56 miles (90 km) – Total so far: 1,897 miles (3,053 km)
The riding was absolutely perfect: mid 70s with light wind that lackadaisically switched direction with an enthusiasm as lackluster as my own had been to leave the coffee shop. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky or a hill on the horizon. A sense of boredom would have been impossible to cultivate after yesterday’s craziness, and besides with great conversation the miles coasted by. Rather than push on to my original destination, I decided to savor the companionship and stop at the hostel in Scott City with the other four guys.
Lord Montague of Fitzrovia (Terry)
Burly Chassis (Paul)
Towards the end of the ride, Jonathan, or I should say, Officer Hoy, told me he might need to pull me over for riding a low rider and blaring rap music. I retorted with an emphatic, “You’ll never catch me now, copper!” and gunned the engine to get away. The slow motion chase that ensued turned out to be a hidden bucket list item that I hadn’t known existed until I had already experienced it.
Somewhere in the final 5 miles of the road, by tacit agreement, we lost all sense of caution and road in a dense pack, taking up the whole lane and letting the drivers figure out how to get around us rather than squeezing into the shoulder every 90 seconds. As we rolled into town, someone said ‘They know we’re coming! You can see them closing all the shutters and locking the doors’. Jonathan suggested I play Flight of the Valkyries at full blast as our roving band of toughs entered town. I was only too happy to comply this time.
Today’s perfection couldn’t have been possible without yesterday’s challenges. We wouldn’t have all opted for the motel as was clearly necessary after such a grueling day. I wouldn’t have lingered as long in the morning, nor been content with such short mileage. We would have found the landscape somewhat boring. This contrast is critical for the enjoyment of a trip like this. The good days and the bad.
Having said that, I think it is too easy to romanticize away the bad moments of the trip (or perhaps I’m actually describing a metaphor for life here). Yesterday did suck. Today’s high didn’t matter one bit to me while I was suffering through the rain yesterday. No amount of “You’ll be glad you came through this tomorrow” would have comforted me. Though, I did appreciate the empathy I received by folks who texted me with recognition of how hard the day was.
For anyone thinking about doing a trip like this, or hiking the AT or PCT, or whatever… I’d say this: The bad days (or uphills) are truly bad. And they exist. And the only appropriate response is to experience the grief and uncomfortableness of them and get through them. At other times, the good days (or downhills) are really good. And they should be enjoyed without a care for what might come tomorrow.
I won’t say that I’m glad yesterday sucked so that I could contrast it to today. I won’t say that on balance the good days balance out the bad ones. I will say this: I’m learning to take each day by itself for what it is in the moment. And for that reason the trip as a whole is becoming a success.