I didn’t last very long, really. A few days of riding and a stay with Warmshowers hosts and long-lost family. A hundred miles on the bike (sigh) and 75 in a car. Double it all on the train. Just not that long – certainly not the 600 miles I had in mind when I started. But I didn’t expect my lower legs and feet to swell up like biker balloons, either. Nor my hands. And I didn’t expect to find myself oddly exhausted. Exhausted, yes. Oddly exhausted, not so much. But in that 9 day stretch the entire journey took, I learned a fair amount…
1. I learned that no matter what my ego and wants might try and tell me, otherwise, I have to take care of myself first and foremost. Now, admittedly, that doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, as lessons go. We all know that, right? Sure we do. But it’s different in the middle of the thing – on the road, everything packed up and waiting for me to get back on and GO… it’s hard to see that clearly when I have maps in my eyes. My wife, Maria, was invaluable to me in this – as we talked and texted, she gave me some much needed perspective. I could see a bit more clearly and the solution to the situation became obvious. I’ve thought about it a fair bit since and, while I could have gone to a doc down there, first I would have had to ride for a couple of days through some very rural/forest/park areas. If things had gone further south, I wouldn’t have been anywhere near a doc. Maybe I could have gone to see someone in Charleston. Dunno. Given all that’s scheduled for me this next week coming up, I think I did the right thing. Had the concern been less… cardiac… I would have (and next time will) seek out local help, getting a ride to a doc and just riding on from there.
2. There are a lot of good folks out there – a LOT of them. I met good people pretty much every day I was out there – Randall, who carried me to the bike shop; Walt, who went and got me gloves, bless his heart; Brent and the folks at the drugstore in Shallotte; Chief Paul, who put me up for the night and let me eat with the firefighters after he made spaghetti (I almost embarrassed myself, I ate so much. Really.) Chief Randall Bork in Calabash who also put me up for the night – and the firefighter (whose name I do not recall, to my shame) who cooked dinner and fed me so very well. The Warmshowers hosts, Bill and Jan (and Tessa, the yellow lab), at the Waccamaw Wildlife Refuge (a great place – go visit!!) who went above and beyond the call of duty in hosting me. Wonderful folks. My long-lost relatives in Charleston – especially Sheila and Mike, both of them just salt-of-the-earth people, couldn’t ask for better folks, couldn’t ask for better relatives! Think about it – this is a lot of folks for just a week or so, and yet there they all were. I was blessed, pretty much every day.
3. There are some jackasses, but not nearly so many that ya need to fret over them. I had three, two and a half, really – a redneck girl who needed to lean out of her boyfriend’s car and scream something at me for being on the road, I guess; a “christian” (small “c”, not much Christ in him that I could see) who got up close behind me and just laid on the horn, again protesting my presence in the world generally and on the road, specifically – I saw his Christian symbols and bumper stickers after he passed (on a FOUR LANE ROAD, I might add – he wasn’t even really inconvenienced!); the propane truck driver that ALMOST, but NOT QUITE, sucked me under his wheels when he drove so fast and close to me that the vacuum from his truck tilted me over in his direction. It took a lot to get tilted back away from him and then I had to fight to keep control of the bike. He was a jackass and a half, the other two about half a jackass, each. Not much considering all the wholely good folks I came in contact with, you know?
4. NO MATTER WHAT the (800) Amtrak ticket guy tells you regarding having to break down your bike, ALWAYS CALL THE STATION and ask them. They’re the ones that REALLY know. 🙂
5. A train ride is a moving picnic, treat it as such. Be prepared. The snack car is some kind of pricey, where a sandwich, a banana and a water cost over $11.00. Really.
6. Take half the stuff and twice the money! No further explanation needed.
7. There’s no place like home, even if you’ve only been gone a week and a half.
That’s it – what I learned, in the form of off the cuff musings, worth about half what you paid for them. Once I get a handle on what was going on with me – once I know it isn’t a monster, really – then I’ll be getting ready to try it again. I liked doing it, though not every minute (or even every hour of it, to be honest). When I do, it won’t be in the (hot hot hot) summer, at least not down here, but it will be happening. It’s a good thing to do, I think, and I meet people and see things I would never have in a car, or even on a motorcycle. I’m looking forward to the next one. Shoot, maybe Maria and I will do an inn-to-inn tour of the Great Allegheny Passage later this spring or early summer! It’s a big, wonderful world out there – let’s go see what’s around the next curve, shall we?