After a very relaxing 28 hour Amtrak ride, we arrived in Albany, only 3 hours late. Traveling at the train’s pace felt right, after spending a month moving at 10 MPH. I pondered our addiction to speed, how recently I’ve almost developed an aversion to freeways and a near phobia of flight. Maybe we’re just not meant to go so fast?I pulled my bike out of the Amtrak shipping box, was relieved to find the wheels still true, and reassembled it for the ride to home to Corvallis. A warm Oregon fall day greeted me as I rode Highway 20 along the Willamette River to the restaurant where I would meet Intaba and the staff of FireWorks, which has been a home for the past 8 years as much as our home on the Mary’s Peak watershed. Once I reached Corvallis, I swung left and rode the waterfront bike path catching this final tour video from the “handlebar cam”:
Homecoming engenders broad and often divergent feelings. I was overjoyed to be home, to see my loved ones, to land once more on familiar shores after so much time away. And at the same time, I was sad the adventure was over, that new horizons were distant once again. I felt proud to come home strengthened from the weeks of cycling, the countless hills, with longer days of riding than I’d ever done before. I found myself strutting around in my bike clothes, showing off my powerful legs. And at the same time I felt a deep shyness, a need to withdraw, to be alone to contemplate the experience I’d been through. It’s strange, but part of me was yearning to be alone again with miles to ride through empty barren landscapes. Is it possible that I actually missed my loneliness? Or have I discovered a way to be at peace with that part of me I’d been fighting my whole life – isolation and separation – a way to find connection through my bicycle, through my body, through a visceral, undeniable experience of the now? If so, would I be able to integrate this new awareness into my everyday (non-touring) life? One answer I’m coming about is that I can and must continue to ride. Cycling always fed my soul before, and now I believe it will as I move forward into a more hopeful future. Yesterday, I took a late afternoon ride towards the end of the light of day, pushing over the hills below Philomath. I hadn’t ridden since last Tuesday and my legs complained, already getting lazy and complacent. But the unloaded bike felt feather light, so I pushed harder and harder. “Show me what you’ve got, Ocean!” Resistance exists only in my mind. Once I push through, I stop thinking about the pain, the discomfort, the distractions, the boredom. Then I land firmly in the present, where insight and inspiration come easily. The confusion melts away and I discover what I am: just a person, a body moving across the land in a pure moment of presence and feeling. I hear my breath, I see leaves changing colors and falling, I breathe in the misty clouds and am infused with the color green everywhere. I love green! I feel the cool first drops of rain on my face, so I turn around, pedaling out from under the cloud. I follow the familiar bike path along the Mary’s River, roll up again on FireWorks and am happy, so happy to be home.