Friday, July 6, 2012
Of washes and windmills
The day after we returned home from Antelope Wells, an idea for an unique sort of ride popped into my head. I'm not quite sure where it came from, but a couple days later, I glanced at a map, deemed the idea possible, and then got my fat bike back in working order. That simply meant unseizing a seized up bottom bracket. This morning, I went into the office for a quick meeting and then spun up one of the dirt roads that climbs over the mountains above town.
The plan for the ride seemed straightforward: Climb up to the top, then descend one of the larger washes from near its head all the way down to the valley below. Hence the need for the big tires. It didn't take long to find my way into the wash after dropping over the other side. I apparently wasn't the only one with this sort of idea, as much of the length of the wash seemed popular with the ATV crowd. Fortunately for me, none of them were out today, so I had the place to myself.
After some interesting narrow, rocky bits up high where the stream gradient is relatively steep, things mellowed out. That meant deep sand. But this proved to be no problem at all for the bike, although it did take a fair bit of energy to churn through the stuff. By early afternoon, the temperature had risen well into the 90s, my gloves were encrusted in salt, and my water supply (as well as my food stash!) was dwindling. My map showed a few windmills, and I was banking on at least one of them being operational. The first one was oozing water into a tank filled with green water and dead sparrows. I passed and continued on to the next one.
This one, Homestead Windmill the map called it, had a tank that was mostly empty but had a bit of clear water in it. I contemplated taking some, but decided to continue on to the next one in hopes that I might actually be able to get some water straight out of the pipe. As I rode away, the wind kicked up, started the windmill turning, and convinced me to turn around. Just as I got to the tank, water began gushing out of the pipe. And it was cold water! I savored it and topped off my bottles.
After finally reaching the end of the wash, I turned back and climbed up a tributary. It was narrow, steeper, and punctuated by a series of miniature slot canyons carved through soft rhyolite tuff. I spooked a pair of owls and followed them upstream as they flew from perch to perch. Lizards darted up the rocks along the sides of the channel as I approached, and I simply baked in the sun. Shade was tough to come by, so I just kept plugging away.
The wash petered out a few miles up at another windmill that was spinning frantically in the steady breeze that was blowing up the valley. I enjoyed a bit more cold water, turned onto an ATV trail, and began a very circuitous route toward home. The last of my food was gone, and with a few hours to go, I knew it would be a slow ride home.
The keen-eyed vultures keyed in to my tired state and waited atop the fence post at the next gate. I swear they were circling overhead until I climbed up higher into the trees. I eventually made it home, happy the long day in the saddle, and convinced that riding a fat bike around all day is similar to riding a tandem around, only far slower on the descents.