I wake up to the beautiful smell of sweet flowers. It just happens these flowers smell like B.O. and a toilet next to my face. I haven’t showered yet on the race. When I try to stand up, my feet won’t even take the pressure. They hurt bad. So I sit up and lean against the wall. I eat some food and take some pain killers. I then put my shoes on as tight as I can. With the assistance of the toilet I get up off the floor. I take a pee and hobble outside. There is a gorgeous lake that I didn’t see the night before. I hobble around for a bit and decide I better get moving.
The other guys are just starting to rustle around. I hop on my bike and slowly pedal off. As I start the climb up the pass I meet Jean Michel. He has been getting lost over and over because he does not have a GPS. Only the paper maps. He took the race on short notice
Jean is from Tahiti and is riding the race for a friend of his. Just one year ago his friend and training partner were in Europe racing a sky run. Fast forward a few months and his training partner was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. It was always his dream to race the TD and would never get the chance now. So he decided to ride with me. We pedal up and over the mountain pass sharing stories of life and adventure. He loved sailing and the ocean. We descend into a small, hot, dry town. There is a lady checking names off a list and getting pictures as they came into town. They love the racers here. We go inside and have an ice cream cone or two. After we get more supplies we head back out on the road for more tall tales and pedaling.
The route today is a mix of gravel farm roads with mountain passes mixing in between. While spinning down a gravel road and looking at a mountain in the distance a dually farm truck pulling a huge trail decides that our bikes are taking up too much of the road and heads straight at us. At the last second he swerves even closer to us and we swerve off of the road. What a jerk. Jean looks over at me as the dust is settling and says “You have to have a really shit life to do that to another person.” I giggle and think of what happens in his day to day home life. I picture his wife with a thick mustache, standing over him yelling about his shortcomings. His dog ignoring him when he tries to give him a treat and petting him. Then I think about how great of a life I have. I have a wonderful support network including the amazing Alexandra, who is keeping the home life going while I am off playing in the woods for weeks on end. All of the great people who have supported me to get me to where I am at. Life is grand. When we reach our stop for lunch we go inside and cool off while eating pounds of food. Jean rings his friend on facetime. I am almost in tears when I see him. Not one year ago he was loving life and adventuring around the world. Now he is in a wheelchair with a breathing machine. It is almost too much. At this point I am very thankful for the opportunity to race. Even if everything hurt . I still have the ability to do what I please when I please. After lunch we set out to make the push to Lincoln Montana and the first shower in 5 days. The going gets rough. The more I pedal the more my front shock collapses. It gets to the point where even if I lock my fork out on flat ground my face is pointing toward the ground. On any climb all of my power is going into bobbing up and down. It sucks. We finally crest the last pass and see Lincoln in our sites. We bomb down, hit the pavement and cruise to a bar and grill.
At the grill Jean schools me on proper food, why Americans are fat and how all of the selections are shitty. We both get double cheese burgers. I eat mine in a flash. He takes only a few bites. I then eat all of his. It feels good. Will shows up just as the place is closing. They are kind enough to fix him a plate of pasta. While Jean goes and gets us a room, I call my palio Moon and asked what I can do to fix the shock. He informs me I needed to buy a pump and live with inflating it everyday or wait for it to be rebuilt.. DAGGIT. The next town with a pump is Helena and is 60 miles away. Such is life. It isn’t an adventure without adversity. As I head towards the hotel, Will asks if he can crash with us. Hell yeah. So we go around to the room, take showers and crash. The shower is glorious. A bed is amazing and my stomach is packed full of cheese burger heaven. Life’s simple pleasures.