I completed this bike ride of mine, the CANDISC (cycling across North Dakota in Sakakawea country). There were many gratifying parts of the adventure; one of them was doing my live feeds, before and after, one feel had over 650 views! I felt fueled by the interest and the support of many of the viewers, who took the time to comment.
I came home to a normal life, mail that needed to be sorted, a fridge that needed to be cleaned and errands that needed to be run. I came home to normal.
On the 416 miles of the ride a weird thing happens; at first your brain runs like usual. For me, that means hundreds of thoughts float through, as I pick which ones to dwell on and which ones to let go. Eventually, I hashed over everything and my focus became paying attention to my surroundings; are there cars or riders behind me, is the shoulder wide enough to ride on, is that a rumble strip? I can hear the other riders come up behind me, many of them riding in groups, visiting about whatever topic they are on that day. (Politics are rare, we are keeping our minds focused on fresher things, the sound of the wind, the smell of the roadkill.) The sound of a semi-truck becomes distinct, deep, rumbling and menacing. Will I hear the sound of the rumble strip as he-she moves over, to straddle the center line, or is there a steady sound, because I notice a car coming in the oncoming traffic lane, so I again survey the shoulder, the white line, the ditch……. I crest the top of a hill, to see another hill coming, and another…I didn’t know central ND had so many hills….how fast do I dare go down this hill, in order to gain enough speed to help me go up the next. This was my ride, the steady drum of the wind, like white noise out of a machine, if I am riding against it; the fabulous quiet, when I am riding with the wind.
Many people asked me if I were riding alone, when I answered yes, there was surprise, “Really, will you be ok?, will you get lonely?” Many people who know me would think that I have to have someone around all the time, and while it’s true, I love people, conversation, and most of what that entails, my alone time is important too. Imagine a week of only speaking when you choose too, seeking out company when you want it, and avoiding people when you don’t. I rode alone most of the 416 miles, I relished the time. If someone pulled up to join me, we would visit for a while, but if they lingered too long, I found myself giving a reason to stop, to slow down, or to speed up, to enjoy my solitude, but also to be able to focus on what was around me. I would ride, stop and check mileage, give my bottom, hands, shoulders etc. a rest and then move on, at my own pace, on my own time. I set up my chair in Ft. Totten, opened a book and read it. I wandered off to do my live feeds, but joined in and enjoyed conversation at the rest stops and meals. When you are riding alone, you have the chance to meet others in bits and fits of conversations, giving you more time to reflect on them and the conversations. I always had my cell phone with me, fully charged, so I could update my family on my safety and where-abouts. Their sporadic responses reminded me they were only a phone call away.
I always felt safe in the campgrounds. My bike was always right next to my tent; my gear was always stowed safely inside the tent next to me. I was self-contained in my little tent. The soft snoring, that came from some of the tents around me, helped me to sleep; It sounded like my husband was always close by. When you are in your tent, you have an invisibility; life goes on around outside, conversations, body sounds, trains, rustling in the grass.. it’s a peek into the world.
I am so glad I rode in the CANDISC; I have proven to myself that I have the determination and dedication to still achieve. Stepping outside the box is so important for all of us; stretch out of our routines; let us see ourselves a little differently; allow others to see us differently.