Today: 51.7 miles Total: 522.2 miles 9.14.10
What ridiculously nice people. At 7:18am, I was awake and packing. Soon, Ron was at his work bench, replacing a screw on my bike shoe. We were called up for breakfast by Norma, into their old-fashion dining room, completely set for a grand breakfast. Granola, Raisin Bran, fresh peaches, milk, and vanilla ice cream (at Ron’s insistence) completed a big bowl of cereal, along with toast, apple butter, grapes, OJ, peace tea, and, finally, Ron surprised me with one of the carmel apples from the place next to his bike shop, The Apple Trolley. Sounds like the lady that owns that shop is going to marry one of their grandkids.
They are either related to, know, or know about every single person in Glasgow. At 9:30am, story time finally subsided and I was ready to leave–but not without a bag of cashews, dried apricots, granola bars, cookies, leftover pizza, and a soft, green scarf that Norma knitted herself. She told me to wrap it around my face in the cold morning. They were very proud of their family, and wanted to tell me all about it.
It was such a pleasure to find such incredibly nice folks in the middle of nowhere Montana. They insisted I keep in touch, which I didn’t hesitate to agree with. They are very high-tech, especially for great-grandparents, so they gave me iPhone numbers, email addresses, pre-release 140gb iPad contact numbers, and the 29-digit passcodes to their genetically engineered communication microprocessors, which they have stored in their left palms.
It was a cold morning to ride, and the headwinds soon kicked in. There is absolutely nothing worse or more frustrating than a strong headwind, and today I finally absorbed how horrible they really can be. It was the worst 50 miles of my life–and being able to say that after having such a great evening last night is a testament to how bad it truly was. All day, I found myself taking breaks. To eat pizza, to walk for 5 minutes, ANYTHING to get off my bike.
The headwind was strong, but, what was worse, was that it was absolutely unrelenting, and didn’t just come in gusts. I was traveling so slow, and the wind was so burdensome, that I could not coast for more than 3 seconds, at any time, without coming to a complete stop. Contrarily, I can normally coast on flat ground for a nice long break. I couldn’t exceed 10mph for any period of time, and the short downhills proved themselves as difficult as the flat terrain, owing to the way the wind swept up the declines. I couldn’t seem to bring my mind to a state of wandering, couldn’t enjoy stories or music on my iPod, and couldn’t stop thinking about how miserable I was–and I’ve done a lot of excruciatingly hard activities that require mental control. It was like riding a fixie, geared for setting a world record, uphill with a 100lb. load. Tight pants and all. Today was nothing but frustrating, and I, honestly, didn’t have any fun.
At 4:40pm, I finally arrived at Gary’s office–a colleague of Ron and Norma’s I had been told to visit. He was not as welcoming or helpful as Ron and Norma, but that is hard to expect from anyone. He pulled up the weather on a computer and a map in an atlas. I guess hoping for anything else is pushing it.
With Gary’s assistance, I’m now camping at what he called the “bike campground,” which seems to be nothing more than a school playground. I’m probably not allowed to be camping here. I am.
I’m not having any fun. I called my mom, seeking advice after sharing the good (last night’s encounter) and bad (today’s misery) news. There is NO way that I WON’T hate myself if I don’t finish this ride. We discussed how this ride isn’t much of an adventure. At least not my kind of adventure. It’s mellow, and I feel like I’m not doing enough. It’s too mental for me, without sufficient adrenaline. I mean, all day, all I do is ride my bike. Sure, maybe a semi passes too close, or I see a bald eagle, or I have to switch lanes to let a tractor pass. But that’s as exciting as my day gets. Or, like today, it’s so flat that you can see the entire expanse of a 1+ mile long train.
And this isn’t even the right kind of “mental” challenge for me–like making a good climbing anchor is, or reading a raging river is, or making the huge decision to turn around on a climb after putting so much work into it just because “something doesn’t feel right.” Instead, it’s more mental like having the ability to either just love the act of pedaling all day, which I don’t, or being able to put that aside and enjoy the time thinking about other issues, which I can’t. Mom recommended putting the big picture aside and just giving the trip a bit more time to sink in, letting it pass day-by-day. (ed note: from this point forward, I didn’t look at a U.S. map for the rest of the trip–I avoided, at all cost, looking more than a day in advance for fear of being overwhelmed. And it worked). Although I was only 10 days into my trip, I honestly felt as though I’d been on the road for much longer, and knew that I still had many times that long remaining.
Mom doesn’t, though, think that I should let myself be miserable for 2 months. If this persists, I should consider taking the train home. But not yet. And I would agree with her if my doubts only started today, with the headwind. But they started yesterday…
I really want this to turn around, and be able to finish my trip having loved it. I really, really do. I do, though, love how mom and dad always know how I feel and support me 100%. Like, 100%, for real.
I ate all of Norma’s snacks before dinner.
I made some big quesadillas with my leftovers. After doing dishes in the gross bathrooms, I sat in the baseball diamond’s bleachers, overlooking the endless fields and plains as I flossed, read, and thought.
I suppose the landscape this part of the country is, by its nature, boring. When I dove into the cultural landscape a bit more, though, I found it to be far less boring. I found the people to be generous in less-than-prosperous times and the opportunity to hop a train and be done with my trip readily available, but ignored.
It can only get better.