Today we leave early at 6 AM. Zephyrus has waken from his deep sleep and his Immortal Lover is nowhere to be seen. In a fury he decides today is a good day to seek vengeance on us again.
He plays with us for the first 40 miles keeping his strength at 9-10 mph. Off to the side we pass through beautiful farmland and in the distance two volcanoes decide to envelop one of the wildflowers.
Even 9 miles of dirt roads does not slow us down. Perhaps the day will go well after all…
I watch the grasses carefully to see if Zephyrus has made a move. Suddenly like a wild beast in waiting he lets loose and we are hit with 20 mph headwinds. With 23 miles to go we begin to struggle and slow to 7-8 mph.
This is going to be a long hot stretch. To make things worse rollers now turn to climbs as we approach the base of the Rocky Mountains. They are visible as a thin grey line on the horizon 70 miles out and in the last 10 miles of today’s ride we must climb 2000 feet against Zephyrus burning hot winds.
We stop to rest every 2.5 miles and nearly exhaust our water supply. Suddenly as we crest the last climb there before us is Cut Bank and the glorious snow capped Rocky Mountains.
I look back behind and see the edge of the Great Plains and recall the passage I wrote 3 years ago.
Day 52: Here I Stand
Tuesday July 21, 2015
Today I leave Chester for my final full day on the Prairie. I have come to respect this great expanse of land starting in Minnesota and ending here in Montana at the base of the Western Mountain Chains. I am sad to leave it, I have become accustomed to its starkness, its beauty, its vast expanses across space and time. I ride slowly to relish my last day here. I will probably never come back again. In the quiet of the Prairie morning voices begin to speak to me…
“Here I stand an ancient Volcano. I have been here for thousands of years my last gasps long ago gone. I salute you on your passage through my lands”
“Here I stand the ghost of Tyrannous Saris Rex, once king of this realm. I salute you on your passage through my former kingdom.”
“Here I stand, fields of grass fed by rare rain and streams few and far between. I salute you on your passage through my stands.”
“Here I stand, the ghost of the Buffalo…once these were all my plains . I salute you on your passage through where I once roamed.”
“Here I stand, the spirit of the Sioux, my people lived here to care for the land. I salute you on your safe passage west.”
“Here I stand, the Railroad from the east. So many died in behalf of my strength. I salute you on your journey , your never ending quest.”
“Here I stand, the golden fields of wheat, ready to be harvested for the feast. I salute you moving as you do always away from the east.”
“Here I stand alone, the shadow of a home, my humans long gone. I salute you and offer you rest from the sun.”
I look ahead and see a most curious sight, a black rainbow across the sky . The sun is at just a height to cast an arc of shadows from curved linear clouds. How curious, truly a black rainbow. I try to get a picture but I find I can see this rainbow only through a polarized lens. With luck I capture it and hold it in hand.
At the edge of the black bow, not a pot of gold, but instead a deep regal voice….
” Here I stand, Zephyrus, the Lord of the West Wind. You have struggled through my kingdom now for many days. Know this, dear one, that I am not your enemy but your friend. I have tested you time and time again, pushed you to your limits, beyond your wildest dreams… I now find you worthy to pass to the promised lands…West of here you will find the treasures of the highest peaks. Relish in their beauty, you have earned the rare gift of traversing their crowned heads. I salute you, my friend…leave in peace”.
I look ahead and suddenly in the haze I can see mountain peaks, some 75 miles away. No one else sees them, they think I create them in my mind. 10 miles later all can now see the mountain tops….they turn to me ” How did you see them far away ?!”
I smile to myself…
Here I stand…victorious…not for medals, but for myself…I have crossed the Great Plains.
Today as I read this I am a little stunned…it boggles my mind that I have ridden this distance on my bike yet again…one pedal at a time…I guess I was wrong that day when I thought I would never return…as it is Here I Stand…