I take pride in a blithe approach to both life and writing. This trip has forced me into smiling through rough times, laughing while miserable, and “grin-and-bearing” with suboptimal conditions. But if I could take a superlative, I’d say this last week was the most physically and emotionally challenging week of my life.
A few days ago I got one of the worst phone calls you could ever fear to get. My beloved dog, Rudi, passed away. No one should ever have to hear a sentence from their parents prefaced with “We’ve got some bad news,” but when I heard my mom say it, time stood still as I wished for anything but what ended up coming next. But I sat there, totally bankrupt of any previous feelings and tried to keep the lump in my throat from growing and the tears in my eyes from creeping out. All I’ve known since I was 13 was having Rudi around, and I hardly feel ready to deal with this.
Chris told me, “losing a dog is like losing a family member and a best friend all in one,” and he’s exactly right. It’s hard for me imagine life without my dumb little beagle running around, especially when I’m thousands of miles away in the middle of Montana. It had been an immense day: climbing and descending through Glacier National Park as I passed some of the most surreal landscapes I’ll ever see. But all I’ll remember from that day is it was the day I found out my dog died. Thanks to all my friends, family and team members who’ve lent support these last few days.
But I can’t dwell on this otherwise it’ll eat me alive. You know what else can eat me alive? Bears, and we’ve been camping in their vicinity. They’re the thorns to Glacier National Park’s rose.
I had been tacit about it in earlier posts, but I’ll be clear now: the overwhelming majority of Montana is dreadful. It’s flat, hot, windy, smoky and an awful place to ride a bike for a week. But we’re out of the crap part of Montana (or as western Montanans call it, “West Dakota”), have traversed Glacier and are enjoying a merited day off in Whitefish. For the first time in a month, I’m wearing pants which have belt loops, and I plan to be in this coffee-shop/froyo stand for the next 12 or so hours.
But, my goodness, Glacier!
The descent from 6,600+ feet was unnerving as it was freezing at the top, the road was littered with tourists’ cars, my brakes were squealing and my equilibrium was out of whack from dropping thousands of feet within minutes. So I didn’t get any photos of the fall, but Drew’s GoPro captured the lot of it, and he just might churn out another video if I ever finishing writing this and cede my laptop to him.
So now we’re in Whitefish, a town a few miles outside of Glacier that is littered with things to do. And I’m going to do none of them. My mind is telling me to go zip-lining, paddle-boarding or swimming, but I only plan to move myself to go pour more coffee/frozen yogurt down my throat.
12 is the magic number of riding days left. 751 miles remain, and 83 percent of the ride is on the books. I’ll be riding with some serious emotional weight on my shoulders from here on out, but I’ll make it.
“Be strong when you are weak.”