Hollie Ernest

I Scream, You Scream

Jul 11, 2022

Sunscreen drips into my eyes. I use my hand to wipe sweat from my brow and wipe my hand on already saturated shorts. 

“I was thinking strawberry and vanilla. What about you?” My husband looks at me incredulously, dismayed. “Weren’t you thinking about ice cream too? No? Were we not talking about it?” 

“Ummm, no,” he says with concern. Maybe my brain was parboiled like the water in my bottles. Outside Oaxaca, toward the coast, we pedaled to an area called the oven. All I could think about was something cold, or cool.

This familiar scene has repeated itself on summer tours across the Sierra Nevadas, through the Southern Appalachians, and along the Mississippi River. The drops of sweat have followed me to the tropics of Nicaragua and Chile’s Atacama Desert. Some landscapes are hotter than others, but one thing is consistent — we feel the heat vividly from the seat of a bicycle.

Hollie rides in a hot desert landscape with no shade to be found.
Feeling the heat!
Hollie Ernest

Although a bike saddle is the best seat in the house for seeing and experiencing a place, it is an earned seat. We earn it by straining our leg muscles, as they propel us through all types of weather, over mountains and through windswept valleys. Or maybe we pay with time, letting something on our nagging to-do list float into the next day or the next year, while we invest in the small slice of elation that is riding a bicycle.

When we do something outside our day-to-day existence, we step out of the manila envelope of our routines and are rewarded with a heightened awareness, an intimate awakening of the senses. We notice new landscapes, or different nooks in familiar places, a new bird song, ocean waves, and bees buzzing. We might breathe in heady aromas of fermented malt near a brewery, industrial coffee roasters, or even the less-pleasant smells of livestock manure and tar manufacturing. Whatever we experience through our senses, we are more because of it. This is why we bike tour — to see more, respect more, do more, and be more. We also get to eat ice cream more.

We all continue pedaling through this month of July, even when the heat of summer is sapping our energy and nature is reminding us more of an oven, a wilting plant, or a steam room. The challenge draws us in, because we know that challenges give momentum to the cycle of joy, and as Laura Killingbeck writes, “Joy is what the body wants to return to — again and again.”

I have ridden through deserts and dry plains with the solitary thought of future reward in the form of cold, sweetened cream. The ultimate reward for me and many others lies in the decadent treat of ice cream. Even lactose-intolerant cyclists have good options these days, thank goodness. My sweet tooth is more like a dominant canine than something small and slight. I love all flavors and types, preferably with rainbow sprinkles, which makes me feel extra adult-like. The confectionary smell that pulses from any ice cream stand encourages a spark of bliss, which smolders into a small flame of motivation to keep the pedals turning. It adds to the reasons why we ride.

Three photos showing Hollie, a curly-haired white woman, very much enjoying ice cream on different occasions.
"For just a moment, our greatest concern is licking a mound of sweetened cream on top of a cone made of flour, sugar, and butter."
Hollie Ernest

For some of us, the indulgence of sweet treats comes with a feeling of weightlessness, which may or may not be carried over from childhood, when our cares and concerns were less and lighter. As adults, our cares and responsibilities, the newspaper headlines and our sore legs can all lift like altostratus clouds high into the sky. For just a moment, our greatest concern is licking a mound of sweetened cream on top of a cone made of flour, sugar, and butter. We must take a pause to enjoy the joy before it melts all over our hands. I wouldn’t go so far to say that eating an ice cream cone is an art form, but it does require prioritizing the moment. 

When we ride long distances across unfamiliar terrain, thumbtacks of civilization mark the bulletin board of open landscapes, and these can be dots of reprieve. Ice cream can be our reward, our destination, or simply a moment of sugary delight, the thought of which can help us through sweat-saturated hours. These stops can remind us that we are stronger than we think, and that we are deserving of these small rewards. The cold cream tells us that if we can just make it to the next stop, we’ll be alright, even as water simmers in our bottles. As we indulge in cookies n’ cream, strawberry, chocolate, or whatever inventive flavor you prefer, suddenly the sweat of the previous miles is a distant memory, and setting out into the heat once again feels much less daunting. 


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