My intentions of doing a post per state are going to be a challenge as I am going faster and the states are getting smaller it seems. However, I found myself taking an unplanned rest day in the small town of Wonewoc, Wisconsin. They have an amazing library in town, one of the best so far this trip, so I am satisfied.
The fog from this morning’s breakfast at Bernies Wagon Wheel II is finally clearing. I usually don’t buy food from restaurants, but I figured I’d support the local wagon wheel. I got a 3 egg omelette with hash browns, toast, and 2 pancakes the size of Frisbee disks, and good eavesdrop from the locals. According to them, the liberals hate the new Foxconn plant because we care about the environment and hate jobs. I sat silently and listened. I also learned way too much about different types bullet casings the one man is experimenting with.
My last rest day was just a few days and a few hundred miles ago. I’m loosing track of actual distances covered per day, but I know every day has been over 90, and two were over 100. I left Fargo rejuvenated and entered Minnesota where everything is green and the lakes plentiful. I encounter my first rainstorm in 32 days and 2300 miles of riding. I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels to be in the greatest shape of my life. Knowing I have the power to ride 100+ a day consecutively is amazing. At this point anything under 60 miles is like a rest day, and knowing I can hop on a bike to ride that distance with ease is such a good feeling.
I don’t remember much from the past few days. I could write about the group of high schoolers I woke up to in a pavilion I was sleeping in last night as they were beginning their stereotypical late night smoke session in proper high schooler fashion. I could talk about how riding along the Mississippi was pretty fun for a day, or the family I stayed with in Minneapolis who had the nicest house I’ve ever seen, along with $700 worth of Brookes Saddles.
But right now, I’m mostly interested in trying to capture my experience form the saddle. Specifically, what it’s like to spend hours and hours alone with oneself, as well as with nature and the occasional car. Even on my hike New Zealand, I did not reach this level of thought. I have very few distractions now. My thru hike I was constantly thinking and worrying about food, weather, foot pain, relationships. My bike tour brings me close enough to civilization that most of these are not a worry, which frees me to let my thoughts wander.
I don’t think we spend enough time with ourselves. Like sitting and just letting your mind run. See where you end up. I road a dedicated bike trail for 112 miles yesterday and I spent almost the entire time in a green tunnel of zen.
With the cars gone, only the occasional runoff in the trail I had to worry about. I thought about the past, how I miss my time in New Zealand so much. I miss the crazy experiences I had with Paul, and later on with Jim. I get emotional just thinking about the great times me and Jim had there. I wish I had someone here to share this amazing bike trail through Wisconsin with. But the silence and solitude allow me time to process it, I think. Can’t I have both?
I come to the present, and begin to question, why? I’ve always been the “Why?” guy ever since I can remember. Perhaps that is why my employer and I didn’t mold together very well. Why am I riding across the country? It feels good and I genuinely enjoy having something to all day. Even today’s rest day has me all antsy, I need to move along, too much time with the internet and cellphone. I feel myself slipping back.
My mind drifts to the future. I can’t help but think of a book I read by Joseph Campbell a few years back during my lunch breaks, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”. This Wikipedia entry summarizes it better than I could :
Campbell explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth. In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarized the monomyth:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
I’ve been on a mysterious adventure, full of fabulous forces, beyond words. I feel the urge to slow down and start sharing the lessons I’ve learned. The simple life is all there is. Remove distractions, and the real world comes into view. Thoreau was right.
Fear comes over me, like a damp blanket that needs another hour in the dryer. I remember the exact spot on the bike trail where this feeling overwhelms me. I have the constant struggle with wanting to slow down and start working on something that is greater then myself, vs just burning through the rest of my money and working a dead end job every few months to afford a few months off where I can go escape again the maddness.
What will I do with myself in the future!? My mind runs through a billion scenarios. I feel like I’m running simulations, all of which I know will never happen. Am I just a crazy person my mind begins to wonder. I look around, I’m surrounded by dense forests. I can smell the earth working. Its so rich here, its been raining so much compared to the plains. Thunder clouds behind me darken. My maps say 22 miles until the next town. I turn it up, 92 miles into the day and another 22 can’t be that bad. The trees beside me on either side form a canopy above me. Roots exploding from the side walls and the branches tangled. They form a tunnel of green that I journey through. This is where I am supposed to be, I love it. The future can wait.
(I don’t have much in the way of pictures, since it was a shorter time between posts. )