Altitude makes it so that you only have one burst for a rockpile or for a steep bit, legs twang tense up hard spin and the bike lifts but then the delicate state of your breathing spiral lofts into a wobble in an unstable trough and it’s all you can do to keep going forward.
Gliding through all greens tans blue but for the red barn flash, sounding loudly still summer silence.
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.
(9-10 April, 2016)
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.
I’m delighted to have a small contribution in the 10th issue of Bicycle Traveler, an on-line international magazine on bicycle touring edited by Grace Johnson. You’ll find stories on Uzbekistan and the Sahara, as well as images of Somalia, China, Cameroon and many more. My piece is a short note from Belize that first appeared on this blog.
Download the current and past issues here.
The miles wind and snake and gritty crunch, achieving a clip and breeze until the balance tips and we can feel the sweat under our pack straps telling us that winter is someone else’s thoughts now.
Thread of dirt like the path of unusually ambitious and purposeful cows through brush, the Lime Kiln Trail. Push the bikes up to a sharp crag ridge, then a short fast drop and it’s dusty and snaking through rolling brush, mountains in the distance, a scene from a dozen Westerns and we open it up.
Endless traction sandstone, staircase drops through narrow canyon cuts, float across a wash, drift through mushy snowpatch. We’ll slalom switchbacks back and forth until the tap tap repetition is mantra.
That first day bright simple sunshine pedal into clay paths through palo verde and brush, distant orange rocks, upkick buck drift with my timing all off out of the turns and lofting the front wheel.
For a month riding has been wholly slow and just to be outside, an excuse for a long talk like a long walk where the bicycles fade, where we’re made into rolling with our joys and sadnesses.
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.