The following is an excerpt from my book The Divide. Find the ebook here.
Another rough and steep section of road brought me down to the valley floor and onto a smoother road. I sighed and looked over my shoulder back at the hill, glad to leave behind that awful road. I pedaled half a mile on the new road before I reached back to tap my sleeping bag. Huh? I reached back again. Nothing. I locked up my brakes.
"Where the hell is my sleeping bag?!"
It was rhetoric, frustration, dramatization. I knew where it was: laying on the side of the road where it fell as I crossed a rough patch. I cursed myself for having been so stupid. Everyday the straps had loosened. Everyday I had reached back to check the straps. Everyday I had stopped to wrench the straps tight. Why would I do all of that if I didn't suspect I might lose my bag? Now it had happened. Now I had to climb back up an incredibly rough road to search for it. I didn't have the energy or the patience to do it. What choice did I have though? Answer: a simple one.
I turned my bike around and followed my own tracks backwards, through the mud. My head was heavy and wanted to hang, but I held it up as best as I could, keeping an eye out for the white and black stuff sack that held my sleeping bag. Maybe I would get lucky. Maybe it had fallen off recently and I wouldn't have to back track far. Maybe? Yeah right.
Wait. What was that sound?
ATVs. Three. They came from the direction I should have been heading. I stopped the leader and explained my situation.
"Your sleeping bag?"
"Yeah, I lost it on a rough section of the road but didn't realize it until a few minutes ago. Can you just keep an eye out for it? If you see it, just set it on the road or if you're heading back just bring it?"
"Well, I suppose. Which road did you say you came down?"
"There's a turn just a couple hundred yards from here. I came down the road on the right."
"Oh, well we are going to the left. Sorry."
The older guy, mid fifties, pulled away without so much as a goodbye. The next two ATVs followed his lead and their occupants didn't say anything as they passed and then disappeared over the next hill.
They went on, not wanting to help, not even caring. This was the first time I had asked for help and had not received it. It wasn't that I had expected them to go out of their way to help me, but a little compassion and empathy would have gone much further than they did. They had had no idea the effort it would take me to backtrack to find something they could retrieve in a few minutes. I hated those ridiculous side-by-side, bench seat ATVs. They didn't look all-terrain with their small wheels and low ground clearance. Probably modified for a ranch. A tourist ranch. That would explain the kids in the trio. I had probably ran into a family on vacation, out to see the countryside so the parents could instill good values and such in their children, like avoiding weird cyclists in the middle of nowhere.