Thursday, July 5, 2012

little towns that begin with e

out in the wilds of western wyoming is a little tiny town named etna.
it's on highway 89, close to the western border, about halfway north and halfway south.
etna lies near the north point of a forty-five mile stretch of land called star valley, and when you reach etna, you know you will soon be reaching the end of the valley.
when you've been riding your bike for hours and hours, have ridden up hills and down, and have spent the last two hours in the crosswinds of star valley, etna is one of the most beautiful sights on earth.

it was during my second lotoja that I came to appreciate etna.
for some reason, that little hamlet had stuck in my mind from the previous year's ride, it's small green sign stuck on a post beside the road, etna, pop. 124.
I'd battled my way through the winds of star valley and finally had some indication that it was coming to a close.  I pedaled through etna, then before I knew it, I was in alpine. I was finished with star valley, and I had a mere 47 miles left to ride before my long long day on the bike was over.
etna was my turning point, and each year since that first, I've smiled over that little green sign and been grateful that I was as far along as I was.

two days ago I wrote that I was hopping on my bike to ride all night long . . . and I'd let you know how it went.
so, here goes:
the first 24 miles were awesome...flat, fast, the adrenaline coursing.
the next 28 miles stunk.
the 20 miles following that were pretty darn great...gotta love a tailwind.
the next 3 were not as much fun.
then came about 15 mellow miles.
during the next mile I encountered a runaway skateboard and almost crashed: adrenaline rushed for about 5 minutes.
and the last 2.5 miles were spent wishing I was done, knowing that it was just around the corner, wanting it over.

the 28 stinky miles were on the western side of the great salt lake, into the wind, rolling then gently climbing one of those false flats that even in the dark depresses you.  the scenery is bleak (even in the dark), the vegetation sparse, not a house or building in sight for mile after mile after mile.
you know it will end--eventually--but you can't imagine ever really getting there.
each revolution of the wheel brings you closer only to another rise in the road, another expanse of barren  sand, another dead grouse by the side of the pathway.
at the end of this long, lonely, depressing, difficult ride lies a teeny, tiny town with a shuttered convenience store and a dusty post office .  .  .
population 256.
another bereft burg at the end of a windblown road.

I finished the night ride at 4 am, having survived the adventure quite well.
it's the recovery that bites.

and the path to elberta.

if I ever am given the opportunity to name a town, I'm pretty darn sure I won't pick a name that begins with the letter e.

off to take a nap,

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