Into the countryside, we’ll link spomeniks while harassed by sheets of rain that turn the track into mud and leave us shivering wrapped in grey. Unphotographed moments that have now only retrospexistence, which can often be truer.
We’ll visit some sites from tour and guidebooks, mostly we’ll be breath slowing across landscapes to find less insistent beauty, the beauty in the ordinary things in their ordinary state.
Everywhere is in our imagination before we go and even after, but Japan unusually so. Landscapes outside of temporal location, in the city it’s dense quiet incandescent tidy shoulder to shoulder bullet train shoe fall spider web of communication lines vending machines shrines at the foot of glass sheen. We’ll try incompetent noodle slurp, we’ll drink beer with men with loosened collars and identical sloppy knot black ties, we’ll stand quizzically in front of blinking lights for some sort of tawdry robot show.
In a month we find no singular place that is Cuba, instead fractal shards where every deeper shape contradicts the emergent ones. It astonishes us every day, we’re breathless in its self aware narrative.
Our route has been a broken meander on the smallest back lanes, cow paths, stony clusterfucked hike-a-bikes, with a dose of wading and lifting sweat skin biting fly swatting. Naturally, we’re having a splendid, demented time.
Not wanting or wishing or chasing something else. I’m in stationary timestopped movement liberated from hoping for a better view or a softer light or a more ragged horizon. Kyrgyzstan is stasis that I know isn’t permanent but that I can at least be present in heat and contentment.
I think that span, the morning snow, the frustrations of the mud slog up and past the high point, the clacking rollercoaster descent and then whooosh, silence of our big tires on green carpet doubletrack for days; I think that span snapped and adhered this place to us so here’s where we never want to have missed or ended.
Mountains and steppe, high meadow yurt camps, Silk Roads and the history of Soviet presence, Islam and horsemen and crashing cold rivers. None of the confirmed superlatives will match our wide eyed slow heartbeat wonder.
These first hours are the merest fragmental sliver of a ride across the USA to San Francisco to Los Angeles and then a New York return. But they’re the hours that set the emotions and put us on a road together where we’ll laugh and see and ride an idea, namely the idea that on a bicycle trip we’re in a place up close with our best vulnerabilities and openness, that we’re supporting each other not by insulating ourselves from the landscape but by enabling each other to breathe better in it.
This heat spell sets some of our plans back, but they were just wispy talk anyway, replaceable by any number of alternative excellent foolish ideas.
That geographic immensity is hard to contain in the imagination so it remains an abstraction, a blurred assurance that on the ground it keeps going and so might you.
There is the steep rocky Ruckman climb, body english for traction, point the bike between the ruts and round the slick fallen leaves. Everyone is leaping now, rhythm. Familiar wide dirt tracks, we stop for cakes and coffee and then off again northward to a long lovely stretch by the water through stands of blazing yellow.
A day with an end where you recall it and it doesn’t seem as if it could have been just one.
Tiny gravel roads, sometimes one paved lane, single track double track, paths through crushed riverside rock. The plan is a nine day circuit round this half of the country, toes across the Austrian border and then later a thirty hours in Italy before crossing over again.
We nohurry some more, marvel at the skying walls, then off again.