Crater Lake To Stanley, Day 1 : Discomfort

I wake up and wash my face, then head to the nearby lodge to take a shower. There I discover that the showers are coin-operated, quarters-only, and limited to four minutes at a time. It costs me almost five dollars to get clean, including the time it takes for the water to actually get warm.

Back from the showers, my next task is to install the shoe cleats for my bicycle pedals onto my shoes. The cleats attach with four hex screws, and before my trip I made sure that I had a hex wrench to fit them, but when I examine the undersides of the shoes, I discover that they have metal plates on them that act as placeholders to protect the spaces where the cleats will be installed. Unfortunately, those metal plates are screwed on with regular Phillips screws.

“What the hell?” I mutter under my breath, and walk back to the lodge and borrow a screwdriver from the local handyman. I waste almost half an hour jamming the screwdriver up against the bottom of the shoes, trying to loosen the absurdly tight protector plates.

Finally I get them installed, and hurl the protector plates angrily into a nearby trash can. Now all I need to do is get the rest of my gear attached to the bike:

Heaped on the picnic table, it looks like way too much gear.

A quarter-mile into my first day of riding, I encounter my first crushed animal. It’s a ground squirrel, pressed flat into the shoulder, burned grey by the sun. Almost against my will, I begin to keep a tally in the back of my head. By the end of the trip, I will have seen:

  • Two more dead ground squirrels.
  • The bleached bones of a sheep.
  • A large dried up frog, flattened upside-down on the roadway.
  • The jumbled skeleton of a large animal mixed into a heap of dirt.
  • A rabbit freshly eviscerated by a hawk.
  • The carcass of a small unidentifiable animal, heaped on the walkway of a cement bridge. It was in one piece except for a chunk of its backbone, torn out and flung about six yards away. Another interrupted meal, perhaps.
  • Four small altars, memorializing parts of the road where people had died. (These are known as “descansos”.)
  • Six dead snakes. One was apparently crushed by the road-striping truck; it was dead on the white stripe with another white stripe painted right over it. Another was the withered fragments of a rattlesnake, tangled with a small wooden cross, knocked over on the ground. Another had been threaded into a chain-link fence, either as a trophy or as a warning.

And these are just the dead things. Along the way I will also pass an extraordinary amount of trash and abandoned machinery, and two entire generations of people’s discarded beer cans. (How can I tell? The label art.)

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