Famous hot spring nearly sunset all to myself washing the chalk white grime and drag and my battered threadbare from me. Hard wonderful days on tan orange greyblack windswept tracks close to the clouds. Now I watch the birds, the swirling horizon, the spring outflow and try to will my fatigue into a different register.
A group of twenty arrive in four SUV’s, no matter, had it in solitude for a long while, they strip down to trunks or bikinis hopping around in the forthright cold before getting in, I track the mix of English, Irish, Aussie and American, more or less all speaking the same language, and think about leaving but realize I crave the company and human postures. They have the jolly moronic giddy rapport of having known each other on a tour for a few days, I admire it. After awhile it occurs to someone to try to talk to me, “oh, you’re the guy on the push bike with fat tires, we saw you two days ago,” I want to make a feeble joke about how, yeah, but I wasn’t pushing, instead I ask if I was nice and she says that I was, that I smiled and waved cheerfully. Good, just checking.
A group now around or maybe I drifted into their circle, hard to distinguish, someone asks if I get lonely. And aren’t I concerned about going all Aron Ralston?, all and only us three Americans smile at the reference. I suppose you’re supposed to say “no” or “yes, but not much, it doesn’t matter, it’s fine.” Or there are stock perfectly true serious answers about how pedaling alone is importantly different, not as much locked into the eco system of you and your companion(s) and so forced or given the chance to be open to people in the place. That people react far differently to you when you are alone, curious and positive and more giving. That at desolate exhausting crushing freezing hypoxic heights, the body just does and there’s no direct signal of a missing sociality.
“Don’t you miss…”
But, no, yes I do and it’s devastating and gnashing and that’s part of the why and the point for me, I explain, to crack break everything that I am, all my assumptions and prejudices and ignorant half ambitions, let it all shatter in the absence of what and who I know and think I do, wait for it to reassemble just a little different, if I’ve been far enough away, then, I hope, a little bit better. That it’s sometimes misery, and it is, is relevant, certainly, but not in the sense of being a reason not to do it. They listen to me curiously and partway between that I’m just some cycling nutter and other possibilities.
Tent nearby, later listen to the locals splashing at 10pm, a sound that makes me happy alone except for boots in its juxtaposition with the earlier scene when we were talking loudly and consuming the mana of the place.