Stephen M. Rapp
I did an annual bike trip down 89, usually starting around Provo, UT and ending in Zion National Park, with a leg over to St. George.
Spring trips always bode headwinds. After a couple of trips and reading journals from other riders, I stopped being a purist and learned to have no problems hitching rides, whenever I needed some rest, or get to keep up with my itinerary. At first I thought no one would pick anyone up who had a bike with packs, but I found if I popped off the front wheel and looked like I was broke down, I could get a ride pretty easy.
I had spent a hard day of hills and headwinds when I petered out on the Big Rock Candy Mountain. I wanted to get to Bryce that evening, but knew I wouldn’t make it unless I could get to Panquitch with two plus hours of daylight left.
I popped off my wheel and sat by the side of the road right in front on that old famous mountain with my thumb out. I was wearing my black spandex padded riding shorts and a brightly colored bicycle shirt. Sure enough a car pulled over. From here on, you’ll think I made this up, but by God it’s all true.
The car was a white convertible Cadillac. The top was down. The back seat was packed with boxes and suitcase’s, with a small TV tucked in among them. The driver was a small man with a fairly large cowboy hat and a pencil thin mustache. He introduced himself as Brigham. I could call him Brig. He asked where I was headed and I told him Panquitch. I had to keep my “broke down” rube going, and said, I needed to get some stock ball bearings at any car parts place. He asked if I was staying in Panquitch that night. I told him, I was planning on staying in Bryce. We headed on down 89 and made small talk.
I became animated when I discovered he was coming from, Carlin, Nevada. I had been to Carlin many times. I always scheduled my Bay Area trips for dinner in Carlin. Down by the railroad tracks on Main Street there were a couple of Basque restaurants that serve amazing lamb dishes. Brig had been a cook and part time bartender at one of my very favorites, The 4 Aces. It was a restaurant slash, pool hall, and yet, a family place. He couldn’t believe I knew of it, and we talked a lot about that. He told me he was going to Phoenix to live with his sister. She was a gym coach at a high school there.
It wasn’t long before we were approaching Panquitch. As we got close, he said he could take me all the way to Bryce if I wanted. I was tempted but I wanted to get back on the saddle.
“Nah,” I said. “Just drop me off at a car parts place.”
“Are you sure you can fix it?” he asked.
It seemed like an innocent question, but I got the feeling it had something else underneath it.
“Yeah, It’s no big deal. I’ve done it many time before.” I replied.
Brig began to be a little more probing with his questions. “You sure you want to sleep on the ground tonight. It could get cold.”
I looked at him a little more closely. I saw it in his eyes just as he asked the next question.
“We could get a bottle and room here.”
I thought to myself, “Great, just what I need, a midnight cowboy, in the middle of friggin’ nowhere on route 89. “Just put me off here” I said.
“You sure?” he pushed.
“Yeah, Brig, I’m really sure. Put me off”
I got dropped off in front of a liquor store. I bought some Amareto min-bottles and made it to Bryce, just before dark. As I peddled up the canyon, I wondered what the hell that was all about. I decided, it must have been the spandex.
Later that year I was diving 80 west, to San Francisco. I pulled into the 4 Aces, in Carlin. I sat at the bar and ordered dinner. The bar tender and I started chatting.
“Do you know a guy that use to work here, named Brig?” I asked.
He looked at me strange. “Why you wanna know?” he poked.
“Just curious,” I said. “He gave me a ride last summer, and he seemed like a strange guy.”
The bartender rolled his eyes. “He’s strange all right. He got out of town, just in the nick of time, last summer. Lucky bastard made it out alive. Got caught in the back seat of his Cadillac with the high school Principle’s son. It weren’t pretty around here.”
“Yeah, I bet it wasn’t. I bet it wasn’t.” I finished dinner and headed west.
Stephen Rapp, Asheville, NC