Tag Archives: the hardships of bicycle travel

Version 0.11

I arrived in Pensacola earlier today.

WINDY AS FUCK.

A steady-ish fifteen miles per hour headwind accompanied on occasion by gusts that were much higher than that. This got me to thinking about, and I mean really properly thinking about, why wind from any direction (excepting that from behind) on a bicycle is the bane, the adversary, the nemesis that it is. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not so much just the obvious one, that it slows you down, but that it’s impact, that is the actual physical force of the wind, is of a feeling akin to getting punched by a gloved fist in the gut, like getting smashed in the face with a dense, heavy pillow, like having a bed sheet thrown over you while cycling in a wind tunnel. It hits you, it pulls at you, it pushes you with fiendish delight, and as a cyclist you have no defense. So, it is the physical force of the wind that is so demoralizing, not merely the fact that one moves at slower speed. And when it comes to crossing bridges that realization can become terrifying, particularly those with limited shoulders, because the wind can and does move you. Assuredly one of the last ways I would like to die is by being pushed by a gust of wind into a speeding semi. Naturally then my last real obstacle was a bridge, with little shoulder, from Gulf Breeze (funny name that) to Pensacola. This was a nightmarish death tunnel what with the wind and the cars and the semis barreling along the highway beside me. At the end of all this though, I was greeted by Jeb, the Creative Director at First United Methodist Church, where I would be staying, and who himself had done some bicycle touring in the past, and has plans for touring in the future, and organized and setup the WarmShowers account. It was a greeting I was only too happy to receive.

I’ve managed to find at least one great place for food in town: End of the Line Cafe, a vegan joint serving coffee, beer, assorted other drinks, and great food. I’m heading to a whiskey bar later for a drink. Need to find a proper pen instead of this silver marker I’m writing with. I’m not at all certain what possessed me to bring it, but it’s coming in handy right now.

Cities, though! They’re always undermining my resolve to be frugal. You only live once, most people say. And in this case it’s highly unlikely I’ll be back to the places I’m passing through, excellent food or not. Excellent food can be found nearly anywhere, especially if one knows how to cook. And that’s one thing I miss a lot—having a stove, a little good cooking oil, a frying pan, and some vegetables to go with the rice I cook on nights that I camp. But anyway, I guess my excuse is that I’m traveling through these cities so I should be enjoying them.

Version 0.05

“Rolling” Into Tallahassee

Should I apologize to myself or forgive myself for my incompetence this day? This I am thinking as I have an imaginary conversation with Scot, my Warmshowers host for tonight, in my head. I am imagining him picking me up as I’m walking into downtown Tallahassee pushing my bike with a flat tire.*

So I’m walking into town pushing my bike imagining this conversation we’re going to have because he’s going to call me to find out where I am because I’m taking so long, and I’m going to tell him that I couldn’t Uber to the bike shop because no Ubers had space for my bike and bags, nevermind the fact that I haven’t bothered to signal an Uber because how should I know if my bike will fit or not and are there consequences for this if the bike does not fit (like do I get charged something for wasting this person’s time), therefor I wasn’t able to make it to the bike shop before it closed so I just continued walking to his place and then he will find me somewhere along the way and pick me up. Or I’ll just arrive really late and be like “hi, I’m here,” and laugh and the whole thing will just be stupid because IT IS.

Tallahassee is very hilly, and I’m trying to ride my bike on the downhills in the grass. I’m tired of it though because I’m on my bike for a solid ten seconds (maybe) then I’m hopping not entirely gracefully (not that there is anything graceful about half riding a bike with a flat tire in the grass plot between the curb and the sidewalk) off because the grass is interrupted by a concrete driveway, then I proceed to hop back on, then off again…. It’s very tiresome after a few times, and honestly hard to determine if it’s even that much more efficient (it is slightly, but not so much so that it’s worth the effort, especially after fifty miles of cycling on a loaded bike).

*why do I have a flat tire? Simple. I’m running tubeless and, thinking this would be sufficient, (it was for over 600 miles back home) failed to bring a spare just-in-case tube with me. Well, the sealant didn’t work this time, I don’t think. I am now uncertain about this because after I did procure a tube I found to my astonishment that my very expensive, and relatively new, pump would not pump up the tube. So who knows. If the pump had worked properly I may have been able to pump the tire back up.

56

Left the San Jon Motel minutes ago. Stopped at a traveler’s rest stop by the interstate for a coffee because I didn’t feel like going through the hassle, however slight, of making a cup in my room. Managed to spill it all over the counter. Cleaned the mess up with a nearby rag, but the whole incident is symbolic of my mental state.

That damnable, oppressive sky…

I’m obviously not as strong as I thought I was, or rather, I never gave it much thought. The point of the trip isn’t to prove—to who?, or myself—how strong I am mentally, emotionally, whatever. However, if trips such as this test one’s boundaries, well, consider mine tested. I’m ready to be home (but where exactly is that?). Or to make a home somewhere, at least for a little while, until I’m ready to test boundaries again.

Ha!…
Well, fuck.

The motel was decent enough. Clean, at least. And economical. No wi-fi, but that’s not a bad thing, and is more than likely a good thing. Small, white(ish), square room, barely large enough to squeeze the cheap furniture into and still leave room to walk around it all. Firm, queen-size bed, and an orange, tan, and brown shag carpet (the peak of luxury). A CRT television on a stand against the wall opposite the bed. Up and to the right of that, and hanging from a shelf of metal tubes, plastic coat hangers in the colors of America!. The shower mostly dribbled out water, like an infirm, elderly man in hospice drooling from the mouth, but at least it was hot.

The proprietor was a pleasant enough old man—originally from England, has been living in the States, California specifically, since 1978, but moved to San Jon, God only knows why, in 2008. He’s been running the motel since, alone but for his mouthy chihuahua. Maybe his wife, if he had one, died, and he felt like he could no longer stay there? Or it just became too expensive? Or both? Anyway, the lobby, if one should call it that, with its dirty, white walls and worn carpet, frayed along the edges, smelled of sour tuna fish. In the back room, which is hidden only slightly by a length of curtain, and from where the man materialized when I rang, a television is perpetually on. He lives, not a spartan existence, but a simple, spare, messy existence. A seemingly lonely, despondent existence. He is wallowing in a pig sty back there, and I’m left wondering how reflective that is of his state of mind. The motel clearly gets little business; another fifteen or twenty minutes west (by car) is Tucumcari, a town with a greater wealth of more up-to-date places to stay. Much easier to continue driving, unless of course you’re heading east, and maybe that’s how he gets all his customers (though, in that case, why not stop twenty minutes sooner?). Too, he most certainly gets only the most budget-conscious types passing through who are happy to get by for a night with very little. It is peculiar.

San Jon itself appears to have nothing to offer to anyone aside from this rest stop, an Indian restaurant, and the motel. One has to live and work here to get anything of significance or value from the town, and even that I question. But there is no denying the landscape is surely magnificent, or would be on a less dreary day. I’m not getting the best of New Mexico right now, and that’s reflected in how I feel.