  They were good, but I was beyond comfort.  I don't know at what point I quit crying and started sleeping, or if the two didn't overlap.

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