Catching Up: I am sorry I am a couple days behind. Many reasons for that, but the most important one is too busy. I was riding in Nebraska in the heat and suddenly I got a small reprieve. I had an actual tailwind in Nebraska on Wednesday and ended up in the town of Holdrege at the end of their county fair. I went to a demolition derby at their fair that night but talked with Joy and planned a LONG day in the saddle on Thursday. I did the long day and showed up at a camp site where I had planned a rest day then. The campsite was having water issues so the showers and bathrooms were closed and the water was not safe to drink. Big sigh from the cyclist. So, I pressed on the next day after a delightful evening with a couple I met at the campgrounds. Michael and Sheila’s son has hiked the AT, the PCT and the continental divide . They have supported him and know what the lifestyle is. They treated me to beverages (malt ones no less!), dinner and lovely company. Only five people in the campgrounds that night so Michael hosted us all at a fire and we had a lovely time. I got up early and pressed the next day for another 110k to try and gain a couple rest days in the town of Wray Colorado. On the way I was hurting, the heat and the hills and the length of Nebraska was wearing me down as well as the 105 miles the day before. Suddenly just shy of Haigler Nebraska Michael and Sheila pulled their RV over and gave me a couple plums and a nectarine. What a true godsend. This trip has taught me more about the meaning of Jesus when he said; ‘when you give a ‘cup’ of water in my name.’ Why do we think gifts and things that we give have to be so extravagant? Simplicity, and the heart of the giver are the key. Those two plums and nectarine changed my day. Michael called them ‘trail angels’ and I heartily agree, they are! So, tonight I am in Wray Colorado and I showed up in their biggest weekend of the year Wray days. What an adventure I will share tomorrow.
Oh Wenona: Odd how some towns take on personalities. I have found that consistently as I have wandered my way across the states this time. There is still one town that stands out on my radar. Wenona Illinois was a place of hospitality. I found it on warmshowers.org (a lifesaver on this trip) and they open their town park to cycle tourists to stay the night. I set the tent up right in the pavilion in the park where I would shelter from that nights rainstorms as I slept. When I arrived in town the town host Sheila even came down to the park with her husband to tell me about the town. Welcome number one. They have a shower and restroom with a coded door that they built just for cycle tourists coming through. Free wifi at the library, I was in. I went up to the gazebo outside the library and when someone came I realized it was open and AC’d so I meandered inside to catch up on some internet stuff. The librarian (Pat I think) and I got talking and just gabbed. She wandered away and came back with a handful of Clif bars and a water for me (Clif bars are made in Wenona, who knew?). She told me about the local food scene as Sheila had. I asked about a place I had seen just a few doors down, she said; ‘oh that’s a wine bar.’ My ears perked up and I knew my next stop. I wandered down when the library closed and I realized wine bar was not the exact term as the wine came in small single serve plastic bottles, but they did have wine glasses. I got in a chat and was introduced to all of my new friends at the bar. We chatted on many topics and Stratford and Justin Beiber came up. Gerry’s first question; ‘can’t you please take him back to Canada?’ Um, Gerry, we don’t necessarily want him either. A couple or three wines later and I needed food, I asked for my bill. The waitress told me they had all been covered by the guys at the bar. Wow, hospitality incredible. That defined the town for me not just the bar but the entire town was welcoming like that. You know, when the renovated the ball field they specifically invested the extra money to put that bathroom in for people like me? I loved this town, it holds a fond place in py trip and my heart. I could write of more, but this is a good example.
Up & Down: There is a little book called ‘The Zen of Mountain Biking.’ Good little read but one factor stuck with me and I quote; ‘you have to pay for the downhills.’ The point of the author is that downhills in cycling don’t come for free, they have to be paid for. The currency of downhill, is the comparative uphill. I have been reminded of this again and again on this trip through every state. I get to the top of a hill, and I see a long beautiful downhill, followed by another long beautiful uphill. In order to get the enjoyment you need to pay with the struggle and the pain. Nothing in this journey we call life is free. It will never be all one big downhill ride in our lives. In biking and in life you have to pay for the downhills. The currency is steep. there is one long beautiful swooping downhill in the race I am heading towards in Leadville. It is the fastest I have ever gone on a bike (90k/h). But the uphill that gets you to that hill is steep and for me a one hour walk straight up the hill. My currency for that hill is bought in the sweat and pain and length of that walk. I dread it today, and yet love it. It defines me!
Centuries: Back when I started taking cycling seriously a few years ago one of the holy grails I could see far out there was riding a century. The century (100 standard miles in a single ride) is the ‘marathon’ of the cycling world. To do a century takes stamina and commitment. It involves anywhere from say 4.5 hours (very very fast skinny people) to say almost 12 hours as it has taken me to complete Leadville. So, in my first couple years I read books, and I planned training plans and one day I did a century. It was an incredible feeling. Two days ago I did one on a fully loaded mountain bike pulling a trailer. What used to be unthinkable for me, is now doable in the midst of a long tour. What I am saying here is you don’t get strong and capable overnight. It takes commitment, work and frankly maybe just a little stubbornness. So, when I saw the potential for a Nebraska tailwind and a plan that worked, I did it the next day. There are things in your life right now that you think are unattainable. I am telling you now they aren’t. They might not be an ‘easy’ reach, but they are not unattainable (OK, take the silly things off the table like living to 180 years old).
Whimsies & Odd Thoughts:
Closing Thought: This trip as much as anything has taught me quite a few things. First, slow time is not a bad thing. To slow down the world and take it at bike speed allows you to experience more, feel more, breathe more. Second, there are a lot of incredible people out there in this big world and tomorrow I’d like to introduce you to some of them. Tomorrow’s blog will be titled ‘Thirty Minutes That Changed My Life.’
Until then, sleep well. I know I will!