For breakfast I finish off my rice chex from before and most of the almondmilk, while everyone else goes back to the continental one. We actually manage to pack up our stuff and get out of this room in a semi-organized fashion, which surprises me. We leave a few dollars for the cleaning staff and are on our way.
The first part of our day is back along hwy 15 with 3 choices: ride in debris-filled shoulder, the rumble strip, or in the lane w/ scary traffic. At least this only lasts a few miles before we turn off onto another, smaller road. For the beginning of the day we ride in a pace line thru a not-insignificant headwind but Ben and Anna Faye in front of me are kinda yo-yo-ing in and out behind Travis and at some point I'm kinda volleyed out of the pace line and Jenn who was behind me gets into it and I'm stuck in the wind on an uphill and lose everyone. I lose them for a long time so I just ride at my own pace and we reach a place with a climb and a rocky cliff rising up on one side and it's overcast and I find a little black snake in the road so I stop to push it into the grass with a stick (so it won't become roadkill) after I take a picture and it bites my shoe. But it's so little that its fearsome figure 8s and strikes at my shoe are just cute and pathetic rather than scary. I don't know if it's even old enough to have fangs yet.
Then, as I'm photographing the snake, Dan cycles up behind me? I was like, I thought you were ahead of me! but everyone had stopped at a gas station or something and I was just trucking along and didn't even notice. I'm glad that I'm not as far behind as I thought I was but soon enough since it is a climb everyone passes me again. Travis finds another little snake, with a kinda giraffe pattern, and picks it up by the tail before tossing it into the grass. This one is super lethargic and doesn't even protest at all.
We decided a day or two ago that one of the reasons I'm slowest uphill might be because I have the smallest wheels out of everyone--26" while everyone else has 700cc or similar. It means that not only do I have lower gearing mechanically than everyone except for Travis and Anna (i.e. lowest number of teeth on granny gear), but my small wheel size makes my lowest gear even lower as each pedal stroke brings me less distance with less effort than the others. Add that to my natural weaknesses compared to everyone in fitness levels and also muscle/energy issues related to celiac and you have one fairly slow cyclist.
So naturally the others are way far ahead of me and there's this very ominous thunder and lightning way off to the left kinda making me nervous like I'm going to get left behind in the pouring rain. I feel a little abandoned and I have to stop and take a sit-down rest at some point before I even see the others again. A passing driver pulls over to make sure I'm okay, sitting there alone, but I say I'm fine, just taking a rest, and she continues on. By mile 45 or so I'm holding back tears. I find Anna Faye, Ben, and Travis at a gas station in I think Boonesville and I get a real-sugar sprite at a gas station. They lost Jenn and Dan but we find them at the next gas station over. Locals tell us there's a church that hosts cyclists around here and are we staying? But our goal for today is McKee. It's raining pretty hard by now... I vote to just stay here but the others outvote me so we just take a rest here, buying more food, eating snacks, and it's discovered Ben has a flat so we take some time to fix that, too. I start crying at some point so we also have to stop and talk about how I haven't been having a very good past few days and how all I want is a leisurely vacation but I feel pressed hard with these 70-mile days and I feel abandoned when I spend so much of the day out of sight of anybody and so we try to work out solutions to my issues and then 'cause I've been outvoted we press on toward McKee.
Since I cried Ben stays behind with me for most of the rest of the day which is really nice of him and helps cheer me a little, but my muscles are still overtaxed despite the rest day and I'm just trying to survive the next 25 miles. At some point I help a turtle cross the road and at another we stop at a church to ask for water (it's Wednesday night so a lot of protestant churches are having services)--the basement door's open but no one's there 'cause they're all singing upstairs so we just get some water from the kitchen sink and hope they don't mind. Dan gets annoyed with me because I won't climb back down this grassy hill to get the water bladder for cooking tonight but my legs don't work and I've gone over 65 miles which is all I thought we'd do today so I'm annoyed too. Travis ends up filling the bladder.
We finally roll into McKee and what we had planned on is camping in some national forest around here but we roll and roll thru town and can't find a spot of it. We do see a sign at some point for a recreation area and turn to go there but after like 2 miles we're still passing houses so we ask a guy in his driveway where is it and he says it's like another 8 miles so we say screw that and go back into the main town. We decide to knock on the door of St. Paul's Catholic church and maybe they'll let us camp in their yard? A woman named Rebecca opens the door and we ask can we stay here and she doesn't even blink she just asks, are you hungry? The fact we can camp there is just a given. We pitch our tents under a pear tree and then go inside. She happens to have a lot of leftover food from some event they just hosted so she loads the others up with it and I go to take a shower first (they have showers too!) but before I do I sit on the toilet and just cry and cry to let out all the stress of the day.
When I unwrap my arm it looks really infected and swollen and gross and I think I need to see a doctor. Jenn comes to check on me and sees it and concurs and says we'll find a doctor in the morning. I take my shower and when I come out Jenn forces me to eat so I eat bananas and spam and Rebecca offers me almondmilk and juice boxes too. Turns out she has a nurse practitioner friend I can go see in the morning, but in the meantime she opens up this giant first aid kit and lets me raid it and re-dress my wound for the time being and take some bandages for later also.
I already pitched my tent but there are couches in here and she offers that we can sleep indoors 'cause it might rain tonight. The others refuse and say camping is fine but me and Travis decide to take her up on it. She even brings me a pillow and blanket; added to my sleeping bag liner, I don't even need my sleeping bag I'm warm enough. The couch is super soft and comfortable and I'm so happy not to have to camp in a wet stinky tent after such a difficult day. Sometimes I feel like I'm in boot camp rather than on vacation. But we'll work it out. We'll make it work. We're a team even when it really doesn't feel like it.
distance: 71 miles
riding time: 7 hrs 25 min
my avg speed: 9.5 mph
my max speed: 39.2 mph
no picture today, sorry.