By John Aierstuck

When bicycling across the American continent, one has a lot of time to think. You might wonder, "What are the thoughts of cyclists with so much time on their hands (or, better, in their heads)?" Well, I imagine that varies widely from person to person for those of us on the C2C4Charlie Ride this summer, but I can tell you mine run from the sacred to the profane. Sometimes I find myself being meditative, even prayerful. Other times, silly or mundane. Here are some of my thoughts over the last few days. I've been thinking about . . .

-    the good times I spent with Charlie Read and how grateful I am to have known him during the 16 years he was with us;

-    how much I treasure my friendship with the people with whom I've been sharing this journey: those who will go the distance (Sara, Clif, Arleen, Bruce, Julie and Mark) and those who have added so much joy by joining in for segments of the ride thus far (Bill, Rich, Mike, Lauren, Meg, Dom, Michele, Luke and Toad);

-    how tough my butt is getting from all this riding:

-    what a vast, bold, beautiful country we live in, rich in its diversity of landscape and people;

-    how much I enjoyed meeting and being joined in camp two evenings by a thoughtful young man named Matt, from Chicago, riding solo cross country and drafting the next chapter of his life;

-    whether head winds are bad, because they slow our speeds so much, or good, because they cool us off in the 100+ degree heat we ride in some days;

-    how tough my butt is getting;

-    the dignity of an old roadside shop owner named Al, from whom I bought a cold drink in Dodson, MT, who told me about his return to his home town, after an accident that crushed both his feet when he was 47 had left him unable to continue his career, but said that he was happy, because it could have happened when he was 20;

-    the simple joy of skimming stones across St. Mary's Lake with Bill and Julie after our momentous climbing day in Glacier National Park;

-    all my friends back home - at church, in the neighborhood, in the volleyball group - and my extended family in PA and elsewhere across the country;

-    my three daughters, and their significant others, all of whom I love, even if they are throwing parties in our house while we are away;

-    how tough my butt is getting;

-    the unexpected change in riding plans yesterday that put us in Glendive, MT, and an evening drive through Makoshika State Park (a part of the breathtakingly beautiful Bad Lands) as the sun was setting;

-    how unfathomably lucky I am to be on an adventure like this;

-    how maybe my butt is not getting as tough as I was thinking it would . . . But I'll have more time to think about that tomorrow.