The Best Nine

Sparks, Nevada
Yesterday, we concluded the nine day stretch of riding we dubbed #bestnine. Over its length we crossed through half of Utah and almost all of Nevada, covering up to 800 miles.
The desert was just as sparse and cruel as we thought it would be. Much of the time we wouldn’t see buildings or restrooms (which means we’ve had a number of roadside stops) the entire day, just Highway 50 extending as far as we could see. We did learn that Nevada is one of the most mountainous states as well as one of the windiest. Much of the time we had a crosswind so strong our bikes would be tilted a good 70 degrees to the horizontal or would have a headwind so strong that we would be going downhill at less than 10 miles per hour. The wind has definitely been the most difficult natural occurrence that we’ve had to deal with, more so than the heat or mountains.
Along the way we’ve met two men also riding  across the country who fell upon highway 50 with us. One man, Michael (www.worldtraveller.dk), is from Denmark and once worked in corporate finance. Now over forty, he’s decided to bike around the world and has no plans to return to his old wife filled with “material shit” that he doesn’t want or need. Michael is truly one of the most unique spirits I have ever met: his clothes and appearance were understated and shabby but his past hinted at a life otherwise. He also refused to wear a helmet for comfort and wore only sandals when biking, an extremely difficult task for climbing or doing any serious work on the bike. He embarked on the journey merely because he enjoyed it and said that if he ever didn’t like it, he’d merely stop and find something else to do. The second man on his own trip, Garrett, is a college student from the Boston area riding for another charity cause. During the best Nine we often crossed paths with them and stayed in the same town by necessity of the isolation of highway 50 and got to know them as best we could (also known as “the loneliest road in America” because it is the longest stretch of road with the least number of establishments.)
One of the scariest parts of the best nine was riding into Baker, NV where we became surrounded by different thunderstorms approaching from all sides. I and those I was riding with thought it was a good idea to outrace the storm and tried sprinting away as fast we could, only to approach lightning only two or three miles away. All I could think about was how much better of an idea it would be to crawl into a storm drain and eat a clif bar, but alas, we made it to the campsite before the storm hit and were lucky enough to stay dry the rest of the trip.
This morning, one of our riders left the trip for grad school in Norway. Although we weren’t scheduled to ride to California until tomorrow, we drove to the border and decorated the street with chalk while she and a select few riders rode fifteen extra miles to get to the border. It was emotional, beautiful, and triumphant, and almost all of us cried saying goodbye to her before we left for the build site this morning.
I’m starting to recognize different places here and there and they remind me that I’ll be home in exactly a week. The trip has been amazing, taxing, and unforgettable and this next week will be packed with reading grant proposals, cleaning up, and finishing out last rides. Until next week, thanks for reading!

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Our last sunset in Utah

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One of the hardest climbs of the trip that finally brought us through the desert and within view of the Sierra Nevadas

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The shoe tree

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Boring highway 50

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