I have good news and bad news, y'all. First, the bad news is that while we were out of cell range and you were imagining us foraging for food, fighting off rattlesnakes with our bare hands, and finding a clearing in the sagebrush to pitch our tent, we did in fact find a bit of civilization in Hiland, Wyoming, at a place called The Bright Spot. We'd heard rumor of it in the town about ten miles east, when a man told us, "Oh yeah, Hiland's got a gas station, a store, a bar, a restaurant, and a motel!" We were pretty shocked, given our initial impression of the region, but it turned out that while what the man told us was true, all the things he mentioned were indeed contained in The Bright Spot, a small building with a nearby warehouse looking structure that actually contains a handful of decent little motel rooms. We didn't splurge for a room though. Instead, the good people of The Bright Spot, where they answer the phone by saying, "Hiland," as though they're answering for the whole town, let us set up our tent behind the motel.
So the good news is tha we spent the night hanging out inthe bar listening to stories about killing rattlesnakes and other things you tell visiting flatlanders to get a big reaction. Eventually, a flustered looking fellow cyclist came in looking for a room, equally as surprised as we had been that the place existed at all. He joined us a bit later,after tha crucial period of time at the end of the bikng day when you clean up the best you can and become human again, and we learned that his name is Brian and he's biking a loop through the West, starting and ending in Portland, where he lives and works as a minister, revisiting all the places he's ever lived and all the places in between. (For more, check out Brian's blog: www.pedalpilgrimage.org.)
It wasn't long before we learned that Brian is an adventurous man in ways that transcend his bike trip. Without a blink, he ordered the rocky mountain oysters, then admitted he had never had them. Aaron and I gawked in amazement. The bartender raised his eyebrows ad said, "You know what they are, right?" Brian answered with a hint of a grin, "Sure, I live on the coast. I know oysters." I imagine most of you know this, but just to be sure, rocky mountain oysters are the testicles of a male sheep. A ram, I guess. I had seen them on a few menus over the last few days and had said I wouldn't order them for myself, but would be willing to try them if I had a partner in crime. This was where I thought having avegetarian boyfriend was going to let me off the hook. When Brian's basket of piping hot oysters and fries appeared with a side of cocktail sauce (which in itself seemed exotic after weeks of nothing but ketchup, ranch dressing, and yellow mustard), we all marveled at how different the looked from what we pictured. They were sliced in delicate chip like pieces, breaded and fried, not just two giant, um, balls on a plate.
Brian dug in. I think I looked away because it seemed rude to watch a near stranger react to his first bite of testicle. A moment later: "Not bad. Kind of like calamari. Anyone want a bite?"
I would be lying if I said I didn't think about the blog mileage I could get out of going for the rocky mountain oyster. Also, wouldn't it be rude, blasphemous even, to refuse an offer from a clergyman? I chose a smaller piece of oyster. It was the man's dinner, after all. The first bite was all chew and cocktail sauce. I swallowed before I could think too much and induce a gag reflex. Then, I realized I had a sauceless second bite in my hand. There was the issue of the double dip. Stranger. Clergy. I had to just go for it. I described it to Aaron as a "gentle meaty" taste and the chew wouldn't seem to go away no matter how long I worked. Aaron laughed the whole time.
All that aside, if you can put it aside, or maybe in addition to the consumption of animal genitalia, meeting Brian made our day. Team morale had been prety low due to a rough and early start in Casper, plus I had felt under the weather for much of the day. The 6000+ foot elevation didn't help. As the air thins, it's harder for your body to process oxygen as easily. This is why pro runners train at high altitude: it serves as a natural enhancer when they return to low elevation. But it feels like hell (for some, at least) while you're up there. Aaron had a bit of shortness of breath on some hills. I felt sluggish and when we stopped, had lightheadedness and some sweats. Any advice on this is welcome.
But as I was saying, meeting Brian helped us recenter and reenergize, not unlike our time with David back in Galena, IL. David, if you're reading, don't think you've been replaced. Just accompanied.