I’m still recovering from the trip. I’m sleeping a lot and I keep wanting to ride, somewhere, anywhere. Not riding seems to violate some spiritual laws of motion.
My last day on the bike was the longest in terms of time on the bike. I left at 11am Central Time and arrived home at 11:30pm Eastern Time. It was only 360 miles but I hadn’t counted on our 4th of July Independence Day traffic. It was over 90 degrees (32 Celsius) and at least 4 times the traffic came to a dead stop on the interstates. And I didn’t have the ‘white lining’ law of California to help me this time. On one section I did 30 miles in 2 hours. Sometimes I was caught between exits, with nowhere to go. Once, I found an overpass and hid under it in its shadow to cool down. Another time, 20 miles out of Nashville, when the traffic was moving like a toddler, I took one of those ‘authorized vehicles only’ paths so I could turn around on the interstate, cool the bike down at some high speeds and find an exit and a cold drink.
Somehow I managed to find Highway 41 South and I followed it until I hit another jam at I-65. I was hot and sick of roads with meaningless numbers. I wanted to ride down roads called ‘Cool River’ and ‘Happy Wanderer’; harkening back to a simpler, less crowded motoring time, back in the days when social workers were called ‘Friendly Visitors’.
I pulled over into a rest stop near Nashville thinking I’d wait some of it out. I heard a man ask the rest stop janitor how long the traffic had been like this. “All day long.” He replied.
South of Chattanooga things got better and soon I was on familiar roads and cut over to back roads for the rest of the trip home. The last section I was thinking: Okay, I’ve ridden over 9000 miles. I don’t want to hit a deer, or have an accident a few measly miles from home. When I got to Rome I stopped at my local gas station and bought a few beers for a celebratory drink when I got home.
And that’s what I did.
Since returning, I’ve been wandering around in a bit of a fog. Happy to be home, seeing familiar faces, short-lost friends, but in the back of my mind I still catch myself wondering which motel I’m going to stay at tonight.
9000 miles is a lot of miles for me but there will always be someone who does more, or does them faster, cheaper etc. Just like life in general. It helps for me to remember that I’m not competing against anyone else, only against myself. And that’s a pretty friendly match, I have to admit. To me the point is to get away from everything familiar, especially the television, the political arguing, the constant social distractions and to take some time to yourself. Silence is wonderful. It’s healing. Pascal said that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Or in a car alone, or on a bike.
When the voices outside and inside cease you can find an inner kindness toward yourself, and toward others, just waiting to be freed.
And we have the freedom to do this. No one is holding us back.
The Irish Poet/Priest John O’Donohue put it well:
“It is a strange and wonderful fact to be here, walking around in a body, to have a whole world within you and a world at your fingertips outside you. It is an immense privilege, and it is incredible that humans manage to forget the miracle of being here. Rilke said, ‘Being here is so much,’ and it is uncanny how social reality can deaden and numb us so that the mystical wonder of our lives goes totally unnoticed. We are here. We are wildly and dangerously free.”
Free and safe riding to you!