|Photo: Sean Kukura|
The gamble paid off, as we turned south, towards where gambling is more a way of life.
The journey lasted roughly 23 hours. Through the night we flew, as the white granules gave way to grey skies and they too faded to an inky darkness that even the large trucks did not dare pierce.
Still, we forged ahead, leaving the blankets of snow, and finding in its place lone beacons in the dark that turned out to be lonely gas stations, Arby's, and the cleanest, most incredible highway toilets in which I've ever had the pleasure to share my journey.
They looked and smelled and felt different. Not as majestic, not as aweful, but so much more patient, as if they had seen generations of humanity grow and thrive and live and preach and fallout and die in their caves, nooks and crevasses.
These hills also spoke to me of an Indian culture much maligned, marginalized and paved over, but just as loud and obvious as the Celtic echoes that I've heard in the rolling, misty hills a continent and an ocean away.
But I did not travel here to look at hills, rather I subjected myself to that long car ride, so that I could subject myself to many long bike rides through these very same hills. My hope, in this offseason, was to challenge my riding skills earlier in the year with steep climbs, chilling descents and no chilling weather. Four days into the trip, I have not been disappointed. There were six of us, three Ironmen, two newbies, but talented riders and one Cat 3 bike rider and seasoned cyclist.
We still have cheesy grins from the riding experiences that we have experienced. Climbs so steep that I questioned what I'm doing on a bike at all. The descents were so fast that I rethought my belief that I was any good at descending. And the countryside was so wide open that I challenged the whole concept of the prairie's great big skies. The canyons and mountains were not so much barriers to the view as they were red sanded switchbacks to heretofore unseen vistas.
I still have much more to muse about, but I am still absorbing and soaking in everything I have seen, felt and inspired. There is a different air here, a different wind. It is a strange world on which I cannot put my stamp.