Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 37 - Is This Real Life?

Des Moines sunrise

The alarm sounded at 4:30 this morning, the earliest wake up so far. The sun rises early in New Mexico and we wanted to be able to leave as soon as possible in the morning to beat the heat. It was supposed to be 100 degrees today, and we had 75 miles to cover. 

At 5:30, the sun rose, glowing a fiery red and bathing the earth in a golden light. It was a beautiful sunrise and the beauty seemed like a good omen as we mounted our bikes and rolled out. We were headed across the Colorado state line, and as much as we all loved New Mexico and wish we could have spent more time in it, we were even more excited for Colorado. 

I rode in a large group headed by Melanie and followed by Eliza, Emma, Brian, Ethan, and Marcus. We took pictures of the rising sun as we raced our way down empty highways. It was already a magical morning. 

Soon, the road unexpectedly started to descend. As we glided down the road, rock formations and mountains rose up on either side of us, some lit with golden light, others shrouded in shadows. I cannot describe the elation we felt descending into that canyon after days of difficult riding conditions and broken down spirits. The landscape raced by as we coasted in the valley, simply awestruck by the beauty of everything. The canyon echoed with our shouts of joy. "I can't believe this!" cried Melanie with a huge smile on her face as she passed me. My heart felt as though it might beat out if my chest. Never have I ever felt so content on a bicycle. Riding into that canyon with so many amazing people is an experience that I will never forget.

Our pace line descending, pictures do not do this moment justice 

Just when I was convinced that the ride could not get more beautiful, we startled a herd of about 10 pronghorns grazing near the road. They raised their heads and began to run, effortlessly keeping our pace, dashing across the road right in front of our group before bounding gracefully over a fence. We could barely believe our eyes. A mile or so later, two white horses saw us riding and began to lope alongside of us. "Is this a dream, or is this real life?" I asked my group, close to tears.

Soon, our descent came an end and we climbed up and out of the canyon, leaving it behind as we pedaled toward Colorado. We saw the state sign in no time and took celebratory pictures. "We biked here!! All the way to Colorado!" exclaimed Eliza. It really hit me how far we've come since we started a little over a month ago. 

Colorful Colorado, finally!!

We had a tailwind into lunch where we started to experience the climate of Colorado before the mountains. Much of Colorado really isn't very scenic. There were no trees, nor cloud cover, and it was starting to get hot. 

After lunch, Marcus and I took off across the Colorado desert. We had a slight headwind/crosswind which slowed our pace but it wasn't too bad. About 20 miles after lunch, the sun started to get really hot and Marcus and I started looking desperately for shade to cool our heads. We found one lonely cottonwood alongside the road and parked underneath it. We were in no hurry so we took a nap on the side of the road in the shade. The sound of the leaves blowing and the warm air put us right to sleep. 

Marcus chilling out in the shade 

We napped for about a half hour and then continued on after meeting up with another group of sun weary riders. Along the way, we surpassed the 2,000 mile mark in our journey. 2,265 more miles to go! We felt better after resting and rolled into Trinidad, Colorado pretty easily. We stopped once to take a picture with a mountain lion statue. 

It was so hot I had to dump water on it so my legs didn't burn off! Worth it. 

A pool was waiting for us as the host site. We looked out of place with our bike shorts and our weird tan lines. Some kids were making fun of us but we didn't care because we were just so happy to be there. Tomorrow is a day off and I don't plan on moving very far from the pool!

The highs and lows on this trip are incredible. Some days, it is a struggle to wake up and get on the bike. Your body is sore, your mind is weary, and all you want to do is sleep in past 5:30. But some days, there is nothing more that I would want to do than ride my bike and experience the landscape and the people of the United States firsthand and with no filter. The difficult days are canceled out by the days of pure joy and I am still blown away that I have had the opportunity to serve my country while exploring the hills and valleys by bicycle. 

Marcus riding toward Trinidad. Look at how barren the landscape is!

Thank you all again for your support! This trip would not be possible without our family and friends back home and of course out donors. I forgot to mention that the Wiley family sponsored my ride into Spearman, TX! Thank you so much!! Love from Trinidad!

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