Asphalt Cowboys

What a day in the west feels like


The sun rises at 6, but light is starting to hit the Great Plains by 5:30. It is at that very same time that our alarms start to go off. Charlie’s 5:30 alarm goes off which annoys me because I set mine for 5:45 and I know he won’t be up until then. On the other hand I’ll be over ambitious some nights and set an alarm for 5:15 which I subsequently snooze and as I roll over to change positions I’ll catch a death stare from Charlie that says more than words ever could.

              We roll and stuff our sleeping mats and sleeping bags away and 6:00 we are out of the tent. We have to do that first so that there is no temptation to return for even just a moment. We did that once in Wisconsin and then didn’t crawl back out until 9:30, and even then it was only because the sun started cooking us. Charlie usually puts water on our camp stove and while it heats up we pack the tent, our tarp, and then stuff it all into a pannier.

              Once the water is boiled we pour two cups of our instant coffee and add a little hot chocolate mix which we decided tastes better than just the instant coffee. The rest of the water is used for instant oatmeal; lately we have been going steel cut just for the fun of it.

              Once we have eaten and silently starred into the morning sky for long enough the coffee kicks in and we get dressed. Bike shorts slide on the bottom, shirts get pulled over top and butt butter is liberally applied for lubrication and to improve performance on the bikes (mainly it prevents chafing). A quick stretch ensues, dishes are cleaned, sunscreen applied, and if all goes well we are on the bikes by 7:30 or 8:00.

 roads stretch on forever out here

roads stretch on forever out here

              The morning hours are the very best for riding, the air is still cool and the wind hasn’t picked up too much. Morning energy carries our legs like nothing and over the flat plains we can average at least 15 mph. Our schedule for riding is 50 min on 10 min off, the little breaks allow us to get the most out of the 50 minutes spent riding and prevents serious fatigue. As our biking schedule has solidified so have the ways we entertain ourselves. Most mornings start with outrageous laughter, the coffee makes us slap happy and we joke about nonsense all morning. After the second 50 mins we often throw on music, our bluetooth speaker provides great sound as we practice our freestyling, work on new bike dance moves, or sometimes just sing along.

              Speaker time usually lasts until the third 50 min break and at this point we will stop for a longer lunch. PB&J is a go to, with some fruit, a power bar and lots of water. Usually we will pull up under a tree somewhere and listen to some Jack Johnson, or whatever else will soothe the soul. After about 45 min we get back on the road.

              At this point we have usually gone about half our distance, it is nearing midday, and our energy is still good. Unfortunately, this is when the wind really arrives. Throughout planning this trip we were warned countless times about the amount of wind we would be feeling as we traveled west. I hate to say it but they were all so so right. The plains bring a whole new caliber of wind that we weren’t ready for. All afternoon it hits us right in the face and makes us pay for being so fool hearty to travel west.

 One of the most frustrating moments was just after I had reached the top of basically the only hill we had seen all day. I slowed down peddling and wanted to just coast for a moment because the wind wasn't so bad. As I did however, the hill started to drop off below me and was no longer providing wind cover. Like a slap to the face the wind brought me to a sudden stop and I had to peddle even harder to just keep from toppling over. Even after starting down the hill I had to pedal hard to gain some speed. Wind can be worse than any hill because unlike the hill there is no end to the wind and it can be demoralizing/ totally soul crushing to ride against the invisible wall.

              Charlie and I continue with our 50 min intervals and usually start education hour in the later parts of the day. Education hour involves primarily podcasts or audiobooks that we will listen to on our ride. It stimulates our minds and helps to keep us growing on the ride. Also, it helps to keep conversation lively and fresh about the things we learn that day. Our growth is stimulated through learning so without new ideas we would stay stagnant in our thought process. We want to be more informed than when we left school and with so many awesome resources we can learn just about anything.

              We usually arrive at our campsite anywhere between 2 and 4 in the afternoon depending on the days ride. The campsite routine starts with setting up the tent and sleeping pads straight away, outcome changes of clothes and we go hit the showers. Soap is then liberally applied and we sing and laugh as other campers gawk at my scary tan lines.

At this point dinner must be taken care of and two things may have already happened: One, we ate like pigs in the town nearest to our campsite, grabbed food at a grocery store for the morning and road with bellies very full about 5 mph to our campsite. Two, we went shopping and picked up anything from tacos to pasta or a hearty soup with bread. Then we cooked all of that on our camp stove before calling it a night. 99% of our cooked meals are completely vegetarian because Charlie is kind enough to accommodate my eating habits, however, on occasion Charlie will grab some meat for himself which he cooks in a separate pot.

After dinner we clean up, maybe journal a bit or play the harmonicas that my dad gave me before we left for the trip. We are in the tent by 9:30ish and I’m usually asleep a few min after, while Charlie takes longer to fall asleep.

Those are the nuts and bolts of each day and it never gets old. Sometimes we might be lazy and not want to clean or we might whine about having to ride really far one day but all of it is just fluff. When asked we always have an endless amount to say about the trip or we are very tired. More than anything people have been nice and helpful, the land has been beautiful, and we are really starting to see some new environments now that we are this far west. In a few days we are going to cross over the middle of the North American continent and enter what is truly the west side.

- Noah