Day 39, Bryce

Is it possible to go a day without cell signal in the US? I guess so. Apologies if today's and yesterday's posts come lumped together. If they're unreadably long, tough. You'll be quizzed on both days next Monday.

This was a really special day for me class. I saw Bryce Canyon. Yes, I was almost killed by lightning, I broke another spoke on my rear wheel, and I got caught in freezing rain (in Utah? how?) -- no matter. I cannot complain because I have seen it.

I woke up and had a very European breakfast of espresso, nutella bagel, nutella Cliff Bar, and nutella nutella. A small German child was fascinated to learn that you can eat an entire jar in 5 minutes. His mother covered his eyes.

Nothing too eventful until Bryce, except that I saw some trees. I remember trees. In my tradition, we kill them for Christmas.

Trees came and went. So did the rather optimistically-named town of Tropic. I ate three donuts and that made me feel guilty. If a food product can make a man who eats like me and who uses up 10,000 calories a day feel some guilt, then perhaps that food product is dangerous. I would have done anything to get that bear claw from around my heart.

The hill up to Bryce started steep enough and, as is often the case, it became the target for some heavy rain and lightning. Rain and lightning was horrible in Colorado; it is inexcusable as you rise up-and-up a mountain almost incapable of keeping trees.

I sprinted to the top only to find that the top was a large treeless plateau. I put on my helmet because lightning hates polystyrene. And I kept on sprinting.

Bryce was 4 miles off route, and then it was a 19 mile loop of some kind. As I neared my target I saw a sign for a free shuttle bus. I raised my hands in joy and then quickly, cautiously lowered them. A wonderful woman in a kiosk agreed to watch my bike as I waited out the lightning with a coffee.

Seated to the left of me were two French eight-year-olds drinking espressos and talking about an affair the smaller one was having with some bourgeois girl over in the ball pit. I stuck to my maps and Twain, and away from the windows. An awful man was yapping away on his cellphone, which really irked me because mine ceased to work.

Lightning be damned, I'm seeing Bryce. I went back to the lovely woman in the kiosk, got my tickets, took the bus, ran up to the highest viewpoint and stood as far away from the tallest Dutch tourist I could.

It won't photograph, but I took pictures. I could try to describe it, but it won't come across (it looks like a thousand thousand-foot sandcastles made by dripping wet pink sand). It really has to be seen in 3D.

Actually, I remember there being a computer program called Bryce with the sole purpose of rendering canyons and spires. This was the mid-90s, and is probably responsible for the wealth of 3D canyons on New Age albums of the period.

I have a lot of respect for the 3D artist and the man who makes that artist's tools. Pixar have been on my mind because I really believe their pastel color tests for Cars are the most accurate representation of the Utah sky I have ever seen. Again, a camera cannot reconcile the canyon and the sky in their separate but equal brightness: there should be no contrast.

Another part of the Pixar business is making Renderman, a painting (with time!) program a gazillion times more complex than Bryce. A gazillion times more complex are the canyons themselves.

I saw them from two Points (Sunset and Independence(?)) and tried to triangulate what I saw so I could walk it in my dreams. Every spire changes color subtly; every surface is smooth, then jagged, then crumbled and lost; every spire casts a shadow on the next and changes it; every cloud works like a spotlight that darkens; people wind in and out of it like an Esher drawing; it just gets complicated.

I am in a motel in Panguitch now. It's almost as cheap as a campsite. This is the first time I've been indoors and alone in a long while. And good. The building has been struck by lightning twice.

Out back are six Geos that have been painted bright colors and then wrecked in the derby. The guy who cooked me dinner races occasionally. The other guy who cooked me dinner caught a 20 inch tiger trout in Panguitch Lake with a marshmallow.

I will hit my last bike shop before Sacramento tomorrow. After that, it's pushing each other across the deserts of Nevada. 800 something miles to go.

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