The Last Best Day

Settling quick into a rhythm, my routine revolves around streaming NPR from Anchorage based KSKA over morning coffee, browsing Trailforks to plan the day’s two-wheel route, and the occasional check in with work and family. Thursday is a bit wet, so I find the canopied singletrack loops with the best drainage. I roll 30 miles of dirt and on a particularly slick section of limestone near the end of my ride I get another call from Bryce. “Wow, he’s fast,” I think. He’s probably already wrapped up the job and ready for me to free up his lot.

Thursday was the last panic-free day I would get. The job wasn’t complete. Bryce was having issues finding the driveshaft. He called a supplier in Nevada and had one overnighted. If it shows up by close of business Friday he could still have me on the road by Saturday morning. The shipping was $200, but I was heavily invested in hotel and Airbnb reservations for the final leg. The opportunity cost made sense and an unease began to gnaw deep in my soul.  

I had to call home and leak the news. Nothing was a done deal. Not by a long shot. But the potential impact of not being in Nashville when Kéa boards a flight to Tennessee is catastrophic. At a minimum we’d have to adjust flights and itineraries. I don’t sleep well. I’m working the details of this trip in seven different directions and none of them come anywhere close to an acceptable outcome. Thursday turns to Friday and I try to distract myself with NPR, coffee, and the day’s ride. I’m unsuccessful. 

I tell myself that I’ll wait until 2 pm to text Bryce. It’s raining at least an inch an hour and even this seasoned Alaskan is not excited about recreating outside. My Airbnb is equipped with a hot shower, washer, and dryer. The only way to stay sane is to get kitted and hit the mud. Twenty-eight soggy miles later gets me to my 2 pm target, I type a question into my iPhone, and hit the little blue arrow.

What I like about Bryce is that he’s a caller. He’d rather give it to me straight up than hide behind a texted reply. I appreciate this. The news is bad. This particular drive shaft doesn’t exist. At least not a built one. There was one other supplier he had a phone call into, but it was a longshot. The driveshaft requires assembly and the entire process takes ten days. Once the part is completed it goes out for shipping which can take another week or ten days. This issue wasn’t likely to resolve for a solid month at the earliest. I could still hold out hope for the one lifeline, but the writing was on the wall. 

I’m so sad. I talk to Kéa and she’s even deeper in despair. The walls with their writing on them are closing in. Time to circle back to contingencies. Staying in Arkansas can’t happen. I cancel Kéa’s flight to Nashville and look at ways to bail out of Bentonville. No matter what, I’ll have to leave the Jeep, my bike, and all my gear someplace. The lodging I’ve booked Kéa and I for the following week? Forget about it. I’m well past seeing a dime with current cancellation policies. I look at flights and there are no good options. One-way tickets from the closest airport in Fayetteville are all over $500 and they only go to Dallas or Atlanta. Taking stock of my current reality, I give Bryce another call to talk about longshots. Leg three day four, and no end in sight.

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