Alongside the bike, pushing it. A continuous pour of water off my cap brim, chin angled down from effort and for warmth pressed hard against the zipper pull. There’s the danger that the lowered gaze and dragging gait is what sets the mood, that’s the real incline. Hours of this, stopped to kick off mud in disembodied quiet, resting standing because sitting is shivering, claw curl fingers into the body of the glove, make a fist to bring back feeling knowing that nothing will bring toes around. Only palm heels are against the grips, there might be bruises tomorrow from irregularly shaped shifter and brake clamps digging in. Every then and awhile notice a neck and between shoulder blade ache one octave below the one behind my right eyeball.

Or when I consumed all that I had left more than a day ago because I don’t save any for feared futures of want, hunger easily confused for nausea and desperation and admonition though it isn’t. Pedaling now at that naturally governed evaporated pace, none of the flight and freedom of cycling but instead a terrestrial open eyed sleep. Dizzy tunneling vision, ears ringing. A reckoning with the ending daylight, that there’s nothing to cook is a liberation from having to set up camp early enough to see, time gifted by cracked lips heart trill gnawing.

Or there was no flat just those damned tussocks on hilled ground, bulging uneven tent floor and I keep waking up from the wall leaning against my breath like I might suffocate, sliding on nylon, every dry piece of clothing on me and even the rain soaked gore tex jacket draped on the footbox of the bag because the seam above it leaks. Haven’t seen anyone for days. Or whorl kicked sand into my red rimmed eyes, or soul drained because a stranger let me down, stole something, was small or cruel or a liar and somehow I carried it in my bags and in the center of my chest. Or thirst that burns warning flares across the back of my throat, insult and insistence.

But misery at some point implodes from its own earnest gravity and the front wheel accelerates past the event horizon of “I don’t want to be here,” “why aren’t I just home,” “this is stupid and I hate it,” and I’m into the black hole glancing side to side at smeared streaks of light to realize that they are the joys that I went in after.

7 thoughts on “Misery

  1. Beautiful, Joe. It’s nice to read a report that isn’t always rosy and fun. Sometimes it sucks! We tend to forget these periods after the fact. Would you care to share where you were? No wonder you kept such a good attitude on our trip. :-)

    • Really appreciate your kind words, Gary. This piece is actually a composite memory from a bunch of trips. It kicks off (those first few sentences) with a recollection from ours! The middle part is from Ecuador, and near the end is a blend of Jordan (wind storm) and Vietnam (disappointment in people), dripping tent in New Zealand, then the thirst is from Peru. All great places, but misery happens all the time!

  2. I love when misery turns into the vision we had planned from the beginning. I love it when I don’t quit because things got miserable and most of all when things just fall in line as they should be becsuse that’s the way it should be. Never quit.

  3. Yes!! This brought me back to a night in Chile with 13k of incline I couldn’t manage on my bike and rain and wind that knocked me over every other minute. Finally finding shelter in an abandoned loggers shack smelling of chain oil and saw dust. As much as it sucked, it sucked in such an amazing way… Thanks for reminding me.

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