Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sweet Pensacola

I was all smiles for the last 20 miles- despite the record setting rainfall and unseasonably low temps, and despite the ever present 30 mph headwinds. My odometer clicked over to 1350 mi just as I crossed into Pensacola, the final day of the Atlantic leg of my journey. The constant din of passing traffic wears a little less now and has become an accepted and integral component of this trip.
Kitty Hawk, NC

This section is nearly 400 miles longer than I estimated, and I'm surprized that I made it here when I did. There have been so many unknowns. Up to this point I've been traveling totally alone and primarily by road maps that I've picked up in gas stations. I talk to locals and gather beta where I can, some is accurate, some is not. Roads go missing and turn into clay, sand, mud and water and the weather has been relatively strange as far as recent history is concerned. The other day, while talking with a couple in Kolomoki Mounds State Park, Georgia. I told them that I was thinking about pushing to Florida Caverns State Park near Marianna. "Oh you'd better not go there, it's under 8 feet of water!" See, now that's good to know.

The people I meet in passing are intensely curious. "Where did you come from?" "Where are you going?" "Where do you sleep at night?" and most importantly, "Why?" Why? Well, I just wanted to see the country I guess. That's the hardest question to answer. Some are interested in the classical aspect; the distance, time, the calories, the measurable and empirical. Others are interested in the romantic; the beauty, struggle, danger, the mysticism. The scale can be difficult to grasp, even for me. I sometimes get blank stares from people when answering their questions. It's understandable. Here I am explaining that I'm riding my bike 4000 miles across the country to someone who has never left the town that they were born in. There is no frame of reference or context in which the idea can exist. I am forced to see myself from their perspective and for a fleeting moment I feel kind of silly.

And still I push on.  I have a lot of time to think while riding if the traffic is low.  I sing a lot, everything I can think of.  Since I crossed into Georgia, I've had the sound track from "O' Brother Where Art Thou" stuck in my head.  It fits nicely with the endless fields of cotton, peanuts and swamps.  I think about food- I have dreams about food at night and fantasize about how cool it would be if I could photosynthesize sugars or glean nutrients from detritus in the passing air currents like an anemone in a tidal pool- such are the bugs in my teeth.  It would cut my food cost for sure.  I think about my drivetrain, every clink and squeak grabs my attention.  I tweek and adjust the transmission daily to silent perfection and douse everything in teflon based lube.  I think about the motor and everything it needs to run smoothly; all of the nutrients, macro and micro.  Yes, that's me chugging a 32oz carton of half-and-half out side the Piggly Wiggly.  Logs on the fire.

For the next few days I'll have a roof over my head here in P'cola.  I'm staying with Sara, the only other person I know of so far who has also independently decided to bike across before thru-hiking the PCT. Some other Southern Tier-ers should be here soon from St. Augustine.  The whole trip has taken on a different feel.  I'm looking forward to finding out what its like to travel with others.


Kathy said...

Rees heard on the news recently that all 50 states have snow somewhere -- even Florida! Just another part of your huge challenge. We enjoy reading your reports.

molly shea said...

Ryan! How amazing and exciting! I was just thinking of you the other day and your pb survival on the AT then remembered you are currently in this amazing adventure and have a blog about it!

Excited to see you're doing well and I hope the rest of your travels are safe and amazing!