When the alarm went off on Saturday morning, I wanted to punch someone, but I was too tired. Instead I grumbled for several minutes, then hauled myself out of bed and stumbled my way into my pants and boots. I stopped in the lobby for a quick coffee, just enough to wash down the ibuprofen.
"You going to eat anything?" Cider asked while we were packing up the bikes.
"Nah," I answered. "Too early."
"Did you take pain pills?"
"What happened to what you said yesterday about protecting your stomach?"
"I had some orange juice," I said.
He gave me a Look. "So the orange juice and the coffee are going to help by making your stomach more acidic?"
"Who are you to be lecturing me about breakfast?" I demanded.
"Rogue told me to make sure you eat," he said. "She didn't tell me to keep you alive; just to make sure you eat."
"Fine," I said. "I'll have a snack while you gas up."
He rode to the gas station next door, and I set about finding the extra key that I suddenly realized wasn't in my hand. After a couple of panicked moments I found it in the pocket of my hoodie, which I was wearing underneath two jackets. Then I found the gas station and dutifully stuffed down some beef jerky.
Only two days have passed between living this experience and writing about it, but so many miles in so little time is starting to blur together in my memory. I don't actually remember when the phone moment occurred, but I'll put it here.
We were flying down I80 in the passing lane when Cider reached sideways suddenly, and then I saw a small black box that was probably his phone go bouncing away across the pavement and land on the shoulder. We pulled over to the left shoulder, and he started walking back. I sat on the bike for a moment, then decided I didn't want to be a target for a sleepy truck driver, so I dismounted too and stood on the shoulder to wait.
Slowing from the speed we'd been going had taken a while, and he probably had to walk half a mile to find the escaped device. Eventually he returned with a phone that was fortunately still working. We exchanged ready-to-go thumbs up and I got back on the bike. That's when I realized how far the crown of the road had tipped us, and after several valiant attempts to pull the bike off the kickstand, I realized it wasn't going to happen.
"Cider," I yelled, hoping he could hear me through my helmet and his earplugs. He turned around. "Help!" I said, and he walked back and pushed me upright, laughing.
"Don't die getting back on the road," he said, and I nodded. "Seriously. Don't die."
We returned to speed with no death and continued west.
It was cool and cloudy as we headed for Iowa. After two or three gas stops it started to rain. I was already wearing my gear because I get cold easily, but Cider had to stop and put his on under a bridge. The unfamiliarity of new boots and new rain pants kept him doing the Awkward Pants Dance for nearly ten minutes, while I sat in my saddle and watched the show, grinning. Laughing at each other's dumbassery is good fun as long as we both take turns.
At the next gas stop, we griped about the rain. It wasn't pouring, but my shield was fogging and making visibility difficult, and he had zipped his jacket incorrectly and soaked all of his shirts. He changed into dry clothes, I snacked, and we were off again.
My rain gear wasn't working particularly well. When gear fails while riding, it almost always starts with the crotch, as the rain is funneled down the bike's seat and into the rider's nether regions. Not long after that began, my boots started to squish, and then my gloves. By the time we stopped again, I was wringing out my gloves and my neck fleece, and I refused to even take my helmet off. Cider's new pants had failed too, and we were both soaked and freezing. With 200 miles still to go, we had no way to get dry, so we made pained faces at each other and just rode on.
My iPod had died and Cider lent me his extra, but that quit after about twenty miles and I rode in silence. Desperately needing a distraction from the cold, I started playing the picnic game with myself.
"I'm going to a picnic, and I'm bringing... An apple. A banana. A cookie." And so on through the alphabet. It takes a while because you have to repeat everything you've already said before adding a new item. It's supposed to be played with multiple people. I discovered that one round by myself occupied about twenty miles.