What’s it like traveling by bike? What's it like to ride from the Washington coast, over snow covered Northern Cascades, through sweeping meadows, up Going to the Sun Highway and over Logan Pass at Glacier National Park and into the Great Plains? A deer hopping over a fence in a meadow in morning light is joy incarnate. The Rocky mountains in your rearview mirror and the big plains ahead makes every cell in your body feel what the grandness of this country. A shimmering St. Mary’s Lake brings forth your own shimmering song.
But what about the day to day nitty gritty stuff?
As friends and family join our moving caravan for a few days, the niceties and chit chat change from, “Oh, how did you choose that career? Nice to meet you, thanks for bringing the guacamole, good night.” On a prolonged camping trip, by bike, where you spend a good 18 hours a day together, bantering dances herky jerky and the wind strips away the conversational chaff to the essence of meaning. “My greatest life challenge was when I was 16, the dish scrubbies go in the blue bag, and you have some Nutella on your chin.”
Nutella on your chin. The nitty gritty details of a trip aren’t always shimmery and exalted. Packing up cars each morning looks like this. You wake up when the birds begin their Dawn Chorus at 4:15 or so, listen for a repeating song, and drift back to sleep, hoping that you’ll sink quickly into slumber again before the first person zips open their tent, announcing the Great Group Awakening with that quirky, unmistakable zippery sound.
Are you on breakfast committee? Then quick, go answer nature’s call because you failed last night to untangle yourself from your sleeping bag/swaddling wrap/straight jacket to relieve yourself under the stars, and now your bladder is very full. Then search for the right cooler, haul out the milk and yogurt; find the right bin and haul out the granola and bread stuff; find the other bin and haul out the bowls, cups and sporks. Have you heated up the water for coffee? Do this while murmuring, “Morning” to Arleen, and “Hey” to Mark, your committee members.
Are you on clean up committee? Bummer for you. Wash and dry and put away all the breakfast stuff. No complaining, out loud anyway.
Time to pack up the cars. Jeez, why did we all bring so much? It’s not like Glacier is the Antarctic? Heave the tents, sleeping bags, tarps and stuff up to Clif and John who pack the rocket box carriers on the top of the cars. Help load coolers and bins in the back of the car. Feel embarrassed about how much stuff you have. Look down in shame and promise to mail a box back after Glacier.
What the hell did you do with your flashing reflector that needs to be charged? Where is that other pair of bike shorts, the ones that aren’t a petri dish? Oh, you didn’t charge your flashy last night and now you don’t have your “security blinky”? Is that my water bottle or yours? Mine has the black spots of mold, yours is cleaner. Found my gloves! They were at the bottom of that other bag. Why is bike stuff all black? Shorts, gloves, arm warmers, ear warmers…it all disappears in a black hole.
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, keep them doggies rollin’. Why have you had that same song in your head for 23 miles? Wish that your right eye would stop watering because the salt and sweat is making a crusty red icky thing. Get some cortisone. Hope that your sore legs don’t keep you up again tonight. Enjoy the hotel tonight! Don’t feel too guilty about taking a 20-minute shower.
75 miles today with a fierce tailwind felt literally like flying today as we entered the plains. 90 miles tomorrow. Pray that the easterly winds hold. Pray that side winds and gusts never happen again.
Shout your gratitude into the wind. Sing out loud the names of people who make the world good.