I could tell you that it’s unlike anything you’ll ever know.
That you’ll get it. As you climb the Cascades and descend Going To The Sun Road, you’ll understand what all the poetry means when they talk about emerald green waters and the indigo mirroring of lakes. The vast and haunting endlessness of the sky. The thrill of cities and peace of tiny towns. You’ll understand it with your skin, too, not just your eyes. Your heart and your blood will know and remember it.
I could warn you that in those six- to eight-hour days of 60-100 miles, a type of sublime madness occurs. That your mind will bring up that shit you don’t want to deal with or don’t even know you’re avoiding. That it will ride with you for miles, calling out your name and make you cry or bike harder or stop. But I could also reassure you that it will get quieter. That a few days in, without you even recognizing it, you’ll be riding in silence. Maybe even for hours. Heck, maybe you’ll even realize that if a voice is being heard, something deeper in you had to have been listening, and that deeper self is still riding your bike after the voice is gone. Makes you sometimes wonder if this is maybe the real you.
I could tell you impossible only really exists at the bottom when you look up at that crazy pass. When you’re on it, when you’re pouring sweat and your legs are burning and the sun is hot, it’s really hard. Like, really, really hard. But it’s not impossible. You could do three mile days or hitchhike or push your bike, but you’re going to make it to the top.
I could warn you that your body will sometimes feel like it’s turning against you. That muscles you didn’t even know existed will gnaw at you for days. That your butt will throb with sores and sitting down on your seat might feel like torture. Maybe you’ve never gotten a yeast infection before but riding in those cool, wet shorts certainly changed that, and the homeopathic remedy didn’t really help and now you’re on your period and kind of sick and that sucks. Oh! Did I mention the mosquitoes? And the 20 mph winds that were supposed to be tailwinds but are definitely headwinds and that at night get up to 70 mph and tip your tent over 90° so you have to reset up in the bathroom to prevent the hail from poking holes in your rainfly?
I could tell you that human kindness knows no limits. That people want to take care of you and will go out of their way when they see you on the side of the road to drive to a grocery store and backtrack to give you snacks and water. That people will welcome you into their homes and make you incredible meals and let you sleep in their beds and will be so enthralled by your story and what you’re doing that sometimes as you’re talking, you will be, too.
I can tell you that you might make a new family along the way, gathering people of all ages going in all different directions. At night over a dinner of assorted backpacker meals, you will laugh for hours about all the crazy stuff that’s happened because you’re delirious from the day’s ride and because it feels so good to be with people. But I could also warn you that knowing that community makes you feel its absence so much more when you have to go your separate ways. That sometimes it seems better to stay alone so you don’t have to feel it. Then you look at that bandana he gave you or that peanut butter the couple in the airstream insisted you take after they made you breakfast and dinner and you remember that’s always worth it. Connection is always worth it.
I could tell you all this but this is my story, and yours will be something entirely different. What pushes you up that final stretch, what makes you want to quit, what blows you away about yourself, and what you see will all be so distinct. So divinely and spectacularly yours. And that, my friend, is something I would love to hear about.
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What a beautiful story, one that captures the true experience and essence of bike touring!! We all ride for different reasons but in the end our experiences are both the same and different. Thanks for sharing and best wishes for safe travels!