I like the way the “last” of something can be happy or sad or good or bad.
Running a race and finishing in LAST place might be sad, and heading to the grocery store to buy supplies prior to a bad storm then finding out that you’re the LAST person to get there and they are out of milk, bread, flashlights, etc also sucks. But going to the hospital for your LAST chemo treatment because you’re surviving and then some…feels pretty damn good! Being the LAST person to be alive in a game of Risk is also cool. Woot!
This was the LAST day we would be riding our bikes on this tour. It wasn’t how or when we expected the end to arrive, but arrive it did. We felt excitement and frustration and acceptance all at the same time, and waking up to heavy rain as the storm from the night before carried on made the LAST day even more bittersweet.
We checked the weather channel that morning from our damp motel room. Heavy rain, wind, hail and tornadoes had hit parts of Saint Louis. We felt lucky to have escaped the storm and to have only heavy rain and flooding to deal with. We ate a quick breakfast at the Park-Et, packed the bikes and rode off into the tail end of the storm.
Despite having ridden in rain and also on windy days, we hadn’t yet ridden many miles with both. The wind was tricky, blowing at a steady 15 mph but thrusting itself at us in sudden bursts and gusts that reached closer to 40 mph. It was coming at us from the west as we rode north, and with the wet road surfaces it was difficult to keep the bicycles upright. I found myself leaning the weight of the bike hard into the wind but keeping my body to the leeward side to try and balance against the wind and water. I was forced to pedal with my head down and use the broad visor to keep the lashing water out of my face. It took us a long time to ride 10 miles. We had to stop so I could take off my glasses and put them in the pocket of my rain jacket. The lenses were streaming with water and I couldn’t see anything with them on. Luckily my vision wasn’t so bad and I could make due without them. Hannah was not so lucky.
Though the road we traveled did not have much traffic, it was hilly and there was a lot of tree debris in both lanes. We struggled another 5 miles and took a break next to a cemetery by a rural church. At this point I pulled out the camera and shot a video about this being our last day of riding and how the weather is making me so happy that it is the last day. However, the wind was too strong and the camera was unable to record the sound of my voice. Later on, I was disappointed that the video didn’t turn out well because it was such a good preservation of how I felt at that exact moment. Tired, winded and wet combined with such heavy frustration at this day being our last. All of this juxtaposed with the elation of being finished and not having to deal with being tired, winded and wet.
We were traveling on a road that wound through state forest (Amidon Memorial Conservation Area) and did not pass through any towns–just a lakeside resort, and a survivalist compound of some sort. As the storm moved passed eastern Missouri and the rain let up the riding became enjoyable again. The state forest was dripping and thick with lush underbrush and fog, smelling the way only an east coast, deciduous forest can smell. We didn’t see another person or a car for hours.
As we finally approached Farmington on a long stretch of highway the sky began to clear up and the clouds abated.
It was still early in the day and we were excited to reach the hotel and see my family. Once showered and fed, we took to throwing out a few things that were irreplaceable on this trip but had seen the best of their days. The main thing being our riding gloves. The sheer smell and sweat soaked leather palms (that never, ever dried out) made these unsalvageable, even with washing. We laid them out on the sink, said our farewells and finally tossed them into the trash can unceremoniously.
We met up with my family who was nice enough to drive Hannah’s car down from PA. We packed it full of our bikes and gear and made plans to drive onto Fayetteville, Arkansas. In the end the trip was worth it. It has jump started our desire to travel by bicycle and we will definitely be doing more of it in the future. As we have time to look back and think over our two month ride, we will follow up with more introspective posts as well as some product reviews.
Last thought for this day….helmet hair rocks and this is not the LAST time I will be sporting it!