Lee Ann, the owner, welcomed me to her campground. Puddles of water dotted the dirt path leading to my one-room, newly renovated log cabin located 40 feet from the fast-running waters of the Encampment River. A tremendous amount of rain and high-intensity winds had swept through Riverside three hours before I arrived. And just like daytime follows nighttime, the sun was shining following the rain.
The morning I departed Riverside, heading toward Colorado, felt like a new beginning. The silence was interrupted by the white noise from the rushing water. The renovated campground, catering to cross-country cyclists, touted several primitive campsites, a full-service laundry room, and a full bathroom with lockers. The top-notch water pressure massaged my tired and aching body at the end of a long day.
After entering Colorado, Hoosier Pass would soon follow. As much as I enjoyed the solitude and serenity provided by the endless Wyoming highways, I desired to move beyond the afternoon winds that had wreaked havoc on my psyche. I reflected on riding 435 miles through one of the most unforgiving yet rewarding sections of the TransAmerica Bike Trail.
Dot watchers and racers lit up the group Facebook page, expressing congratulations to Abdullah, who had finished the race earlier that day. He’d reached the Yorktown Victory Monument in a record 16 days, 9 hours, and 56 minutes, shattering the previous record by 11 hours. I watched a video of Abdullah sitting at the base of the monument with his mom. She had recently arrived from Australia and was beaming with pride at the momentous goal her son had achieved. She expressed gratitude to those who had followed her son on this epic journey across America. Abdullah sat, slightly hunched over, and responded, “Exhausted!” to the question, “How are you feeling?” He went on to describe his diet as “carbohydrate heavy” and shared one story about stopping at a diner early in the race. He’d walked in and ordered a dozen hash browns. The server gave him an odd look but said nothing. He reacted by asserting, “I’m in a rush,” and left it at that. When the order was ready, he paid the bill and continued his journey—a dozen hash browns in hand. In this same interview, he said he lost little weight, which I found hard to imagine, as my face continued to narrow each day and my body reshaped itself. I was burning between 7,000 and 10,000 calories each day. His record 254-mile-per-day average will probably remain for years to come. The closest competitor trailed by 400 miles when Abdullah reached Yorktown.
Fifty cyclists were still barreling toward Yorktown. More than 2,000 miles separated the second leading racer from the Lanterne Rouge. It just seemed crazy to me that someone could ride a bike 4,200 miles unsupported across the country, over five mountain ranges, in 16 days. I still had half the country to conquer! Abdullah was a folk hero when he returned home to Australia. He gave TV interviews, received a government proclamation from Australia’s elected officials, and read at a parliament hearing. I enjoyed listening to and watching others talk about their personal experience competing in the TABR.
The beautiful, clear, blue sky contrasted the gloomy gray skies from the morning before. The sound of trickling water greeted me when I walked outside my cabin at 7:25 a.m. and saw the Encampment River—and was initially blinded by the reflection of the blazing sun shining directly onto the sparkling running water. A previously empty RV spot directly next to my cabin was now taken by an RV with a Michigan license plate. A man and woman stood outside the RV’s entrance, steam rising from the cups they each held in their hand. A five-minute chat provided me much-needed human contact and helped prepare me to begin my day.
I was about to enter Colorado, and Hoosier Pass—the highest peak on the TransAmerica Bike Trail—felt so close, I could practically taste it. I had thought I would never get here, but soon enough, I would crest that iconic summit. I would then make a beeline to Pueblo, and from there, it was a straight shot to Yorktown. I had shrunk the country down in size so that the stretch from Pueblo to Virginia no longer seemed daunting.
In the quiet confines of the modest, one-room log cabin, I tallied total miles and elevation. I was not quite halfway to Yorktown, but since Abdullah had won the race, I felt dot watchers might start shifting their focus to the rest of the pack. I had withstood the negativity that had dominated my thinking the past couple of days and nights. On this night in Riverside, I entered a new dimension. I made the commitment to myself out loud: “I will finish this race in less than forty days!” It was a goal that would have been laughable to even think about two weeks earlier.
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