For the first time on one of these extended trips, I had the discipline to maintain a daily journal. I am in the process of transcribing this in what will surely be an award-winning travel-log, or at least a tale of underpreparation and overpacking. However, I wanted to write something here-- a sampling of the forbidden fruit, if you will-- mainly because I'm worried that my blog might die of neglect.
I deliver a rant from South Dakota. This particular incident occurred near the end of the trip. The previous week, my buddy and I had scaled the Big Horn mountain range, an abominable monstrosity in the middle of Wyoming. They should pave it and put a Walmart there, like they do in California. But that's a different rant!
I'm going to lobby to get this sign on the Big Horn route
We were in the Black Hills, a beautiful canyon on the western side of the state (the eastern side is an extended plain so flat that you can see your dog run away from home for three days). On this day, we had pleasant weather and perfect scenery. But what had us in the best spirits was the knowledge that we were done with the climbing for the trip. Sure, there were some little bumps here and there (it ain't called the Black "Hills" for nothing), but nothing sizeable on the map and that was good news!
So it came to our surprise when, starting at the entrance of Spearfish Canyon, we found ourselves on an extended hill. It wasn't steep, like the #^%$#& 12% grade on the Big Horns, but it was enough to at least be a workout. At what appeared to be the top, we took a break for lunch. There I had a conversation with the waitress.
Me: What's the deal with this hill?
Waitress: What hill?
Waitress: Oh, that goes on for, um, two miles? Maybe? I don't bike.
Me: Thanks. Damn women don't know how to give directions...
Waitress: Get out of my restaurant.
Well, it went something like that.
Six miles later...
And we were still climbing! I found myself getting a a tad grumpy, which was a shame because like I said the conditions were otherwise splendid. Suddenly the hill leveled off-- could this be the top? There we saw a general store so I decided to talk to a REAL MAN to find out what was going on here. Lo and behold, I found one, a bandanna-wearin', Harley ridin', behometh of a MAN sitting on a bench next to his MANLY motorcycle and his MANLY girlfriend (er, that didn't come across right). This guy would know the gameplan.
Where all the REAL MEN hang out
Me: What's the deal with this hill?
REAL MAN: No worries, you're almost done.
Me: How much more?
REAL MAN: A mile and an eighth.
Me: Did you say "an eighth"? Hot damn, I've hit the gold mine of direction givers!
REAL MAN: Yeah, a mile and an eighth. Might be a mile and a quarter. Somewhere between a mile and an eighth and a mile and a quarter.
REAL MAN: This last part is kind of steep. 8.5% grade. But it's only a mile and an eighth.
I didn't like that grade, but over just a mile (and an eighth), I could buckle down and grind it out. More than that, and it'd be trouble.
A mile and an eighth later...
I saw my friend up ahead of me, frantically pointing up in the air. I took this to mean "Summit! We're at the summit!" So I did a little celebration jig in my head, kind of like when I bluff someone out of a huge pot in nofoldem holdem (not that I would ever gamble). I rode up to where my friend was and... no summit. Apparantly he was pointing to say "Up! More up! Go up we must!" When you have been climbing for a while proper grammar is the first thing to go.
At a mile and a quarter...
By now I was pretty tired. Remember, I'd been busting my balls in a middle gear to try to plow up this thing. But the guy was awfully confident. So it must be that my odometer was off?
Another mile later...
WTF. No way was my odometer this off. I'd dropped to my lowest gear. Any lower and I'd be on footpower. I cursed stupid REAL MAN. I swore to knock him off his bike if he rode by here. I'd forgotton how huge and mean-looking he was. When you have been climbing for a while, proper judgement is the next thing to go.
#^$@ miles later...
And I was on foot. This hill had beaten me down, what with it's 8.5% (feels more like 10%) grade over an endless climb. I was dripping with sweat, ready to collapse, when suddenly I saw my friend napping under a a tree up ahead. Beyond the tree was all downhill, glorious downhill. Finally. The climb came to an end at three miles. Actually, three miles and an eighth. God was laughing at me.
My friend didn't have an odometer. "That seemed like more than a mile to me", he said. "I mean a mile and an eighth." I told him the facts and he laughed. I went off on a rant about how at least the waitress didn't profess to be some sort of direction guru. "A mile and an eighth!" I yelled, "I mean, if he had said, a mile or two, that would be one thing, but a mile and an eighth? That implies accuracy!"
So let this be a lesson on significant figures for all you kids out there. If you're going to claim to know something to 1/8th precision, please be sure before spouting it out. Your misinformation could kill someone!