Minds, however, are not the only aspect of being human that change (or warp, depending on your perspective) with the passage of time, and from a darkening of the mind to a waning of the heart, the body is just another turn of the screw. Muscles inevitably weaken during their lifelong press against the imprisoning physics of gravity, and from behind the bars of our windowless cells, skin sags and spines curve our droopy faces too far out in front of the rest of our palsies, and then one day, if we are not careful, we are old, tapping around the perimeter of a mall in trembling orthopedic shoes, cursing a generation twice removed because it is unlike the shitty generation we thought we were a part of while watching it on our computers.
The worst part, however, is the sensation that there’s nothing left to discover. Curiosity’s last light has set over the western horizon and darkened the prehistoric striations of the
On the morning of January 15th, the cycling portion of my journey ended. I had known it would potentially happen a few days before as I had used all but one of my spare inner tubes along that vicious westbound stretch of Interstate 10, and the harsh desert had receded the tread of my back tire to total baldness. A final bounce over a jagged rock deformed the shape of the same tire, and a tiny hint of its guts were wearing through. I knelt in the blazing afternoon that day, staring at the damaged rubber, trying to conjure the future while remembering the past few days. Frustration dripped from my eyebrows and beaded at the end of my nose, and in the spirit of the South, I squatted there like all the other knuckle-dragging denizens in their cages, confounded and angry at nothing and everything. I stood and looked toward the wavering horizons of the east and west. Nothing. Nothing near and nothing far, so I changed my inner tube and nervously continued riding on a tire whose life expectancy I accurately predicted to be two more days.
It wasn’t just the tire, however. I had burned through more savings than originally projected. Food was a big deal. Sometimes granola, fruit, and dried meat just wasn’t enough, and no matter how awful an omelet and stack of pancakes made me feel after a day of digestion, my imbecile body demanded the calories and whenever the opportunity presented itself, Rocinante the Third was leaned against some mom and pop café while I unapologetically stunk up a booth, juice, coffee, and a buffet of licked-clean plates piled strategically around my book and hunting knife. I also stayed in motels more often than anticipated. The mind is a curious thing. The complete mental resistance I had to sleeping in outside discomfort was unexpected and I can only attribute it to the fact that I wasn’t a springy youth full of milk and sweetness. My insides had soured. I perspired more and consequently, I smelled like hell. I ached more, and I was 1,000 times more concerned with monsters. What’s funny is that as soon as I was completely without a choice, I wasn’t bothered by it at all. Who knows? Had I been riding across country at 20 instead of hitchhiking, perhaps I’d have been just as averse. We’ll never know.
At a rest stop in the days following, I sat on a bench with a casino cup of hot chocolate, reflecting over my predicament, when an elderly traveler materialized at my side (as old ladies tend to do) and kindly bombarded me with a series of personal questions that culminated in a final and tremendous “but are you enjoying your ride?”
I didn’t have an answer.
To say yes would be mostly untrue, but to say no would change everything. How could I continue in the same manner as before after speaking aloud the hard words that I had fallen out of love? Still, I didn’t need to pollute the air with my admission. The old woman’s simple question wrecked my deniability by it’s very standing, and for the first time, I turned to see the straightening of my divine mountains and exquisite sea to the littered margins of a road most traveled. It was a good question. I could ask the same of you, in fact, and presume a comparable reaction. Are you enjoying your ride? Your day-to-day along your own personal highways? Are you happy or are you just existing? It’s an important question and not one I’d have expected from an old woman in a souvenir
It was that day that I remembered who I was cycling across the country for: myself. Two weeks prior, I had stopped telling strangers that I was “trying” to make it to
|My last morning as a cross-country cyclist.|
I estimate my bike ride to have been around 1,200 miles when Rocinante the Third and I started hitchhiking, something I’ll perhaps post about. What’s next, you ask? Nach