This blog entry was written a few years ago, before the Dewey Bridge burned and before I had a blog on which to post. Paige Boucher

When Mountain Hardwear announced the Mission Project challenge, it was my job to give it a PR spin. So I challenged my media friends and contacts to state their mission and then complete it by the Outdoor Industry’s August trade show. I am proud of all who stated their goals and especially of those who completed them.

Wanting to be a team player, as well as give my self a kick in the butt, I too announced my mission. I would ride my first century. My plan was to train for and ride a 100-mile road ride. I’ve always loved riding. I taught myself how to ride my mom’s bike when I was 5-years-old which prompted my parents to buy me a bike more my size – a blue Huffy. I think it was the summer between fifth and sixth grades that my best friend, Kathy, and I had two goals; to ride our bikes to the top of a hill which rose about 1000 feet above town and to try every flavor of Baskin Robbins ice cream. We successfully accomplished the hill climb but the ice cream goal was too expensive for our allowances. Things have not changed that much. It’s still not clear whether I eat to ride or ride to eat. I sure enjoy both! Anyway, I rode a lot this summer.

Then about a month before the trade show, my life got crazy. This is nothing new. My work schedule has always ebbed and flowed around new product introductions every six months. I travel quite a bit for work. I am married with an eight-year-old daughter, so family life keeps me busy, and as so many women I know, I get overly involved in lots of committees and community projects. Balancing all of this and my fitness has always been a challenge, so often when life gets busy in other areas my workout/play time suffers. Alas, my goal of riding a century did not happen in August.

But after the trade show, my family would be spending a week on the coast of Oregon where my parents own a cabin on a bay. The riding is spectacular with views of the bluffs over the Pacific Ocean. My 22-year-old blue Bridgestone lives in the shed at the cabin. I was worried I’d be spoiled because I now ride a lovely titanium Moots, but I was surprised at how comfortable my old bike felt and I happily got back in the rhythm of riding. I extended the date to accomplish my mission. The new date would be my birthday, October 24th.

I got serious in September and early October. I put in the miles and tossed around options of rides. My plan was to combine several of my favorite rides in the mountains around my hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to come up with a 100-mile ride.  I would ride the different legs with different riding buddies. The last 5-mile leg would be along the Yampa River bike path with my daughter. I was up to 50-mile rides on the weekends. But the mountain weather was getting wet and cold. After one 54-mile ride which included 3 big climbs and 30 mph wind gusts, I began to get discouraged. I was not sure I’d be able to be in the shape needed to ride my century by the time winter closed in.

I was looking forward to a weekend get away October 12-15 with a few girl friends in Moab, Utah. We would be celebrating the end of cancer treatment for my friend Rosanne. The group would be riding mountain bikes but I planned to bring my road bike and put in additional training miles. As the weekend approached, the idea hit me that this was my window of opportunity. The weather looked good and it was a bit lower in elevation than my home, so I’d have an advantage. My friends were supportive.

The route was obvious. Utah State Highway128 also known as the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway from the Cisco exit on I 70 into Moab runs along the Colorado River and is designated as a Scenic Highway. It is only 43 miles, so out and back would be a total of 86, but I could tack on an extra leg to make up the difference.

I was in the saddle on Saturday morning by 8:15 AM with a healthy breakfast in my belly and enough water for a day in the high desert.

Mile 0 – I realize my mileage computer is not working. Of course this is not a necessary component for a great day riding. But it is kind of important to keep track of my mission so I stopped by the bike shop for a new battery.

Mile 2- I see a bit of bike bling on the road (a Velcro pant strap). When I stop to pick it up I can’t click my cleat out of the pedal.  I have to take my shoe off and leave it on the bike. After several minutes of trying, I still can’t get it fixed. I must have damaged the cleat up on the sandy, wet mountain bike trail we rode the day before. I decide I don’t want to waste any more time and make a mental note to remember that I only have one foot free when I stop. I’ll have to remove my foot from my shoe when I get off my bike. This resulted in a few less-than-graceful dismounts and tromping into the desert in my stocking foot every time I had to pee.

Mile 19 – The colors are amazing. The Colorado River is a glassy army green smoothly running through the red and buff colored sand stone canyon. The red rock contrasts sharply with the green brush, and yellow and purple and red flowers line the road. The sky is dramatic with pillows of white and grey clouds moving swiftly overhead. To add a few miles to my route, I head away from the river up toward Castle Valley, the home of Terry Tempest Williams, a favorite writer. But, it’s up hill and I miss riding along the river, so I turn around after a mile and continue heading north on 128.

Mile 34 – I arrive at Dewey Bridge, built in 1916. It is still the longest suspension bridge in Utah. It was built to connect Southern Utah with western Colorado. It was engineered to hold six horses, a wagon and cargo. Today there is a new bridge for cars. Cyclists and pedestrians can still use the old bridge, but first they may pause and read an anonymous quote inscribed on the south side “Bridges are symbols of progress at many levels: Crossing is always a small ceremony, ending in arrival at some place separated from where we were, except by this slender link”.  Completing this ride and my mission will indeed be progress and my life after this ride will be separate from where I was before. I ride across the bridge.

Mile 45 – I hit highway 70 and head east on the frontage road to gain the additional mileage I still need.

Mile 47.5 – The road feels particularly bumpy. Actually, that’s not the road. I have a flat tire. No big deal. I change my tire and put air in it. Bummer, I pinched the tube and it’s leaking. No big deal. I have another spare. I change the tire again and blow it up with my quick fill canister gizmo. The seal around the nipple on the tire busts and it will not accept any more air. Bummer, I don’t have a patch kit, just three bad tubes. I am an idiot to be out in the middle of the desert in the most remote place on my ride without proper supplies. I hope my daughter grows up to be smarter than I am. I wait. Lots of cars go by, but none with bikes. Finally a camper carrying a bike on the back pulls to a stop. Bart and his dog, Ling Ling, are my heroes. We patch my tire, change my tube and fill it with air. Bart even offers to true my wheel but he can’t find his tool. I get back on the road in the direction of Moab. With no more tubes, it’s smarter to get back on 128, the main road. I will have to pick up those additional miles at the end. Maybe my girl friends will join me for a mellow loop around town to get me up to the 100-mile mark.

Mile 75 – My body hurts. My feet hurt. My back hurts. My neck hurts. My head hurts. I drink more water. Remarkably my legs and my butt don’t hurt. Small miracles. I keep riding.

Mile 90 – I enter Moab. I look up and see my husband’s smiling face. There is a huge picture of him on a bike on a billboard at the entrance to Moab. It’s been there for years. He’ll be surprised to hear it’s still around. He certainly looks a lot more excited to be on a bike than I am at that moment. I keep riding.

Mile 91.5 – I pull into the driveway at the house where we are staying. I hear a cheer from the porch. It’s Rosanne and she comes out and gives me a hug. I’m done. I’m cooked. It’s finished. I can’t do another 8.5 miles.

But it’s OK. I worked hard to get here while balancing all the other parts of my life. Heck, if I can live the other parts of my life including work, parenting, family, friends and the rest at 91.5%, I am doing just fine. It’s time for a celebration beer