Friday, May 27, 2016

The longest day


The summer solstice is not for a couple of weeks. But today's ride is the longest I've ever done in a single go, self-supported, from Florence to (hopefully) Brookings OR. 160 miles. To get to Dad's in the allotted time means 1 day out of 3+ on the bike needs to be very long indeed.

This photo, taken at the end of a long and blustery descent, the Waterford quivering and gathering speed in a strong cross wind, it signifies something. I'm gonna make it. This is finally the moment of confidence in reaching Brookings and my room at the Spindrift, already paid for. Looks like I won't even need lights!

Something like 18 miles is all that's left. My body is not even that tired. Somehow it feels normal and natural to turn the pedals and keep turning them all day long.

In ~8 miles there will be another little descent to a bridge. I'll be gazing west at the infinite Pacific Ocean, and won't see that thing in the shoulder and will roll over it, without caring. Nearing the goal. Blissful from so much exertion. A few seconds later on the bridge there will be a popping sound, and the hiss of all the air leaving what turns out to be the rear tire, all at once.

While I repair the flat, the gorgeous rosy and blue light of dusk fades to dark grey. The pump that normally works fine today balks at pushing more than ~50 psi into the tube. At least 80 is needed. The Waterford does roll, but downhill it wobbles madly and uphill it's as heavy as a bale of hay.

I keep my weight over the saddle, off the back wheel, so there won't be a pinch flat, another flat to deal with. The good people who own the Spindrift would then retire for the night, wondering what happened to that crazy woman, their last customer of the day, oh well. And all my hope and optimism and patience would drain away, as it does when scared and alone on a dark highway with a barely functioning machine.

A foil emergency blanket from the ACE Hardware store in Bandon now seems like a very good thing to have.

Within an hour, from confidence to utter despair to hobbling the last 10 miles into Brookings. It's the failure curve that adventurers have to learn to deal with. I arrive bleary-eyed and sore, smudging the motel slip with greasy fingers. A hot shower with soap and shampoo makes everything right again. A hot towel from the microwave starts to loosen up my lower back. A bag of Fritos for morale (not to mention electrolytes).

I think it's better to learn how to manage a sudden change of fortune, far better than what most humans do. Most of us seek comfort, avoid situations that might bring risk, contort ourselves and everything else around that. At the end of the day, what's the cost?

There's something about knowing I'm just a few moments away from losing all the air in my rear tire. It keeps my expectations in check, keeps me uncomfortable and thinking clearly, in the moment, forthright and honest.

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