"I pity the man in his car who drives
across the great southwestern desert,
and thinks it's boring."
Doug Armstrong, 7 continent bicyclist
On Route 72, near Parker, Arizona, I headed east into the twilight. A blistering day scorched my body into a dishrag that had cleaned out a pot of greasy spaghetti and hung over the top tube to dry. My chances of finding a stream for a bath were next to nothing.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed the day. Red flowering cacti filled the air with their sweet scent and pink streaks sliced the heavens into sections while lighting up billowing thunderheads that boiled toward the sunlight. Their tails faded into the eastern darkness. Saucer-like clouds skidded across the sky to the south of me.
Nearing Bouse, I stopped at a closed gas station and parked my bike against the side of the cracked, plaster wall of the building.
"Might as well check the spigot to see if I can get a bath," I said, kneeling by the pumps. "I'll be darned! Water!"
I grabbed my soap, razor and towel. The water shot out of the faucet full blast. I soaked myself down--clothes and all. After soaping up my shirt, shorts and socks, I shaved my face. As usual, my neck resembled a bloody dogfight after the razor finished its business. No matter what the ads say about shavers, they can rip a man's throat to ribbons. Nevertheless, my body tingled at the newfound clean feeling on my skin. After rinsing away the soap from my shorts and shirt, I stepped into clean clothes. I hung my wet tights, socks and jersey onto the back of my pack for quick drying and loaded my water bottles.
Bouse featured ramshackled buildings on flat desert sands. I cranked into the cool evening air. A mile out of town, I scanned the road for a campsite. My tires made the only sound as stillness crept over the land. A few birds flew over the sagebrush and the thunderheads darkened with the fading light.
I don't like being on the road at twilight. Too dangerous!
"Come on, where's a place to camp?" I complained out loud. "I'm out in the middle of nowhere, and can't find a place to sleep."
In the distance, not more than a hundred yards, I saw a building.
"Bingo!" I said. "That looks like home tonight."
In minutes, I would have my tent set up behind the building and be cooking dinner. This highway deserted highway meant a quiet night's sleep.
Just then, a coyote loped along the highway off to my right 30 yards away. He looked intent on something that caught his eye. I pressed harder on the pedals. He continued loping along, not noticing me. He ran ghostlike in the twilight shadows. He moved as quietly as the still air.
As I followed him, he veered toward the high side of the shoulder near a bush. When he approached it, a jackrabbit shot out of the cover, headed straight down the side of the pavement. The coyote changed from loping gear to Warp Factor two. Every muscle in his body coiled. A cloud of dust broke the stillness. The rabbit raced forward with a three step hoppity, hoppity, hoppity hop, then ran four strides like a dog, then three more short half steps, and back to running like a dog. At the same time, the coyote, with his nose cutting into the air like an F-16 jet and his tail streaming behind him, edged closer and closer. About the second the coyote opened his mouth to grab the rabbit, the speedster turned on a dime and shot left across the highway in front of me.
Mr. Coyote pulled his teeth back into his mouth and executed a 90-degree turn. From a dead stop of zero, the coyote accelerated again to high speed. Again the rabbit raced ten yards along the highway and did another right turn. Mr. Coyote closed quickly.
On the right side of the road again, the rabbit, followed less than a few steps behind by the coyote, leaped across a shallow culvert. Big mistake! As he sailed over the ditch, the dark figure of the coyote leaped faster and higher through the air, like a heat-seeking missile homing in on its prey. In midair, the coyote's teeth reached down and clamped onto the rabbit. When they fell to earth, the rabbit screamed a death cry. Silence!
When I pedaled up to the spot, I saw the coyote, with the rabbit in his mouth, become part of the darkness.
Excerpt from: Bicycling Around the World: Tire Tracks for Your Imagination by Frosty Wooldridge, copies available: 1 888 280 7715