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Day 4: Tailwinds and Water Water Water

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

After a relaxing break in Tahoe, I’m back on the road. It took about 20 minutes of riding to officially cross from California to Nevada and my aunt, uncle, and my Dad accompanied me for this segment. My aunt and uncle turned around at the boarder, and we said our goodbyes. They came all the way down from Washington to see me off, and I had a great few days with them in Tahoe! Thank you, Aunt Cindy and Uncle Rick!

My dad and I pressed on into Nevada where we found a great little bike trail, which cut out a large portion of the ride on Highway 50. It’s not the most pleasant road to ride on. However, before long we were back on the highway. Soon, my Dad was also ready to head back, and I said my final goodbyes to my family. Thank you for seeing me off in the mountains! It was a good idea!

I pressed on by myself. It will be quite some time before I’m with anyone I know again. Due to my previous issues with water, I have a new setup. Now I have five water bottles and also a Camelbak that holds another 2-3 liters. I will carry that Camelbak for Nevada, Utah, and Colorado due to stretches of my route that take me away from civilization. However, when I expect to be in towns, I will only fill 3 of my bottles to save weight. The 4th and 5th bottles are in my jersey pockets, and I don’t want to fill them until I have to.

It was a quick and easy climb over the last little lip before the descent into Nevada. I haven’t been in Nevada since I was 4 or 5 years old, so it feels new to me and it’s such a stark contrast to the forested Sierras. All I can see from my descent is empty and open desert.

Today, my plan is to reach Fallon, NV, but my first stop is in Carson City. I got a late start, a little after 10:30, and I have just under 100 miles to ride. I have some hosts waiting for me, and I don’t want to make them wait too long, so I quickly eat lunch and ride on through the desert.

The route planning app I used, Komoot, estimated that the ride would take about 9 hours to complete. I planned to be in Fallon at 6:00 PM, so I have a lot of time to make up. Luckily, I had a fantastic tailwind basically the whole way. I was easily staying near 25 MPH with barely a pedal stroke. The miles were going by quickly.

One thing I was a little worried about was that I had been experiencing mechanical issues in Tahoe. I went to a shop to get my bike adjusted and everything seemed great, but with a new bike, like the one I’m riding, it can take a while to break it in such that everything stays as it should and doesn’t stretch or loosen. As the miles marched by, I had zero issues. But I’m sure you can see where this is going...

Since the riding was so easy, I just had three water bottles today from this morning. I was feeling pretty confident I would make it to Fallon on just those three, but I stopped in a park and looked for a fountain just to not have to worry about it. Unfortunately, the water fountain was shut off due to COVID. I feel like this may be a recurring issue…

I passed a few gas stations and I thought about just buying water. However, most cycle tourists I talked to basically never needed to pay for water and I had done so twice already. I figured I would get another chance later on.

Sure enough, I come across a reservoir and pull off to go to the bathroom and get some water. The reservoir does have water! And then I read the sign on the bathroom door… “Boiling Recommendation in Effect.” Not wanting to spend the time to filter water and still riding the tailwind making my near 100 mile ride pretty easy, I figured I was still fine with my last bottle of water and around 20 miles to Fallon.

Thus far, my cycling computer (Wahoo Elemnt Roam) has been doing well for me. It struggles a bit if I miss a turn, but if I punch the route I want in again it recovers from any issues. It has also taken me on some paths I would never have guessed were there. So when it took me off Highway 50 and onto a dirt road I decided to follow, despite knowing that it would be faster and easier to take the paved Highway 50.

Soon the dirt is sand. I’m forced to walk when it’s too deep, but those sections usually only last less than 100 feet and then I’m back on my bike. After a couple miles, my GPS then sends me up this steel hill covered in sand and there‘s no way I’m making it up that without walking. I consider turning back, but for those familiar with the sunk cost fallacy... Well, you know... Up the hill I go.

The GPS does its best, but it really doesn’t know what the conditions are on the ground. I’ve had to go on alternate routes a few times already because the roads suggested to me were overgrown or simply didn’t exist. This time, I was rewarded with another great gravel road in the middle of nowhere.

As you can see in the photo, I really am in the middle of nowhere, but I’m happy with the gravel instead of sand, so I’m off!

The road lasts a couple miles, but then ends with more sand and my GPS has me going right into it. I slip and slide through most of it. Walking for more significant sections this time. No one is out here. There were barely any people on Highway 50, let alone out here. I finish my water and then disaster strikes.

My chain comes off the chain ring for some reason. This in and of itself isn’t a big deal, but when I put the chain back on I find that I’ve lost the ability to shift gears. I’m stuck in my second to hardest gear. In the sand, you usually want easier gears to keep up momentum when you hit a deep patch of sand. Now it was too hard to get out of sand easily, and I found myself walking far more. And again, I now have no water, in the desert, on a backroad no one drives on.

A few miles later and the sand turns into dirt. I rejoice! Excited that my GPS may not have led me too far astray I ride into the dirt and immediately sink and need to get off and walk. What looks like hard packed dirt turns out to be dried dirt on top of several inches of loose soil. It’s impossible to tell what’s ridable and what is just loose dirt. I was walking even more in this segment. Eventually, I’m actually riding again when I hit a patch that crumbles away and I go over the bars. My first crash of the trip!

Luckily, the dirt is pretty soft (that’s the issue) so I’m fine. I look my bike over. No miracle cure for my mechanical issues, but everything else seems okay. It wouldn’t be until I’m back riding again that I notice my front wheel is no longer true…

That’s not the biggest concern for me right now, though. I am parched.

I walk/ride for about 10 miles through this stuff before I make it to the far west side of Fallon. Luckily for me, my hosts are the second or third most western residents of Fallon and I have soon arrived. They usher me to the back of their house where I can store my bike in the garage.

I wasn’t very hopeful, but I ask about a bike shop in Fallon. Sure enough, there isn’t one. Oh boy… last time I tried to adjust my derailleur I made it 10 times worse and now I need to fix this bike or my tour may be over...

Mike, one of my hosts, and I begin working on it immediately while I gratefully drain three large glasses of water from Carol, my other host. Mike isn’t a bike mechanic, but he has built two old Fords from scratch, so he knows his way around tools and has a garage full of them.

Right away, I make the problem worse. I pulled off the cap that keeps my cable together and it starts fraying. This is exactly what I knew would happen once I attempted my own repairs... Steve, the rider I rode with day one told me if I ever had issues, the solution was to throw money at it. I wish I had someone to throw money at right now… But it’s just Mike and I. Luckily, Mike produces another cable cap and the tool to get it back into place in under 10 seconds. Crisis averted. Back to trying to figure out my derailleur.

I discover that the cap that should hold my shifting cable in place had come loose so we work for about 30 minutes trying to make it taught again. And then we get it! A wave of euphoria poured over me, but I think I hid it pretty well from Mike. In my head I’m cheering, yelling, and jumping in circles. Thank you, Mike, for all the help! I couldn’t have done it without you! While it’s not perfect, and will need some further adjustment, I decide that can wait until morning. I need to focus on my hydration situation.

At this point Carol and brought me several big glasses of water, but I was still incredibly thirsty. I have another two. After a shower, Carol has also prepared dinner and we all eat. We had some delicious BBQ meat and veggies.

Although I offered, Carol and Mike insist I don’t help out and I simply rest. It was a great conclusion to the day, especially after what I thought may have been a huge road bump in my trip. Mike helps me figure out water access going forward on my route through Nevada. He seems to know every single person and ranch along Highway 50. I guess that’s what happens when you've lived in Fallon since the 60’s!

Carol is an avid pickleball player, a sport that has really taken off in recent years. I would describe it as a hybrid of tennis and ping pong. Right in between. She just returned from a tournament in Boise. My uncle has also picked up pickleball in the last 5 years, but he has a way to go to catch Carol at nearly 10 years of experience! We continue to talk for a bit before I make my way to bed.

Tomorrow is a really big day. 120 miles or so to Austin and 5,500 feet of climbing as well. I promise I’ll try to not have every post be me nearly dying of dehydration. That’s what the five bottles and Camelbak were supposed to be for after all… Goodnight!

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Go Peter!! You rock. Alex and I are so thoroughly enjoying your adventure in all its up and downs, thanks in great part to your fantastic writing. I read it to Alex as we walk the neighborhood hills and it sure makes for some easy walking. Thank you for sharing your adventure and safe trails ahead! -Peggy Anderson

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