Day 24 (Directions)

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I left Peggy’s home bright and early, but not before she gave me a ton of food. Because she works at the school, she is able to take a bunch of extra food the kids don’t eat like sandwiches, burritos, and muffins. They found a good home.

I can’t do this today. I can’t write about my ride while sprinkling in some little anecdote about an encounter or sighting I had on it. Today wasn’t one of those days. Today was a day of endless dirt fields and drifting thoughts.

I’m staring at a water fountain in Carlsbad, New Mexico as it fills my bottle. I am tired. I am lost. Geographically, I know exactly where I am. I’ve reached my destination for the day, but I’m still lost. I have a map constantly telling me where to go, and it serves as a perfect distraction. I can focus on the next leg of this trip and nothing more. But as I look beyond my location to New Jersey, all I see are question marks. What’s next? What do I do after this trip is over? Nearly everyone I talk to asks me what my plan is after I complete this trip. I want to tell them the truth: I don’t know. I say different things depending on my mood. Work in a bike shop, teach English abroad, go back to school. Those are convenient answers. I can then pretty easily deflect the topic to something convenient like a book on the table, or a painting on the wall. Anything but my future, because the fact of the matter is I honestly have no idea what to do. I lack a plan. Maps are nice. They tell you where to go. There’s no real deviation, and even if you do stray from the course, eventually you’ll end up at your destination. I look into my future and see no destination. That’s scares the shit out of me. My water bottle’s overflowing. I glare up at my face in the semi reflective sheet of metal above the fountain. I’ve got such tired eyes. I’m fixated on the lifeless void behind them. I should have learned to play guitar in the 5th grade, or challenged myself a little more in school. Then everything would be ok. Having no one but yourself to blame is terrifying. I’m tired of lying in beds that aren’t my own.

In San Luis Obispo, I met a man named Steve. He is the only person I stay in regular contact with that I have met on this trip. Steve has ridden cross country on a bicycle multiple times. Yesterday he sent me this:

“What you’ve already done is more than most people will do in their entire lives, on or off a bike.  They know this.  So be humble.  Give of yourself, so that others can live through you.

And listen to your body.  There is no such thing as the mind/body divide.  That is a fiction of the Enlightenment.  Your intellect is not some software running on the hardware of your brain.  It’s all integrated.  If you feel a craving for, say, pickles and hot chocolate, your body is lacking something.  But it’s the little elements that’ll catch you:  selenium, iron, etc.  Stay balanced.”

Steve has been my spiritual guru on this trip. He is my Yoda. Stay balanced. I am unstable today. I want desperately to curl up and sleep for days in my bedroom. I want to be surrounded by all my childhood relics. I want to sit Indian–style on my bedroom floor and build a LEGO set, unchained from apprehension and enveloped in a sea of tranquility. But like the flip of a switch, I suddenly have the urge to explore this pissant town I’m in and try to understand what keeps these people happy; if they’re even happy at all. My body is lacking something. I don’t know what it is. Maybe my body is lacking a stable mind. Am I forever destined to be plagued with the desire to be anywhere else but my own here and now? This cloud of melancholy has been showering me with these contemplations for a while now. My body and mind are not divided. They are very much in sync. They’re just out of sync with the rest of the world.

I’ll get to the West Coast and have it all figured out. That was my mantra in Indiana, Iowa, and South Dakota. I saw the Pacific in all its majesty. I didn’t have my epiphany.

I don’t feel like a human being. I feel like a character. I still bleed, I still cry, but there’s an artificial aspect to it all. Live in the moment. That’s what they say. If only it were that easy. I pedaled over 80 miles today, but my mind pedaled about 1,000. I push my body to catch up but I’m light-years away. The days are heavy and the nights aren’t long enough. My relationships are fleeting at best. Maybe I’ve grown too self-involved to step back and immerse myself with the present. There are no outstretched arms for me to collapse into and shout out ‘woe is me’. I think I just need a hug. Fuck me, I’m way too sober for this blog.

I’m riding a bicycle across the United States, learning and experiencing new things each and every day. What could I possibly have to be upset about? Probably the fact that I’ve finally caught up with the real reason I embarked on this journey. To conquer the fears and anxieties of my own self.

I gotta find a rock to scream from.

I gotta find a pot to piss in.

I gotta find a place to sleep

Perspectivism, maintain a safe dosage.

Existential crises are all the rage.

But not as prominent as lousy poems.

Sorry guys, not every day on this trip is going to be overflowing with tales of chance encounters and magnificent views. Don’t worry, tomorrow I’ll visit the caverns and write some lighthearted quip about them. I can’t appreciate how good I’ve got it without days like this.


Miles: 82.79

Calories: 3393

Time: 6:29:18

Total Ascent: 620 ft.


4 responses to “Day 24 (Directions)

  1. We are giving you a great big hug from NJ – keep your chin up and your body warm and healthy. Leggo Love you

  2. Tom, like I said before, we are all vicariously living our lives through you on this trip. Whether good or bad. So your always getting big hugs!
    When you get home…IT’S OK to allow yourself to sleep under the covers for days…ITS OK to sit on the floor and play with your legos and just let your mind go. Your only judging yourself and you are way to hard on YOU! It could take a life time to figure yourself out. You’ll know when the time comes. I don’t think it’s ‘happy’ that we stive for, I think it’s contemptment in our lives and you’ll know that when you can stop holding your breath, quiet your mind and release that big sigh,
    Remember, ‘life is a journey without a destination”(ok music buff, who sang that in a song?)

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