Thursday, 9 October 2008

Salt Lake City – Evanston (October 8)

Day 24

Both my Scrabble Travels in the UK lasted 23 days and clocked up under 1,400 miles, and they were both exceeded today in terms of duration and distance. I wasn't even quite a third of the way of the way to Charleston... sigh... My back still hurt this morning (and so did my head) although when riding it's not a problem. Couldn't find a diner anywhere downtown and I'm hoping to avoid places like McDonald's the whole time I'm here. There's a Scottish import shop and a British shop here, as we Brits are way cool. Eventually found a groovy place called Einstein Bagels in the posh Avenues part of town. One of those places with big, industrial pipes on the ceiling and snooty looking people. I don't know why it is, but pretentious people here are more irritating than their British counterparts. It was a delicious, yet very small bagel, so it was just as well I'd packed three bananas and an enormous bag of dried fruit and nuts, called 'trail mix', as today was to be another biggie.

It's funny when you ask people for directions; they tell you where to go and then as you're about to go they say “Or you could go...” As I left Salt Lake up the twisting Emigrants' Canyon, I realised that what I had been having a problem with was being in a city surrounded by mountains, as once I was in the mountains proper I was fine with them. This was a really enjoyable climb, if such a thing can be imagined. It was twisty, with plenty of trees, nice views, interesting things to look at (such as domesticated dogs ripping a deer carcass apart) and today was in the 60s and sunny. With crystal clear light the scenery close to me looked as though buffed up with Brasso, whereas distant peaks seemed to be wrapped in yellow cellophane. This was the route Brigham Young brought the first LDS people into Salt Lake and I bet some of them lost their way, geographically or religiously, en route. I came across a man on 'roller skis' (abbreviated skis on four wheels) who skated on roads to keep in shape in the off season. The road grew steeper and I was going up these hairpin bends at 4 mph on the most challenging hill yet undertaken, although it was quite manageable with legs and lungs up to the job. At the top Big Mountain is 7,420 feet, with spectacular views to snowy peaks, and then of course the following downhill section was fantastic and I recorded a new high of 44.9 mph.

A special mention must be given to the 'new best sandwich' thus far, from Einstein Bagels, featuring chicken, bacon, Swiss cheese and pickles, in a croissanty type roll, consumed beside a scintillating bright blue lake. Freeway for the last 40 miles and I hoped it was OK to be there, particularly as there are no other roads through this remote country. The scenery is pretty bleak around here : no trees, red hills, sagebrush. Managed to avoid the town of Croydon, but quite fancied visiting Breastworks, although later found out it alludes to a defensive military structure. With a wind caressing me along double quick, I was soon in my fifth state of Wyoming, the least populated of all the states, and it was only a few miles to Evanston, tonight's stop. I had been told that state maps were free at gas stations, but no, a lady said it was $4.50 for a crappy bit of paper. I complained about the price, then started to open it. She said, “What, you're gonna look at it anyway?” So I thought better of it. Not that I really needed a map for Wyoming, as there is only one road (Interstate 80) to go on. Picked up an Evanston street map in the library for free at least. It was a pretty annoying map though, with numbers against every street, so I needed to keep referring to the key at every intersection.

Mike lived at the end of a cul de sac with his wife and six children. Yes, six children – all under 12 – and they might not be done yet. It was pretty crazy in that house, with children bouncing up and down and all talking at once. Dinner was especially entertaining, with pizza and creamy ice lollies. I was starving, even though I'd eaten a truckload today, and kept on taking another piece of pizza when offered. Still I had cycled 93 miles today and a fair percentage up steep hills. When asked if I wanted anything else, I said, “Coffee please,” and it was then that I discovered they were LDS and had no coffee, tea or fizzy drinks in the house. Mike was from New Jersey and had met his wife there when she worked as a nanny. Then they had moved back to her home town of Evanston and Mike still worked for the same company back east, but as his job was IT related (he had about six computers on the go all the time), he could do it from home out here, providing he worked Eastern Time (7 am – 3.30 pm) which fitted round the kids very very well.

After the children had gone to bed and silence descended, Mike and I played Scrabble. Once again I drew good letters and managed three bingos in two games (MOUTHING, GENTILES & DELVING). I had come across Mike through the Pixie Pit and he hadn't played a live game in years. He had been following my blog and had seen the Seattle Club's website with the stats from the evening I played there. I came 23rd out of 23! But then I had lost all four games, so it was hardly a surprise. Mike had made up an air bed for me, which was surprisingly comfortable and I slept like a log.

I still had a headache and a bad back upon waking though. Even though I drunk vast quantities of water and isotonic fluid yesterday (and no alcohol obviously) it seems impossible to keep rehydrated. Yesterday had taken the greatest toll on my body so far experienced. Breakfast was another manically enjoyable occasion, and we all had French toast, eggs and bacon. I had only just learned to say 'over hard' about how I like my eggs, yet Mike's wife didn't know the expression. Mike told me the hunting season would recommence next week and showed me photos of kills he'd made as well as the ones that got away. You can shoot animals at the age of 12 here, and there are deer, antelope, buffalo, elk and moose in these parts.

Worked on this in the library before leaving town after lunch, as today's mileage wasn't too onerous.


Seposm said...

We really enjoyed having you here, and wish you the best of luck on your trip. My two oldest really enjoyed your accent. We don't get anywhere near the variety of accents here that we did while living in New Jersey. Just for the record, I contacted you because of an article in our local paper, I am not a memer of the pixie pit. But, our games last night reminded me of how much I enjoy scrabble, so I might just have to join.

melissadavlin said...

Sounds like you've had an intense few days. More than 90 miles at once? That's insane!

Nate and I are still thinking about you and wish you more luck. Stay hydrated, and get some more pain killer! (I think you left a bottle here.)


Nate said...

Re: the Interstate... It looks like you'd have to check with each state's transportation department for the rules about bicycles. Maybe there's a bicyclists' handbook out there that would have all this? I'm still searching.

This may become more of a problem for you the farther east you get.

Also, thought I'd extend the offer again to perhaps find you some better maps. If you give me a list of what states you need and somewhere I might be able to mail them, I'll see what I can put together for you. (Didn't know if you have another Couchsurfing stop soon or not that could serve as an address.)

Nate said...

Oops, the addresses didn't publish right.

Adrian said...

Thanks a lot Mike, Melissa and Nate. I'm about to email you Nate.