Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Not all bicycle tours start the same way. Some are planned to the T, some are undertaken helter skelter, and some are in between. The same can be said with the path trodden during our life. Some of us hold the railing making sure not to stray, some never step foot in anther’s footprints, and some of us take frequent forays into the woods to see what else is out there.
My bicycle tour was a foray into the unknown, with a few known's. I left Burlington this past May knowing that one day in September, I should be in Portland to meet Chris. What I didn’t' know was how the journey would be, where it would take me along the way or what would befall me on the other side. I spent four months traversing the northern section of the country, cycling past the great lakes, touching each. I crossed the great rivers and into the great plains, with rolling grasslands stretching farther than my eye could see. The earth gave way at the Badlands and then boiled in the Black Hills, and finally exploded into the sky at the Rocky mountains. I touched the sky in Colorado, and descended into a world unknown to me, the northwest. The high arid desert, the grand valleys with snow capped peaks often in view. Through glacial lakes and gouged valleys into Canada to follow along the younger Rockies and back down into the Cascade wilderness of Washington. Near the end of my four months I beheld the wild and craggy Pacific coast.
With friends I cycled south along the Pacific coast, a route hailed the world over, and rightly so. A contrast cacophony of sweeping, inspiring views greeted us at nearly every turn, hills and switch backing downhills, we made our way to San Francisco where me and Chris continued onward.
The next three months me and Chris crossed through California, the Sierra Nevadas and into a sparse world of the deserts of the southwestern North America. Full moon rides through Death Valley, hurricane winds in Utah, barren landscapes of dazzling mosaics piled high upon each other, the rocks and earth seemingly playing an endless game of king of the mountain. With each protrusion of rock, an equal if not greater gash was to be found, the rivers digging deep into the earth, the Grand Canyon and smaller cousins. We zigged and zagged through the southwest, breathing in the fresh air, the slow uncluttered life of those we meet along the way. And as the ice and snow began to fall, we entered Texas.
I soldered onward, solo again, across Texas taking in the various landscapes the state displayed. Deserts, hills, farms and finally the Gulf of Mexico. The bayous, marshes, swamps and foreign culture of Louisiana and the deep south opened up before me as the last of any hills gave way to cypress, magnolia and mangrove. I followed ancient paths north through Mississippi before heading eastward once again though Alabama and Georgia, where once again hills gave way to the flat prairie, springs, and citrus of Florida. And then, at the start of March, I saw the Atlantic ocean and sighed, knowing that somehow, I had made it, and I sighed, not knowing what was next.
My legs, my heart, and of course Eddy all guided me across the earth for 10 months, leading me on a course that was written in the trees and the wind, in the smiles of those who were bewildered, of the helping hands, in the rain and and sun, the starry nights, chilly mornings, breakdowns and jubilation. And now, finally, my path (and my heart) is leading somewhere once again, to Asheville, North Carolina. To live in the mountains and the forests, where music and art and beer make a tasty stew, and the single most amazing person I've ever been lucky enough to know and love resides too.
So, 15,216 miles cycled, 336 days chugging along the paved roads of North America, and a new path to explore. Thank you to all who have guided me along, to readers of this blog, to the countless multitude who gave me shelter, food, help, advice, someone to talk with. The people I meet and shared with on this trip were just as varied and spectacular as the landscapes I saw. To those I biked with for a day, for weeks, for months. One can cycle solo, but only with a support crew. To Bingler's big and small, I sincerely, warmly and with love, say thank you.