When we awoke, to the sound of rain and gray skies that obliterated the landscape we knew:
Riding this a.m. would be a mistake.
We ate our oatmeal, drank a flask of hot tea, played cards, and commented on how much better the sky looked in comparison to 5 minutes ago.
By 11 a.m. we thought at least we’d try, try to get 5 miles down the road, or 10, or so.
We finished the day doing 69 miles after all.
Oh—but up! Up! Up! Then, down, down, down. There is a sound of wet tires on a wet road
A sizzle, wind filling the ears, and heart pounding wondering, would wet brakes grip?
Always the unknowns.
Would cars behind us slow down, see us at all?
We had on blinkers, flapping ponchos, bright colors. The only moving specks on an otherwise
Black and shining tarmac.
Then the sun popped out and we were near a town, indicated on the map, so
We stopped and my riding partner met a man with a pickup who carried an air compressor
Who filled her tires to top PSI and I bought some mega snickers (with 3x MORE chocolate)
And pickled eggs, which we discovered our God’s gift to mankind.
We slept that night in another picnic area, down away from the road, in what the Scottish would call
Built a fire out of wet sticks and cooked a quick dinner—all the while, in the distance
We watched dark clouds pass over and both offered thanks that it passed us by, until—
That night it poured. We felt like our tent was a submersible and our little plastic window
A porthole. We expected fish to swim by. Yet, we stayed dry. And in the morning—Packed up, hoping to catch up, to where we needed to be, on the itinerary.
Yes and no. we were wet and sore, this being our third day straight of riding.
In hills. In rain. And all I could think about was
That pickled egg, all red/purple in a little waxed paper bag, and
Food so simple that it made me feel basic, like I was reducing into spare elements, as if my
Body was not quite up to the task. And my
Mind was dwelling in abstracts, existential thoughts such as:
Why am I here? Why am I doing this? Who cares?
We moved a box turtle from the roadway and placed him on the grassy side of the road.
We coasted downhill to Colbert Ferry and a mile-long bridge across the Tennessee River.
AFTER the pickled egg on saltine crackers I thought I’d try another 20, body so weary.
We rode uphill and passed a box turtle, which we didn’t move off the roadway, and will
Forever feel guilty about—until the next turtle which I hurled into the woods as with a vengeance.
The snapping turtle we passed after lunch, we left well-enough alone. He looked like a frontiersman—all muddy, messy, dread-locked and evil-eyed. We had a suspicion he would
Make it to the other side.
While I on the other hand—was this the THIRD DAY? Of riding?—was praying. For a dry place to eat lunch
We stopped at Cave Spring, no more a cave and no more a spring where we sat on the cement sidewalk because there was no picnic table and rolled off soppy socks and enjoyed another
Pickled egg and tunafish on a bun and said—if ever I make it home, I just want to be warm and dry
My riding partner asked me if I had more miles in me and I nodded my head, skeptical
I would ride 10 more and then decide
We rode 10 more to Pharr Mounds, where if we had decided to stop would have been 68 miles for the day
But we kept on—and at a certain point IT GOT EASIER
Maybe the road became decidedly downhill, or level, or the pickled eggs kicked in
But we caught up with our itinerary and camped that night outside of Tupelo, across the
Street from the Parkway Visitor Center, at an old abandoned campground, where we
Stealthily bathed and made a campfire and got cell service and raised the bar on what
Felt human and civilized and normal for a long bike ride.
88 miles that day.