One rides to arrive.
Another just to survive.
I, to be alive.
With each stroke of the pedal, through an endless rolling landscape, under a cloudless sky with 90 degree heat, one can feel themselves getting a little fatigued. You could chalk it up to road exhaustion, but more than anything else, I just need to get out of the sun. I’m now in the portion of the ride where breaks are a necessity.
But I’ve been amazed by how consistently beautiful the weather has been on this trip. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop for nearly three weeks now, and it seems like it finally has; only it’s unceasing heat as opposed to rain. And with the heat comes sweat. And with sweat comes an inability to stay dry. And when pedaling cycle after cycle, you get really uncomfortable after several days of sliding your butt around on a seat.
The riding has been tough the last few days. But when looking at the map, I can’t help but feel hopeful and excited! After today, I only have one more planned stop before hitting St. Louis. It’s so close at this point, but it feels still so far when I’m just too exhausted and sore to put the miles in.
This journey has brought me through five states now. I’ve seen sights that would make a more religious man fall to his knees to praise the divine. I’ve ridden fast with the wind at my back, but being a fickle ally, it has slowed me to a crawl when in my face as well. The hills of the river valley between Iowa and Wisconsin taught me how much I could endure before having to finally dismount and walk, and terrified me as I rolled down the other side, maneuvering the weight of the fully-loaded bike while going over 30 mph. I’ve been the recipient of many kindnesses by strangers, some of whom I met first online on sites like Warm Showers, while others were simply people who had an affinity for what I was doing and decided to trust me. The landscape has continued to evolve as I made my way south, from dense forests to farm land to bluff country. Same with the political landscape, as more and more Confederate flags are seen on porches and passing trucks. Along with the heat, the knowledge that an increasing number of people around me are yearning for the Jim Crow era to return has also made me uncomfortable.
There’s beauty in the pain of this journey. It’s something you can’t know unless you work to know it, and every bit of the knowledge has proven valuable. The better angels of our society, as well as our demons, are within reaching distance at every stop along the road, and it’s an important reminder that both do still exist. My willingness to go another 20 miles is at odds with my body’s desire to sit in the shade just a few minutes longer; so which will win out? Or maybe that’s the wrong question. I’d like to think it’s more about perseverance. The miles ahead will always be there, whether we hack them today or tomorrow. We just need to keep moving forward, and remember where we’ve been.