October 7, Day 94: 42 miles from Burlington, VT, to Montpelier, VT
We made it to Montpelier just moments before an epic downpour that ripped most of the fall colors from the trees, leaving a motley landscape of evergreen brushed smoky gray by bare branches and set afire in places by the bright hangers-on. We only got a little wet. Vermont got a lot of wet.
October 8, Day 95: 39 miles from Montpelier, VT, to Woodsville, New Hampshire
I was moving slow today...my legs didn't want to pedal they just wanted to go home. It was a gorgeous day, and I felt badly that I was too blue to enjoy it. I kept telling my body that it had made it this far and Should be able to make it another few hundred miles...but that didn't seem to help. My slow pace meant that we only made it as far as Woodsville by dusk...so we called it a day and found a motel. It was tooooo cold for camping.
October 9, Day 96: 60 miles from Woodsville, NH, to Conway, NH
There is a road in New Hampshire called the Kancamagus Highway, affectionately known by locals as "The Kank." It winds through the White Mountain National Forest, and crosses the Appalachians (and the AT.) It is a stiff climb. I was not up for it. I hitched a ride over the pass with a very kind leaf-peeper named Mark, and the ever-intrepid Olivia cycled the beast. She loved it. I just wanted a nap and my mom. Come on body! You're so close! I kept saying. But my body said hey you listen to me: we're done. I said legs: pedal! And they said no fuck you! And I said no really legs keep pedaling and they said no really fuck you! My nerves had had enough of Adventure. Time to Go. Home.
I had reached a place of adrenal exhaustion or something...my legs are mondo buff,
but my nervous system is tired as hell from meeting so many new people
and experiencing so much...newness. I think of a passage from my
by Terry Pratchett. In it, the heroine, Tiffany, talks about opening
her eyes...and then opening her eyes again, in order to really really See the
world. It was unutterably amazing but it wore her the fuck out.
October 10, Day 97: 8 miles from Conway, NH to Fryeburg, Maine
A good night's sleep and I was still a slothy cyclist. Concerned that there might be something up with my blood sugar, Olivia (an RN and all around superhero) took me to the local fire station to have me checked out. I was fine, they said, I'd just been on my bicycle TOO LONG. My spirits had been lagging for quite a while, and I realized that it was time to stop resisting my body's call for reprieve. It was time to get off the fucking bicycle.
I dismounted and hailed a ride to Portland, Maine, from whence I would get a train home...while Olivia cycled on to Bar Harbor. I passed the Bike Odyssey torch to her in the form of my SPOT tracker and Chief Joseph--the little ninja figurehead on my front fender. We bade farewell and Olivia pedaled on to Bridgton, Maine...
October 11, Day 98: Resting in Portland, Maine
It felt awful good to be done cycling. And the prospect of going home...was so delicious. But I couldn't leave Olivia out on the trail by herself; she had voiced concerns early on about the weather--would it be too cold? Should she stay home in Oakland and let me finish early? And I said naw dude it will be fine! Come on out! So she flew to Montreal to meet me and do the last leg. And now I was bailing and leaving her to brave the elements...alone. NOT COOL FRIEND BEHAVIOR. So...I rented a car. Yes, a car. And strapped Theo to the trunk.
October 12, Day 99: Caitlyn morphs into a SAG Wagon: meets Olivia in Brunswick, ME
The origin of the term SAG is unclear...it could be Support And Gear...it could be Support Aid Group...or it could be something else entirely. But basically it means the car that carries your stuff and rescues you if you need it.
October 13, Day 100: SAG for Olivia from Brunswick to Camden, ME
I've been thinking a lot lately about stories. In a way, Reality is created by the stories we tell ourselves...and others. I can write myself into a story about a girl who takes on too much and gets her ass kicked by the world and Fails...or I can write myself into a story about a person who chooses to adopt a more Gentle way in order to see a mission through safely...and enjoyably. I could go further and write a story wherein I am a wise lady who decides to adapt the mode of Adventure in order to accommodate a change in circumstances. It is mighty challenging for me to take on this more forgiving and generous story for myself, but I am trying. Hard-core tends to be my mode of choice: not always for the sake of being impressive (though yes sometimes just to be impressive) but also because of a desire to go far and deep and to the pith...in order to suck the marrow out of life. I think perhaps there is a lesson here about gentleness and healing...and being able to say hey: that's good enough. Good enough. I haven't learned it yet but I am doing my best. Cycling up mountains is hard. True fact. But learning to accept oneself: this is harder.
When treading on shakey new legs through places of darkness or transition, I often think of another Wintersmith quote; when Tiffany has to make a trip to the Underworld, she is told to "think of something solid, ye ken--a Stone or a Hammer. Whatever you do, dinna Wish or Regret or Hope."
So: for kindness' sake I hold to hammers in my mind. No Regretting. Just Gentleness like a boulder, an anchor for my soul.
October 14, Day 101: SAG for Lady O from Camden to Penobscot, ME
Way back in July, Rachel and I stopped for a picnic at the Historic Lochsaw Ranger Station while cycling along the Clear Water River in Idaho. We saw a van with Maine plates in the parking lot and thought cool! We did not find the owners, so after a feast of avocado and corn tortillas and fruit, we pedaled on... But lo: a few miles up the road we were hailed by a woman on the side of the road--Linda, we'd learn. She was standing by a van...with Maine plates. The ranger had told her of my trip so she stopped to give us her card and promised a place to stay in Maine. Wow! I thought. And guess what...I'm typing this from Linda's home in Penobscot: Right. Now. Now that's cool magic.
October 15, Day 102: The last day of the journey, officially. Bar Harbor.
This day hasn't happened yet--this day is tomorrow. I keep thinking of the expectations I'd had setting out, my ideas about what this Odyssey would be. I didn't even know that I had expectations, but the subconscious ones that I had (because yes I had them) were all wrong. Mostly. So often--and especially in these later, tired days of the journey--I've found myself chasing after the adventure that I think I'm supposed to be having and forget to pay attention to the one I'm actually on. I push it aside like an annoying small animal trying to hump my leg or something: Get off me! What the fuck?! I'm supposed to be like enjoying myself--feeling care free and Certain while at the same time discovering the secret of the Universe and the meaning of life and all. But instead I feel confused. I want to tell these imperfect motes of doubt and confusion and darkness: Go back from whence you came this is not the dance I wanted to dance! But shit kids, demons just get darker in the dark. So...here's to dancing with demons in the sunshine, and to a beautifully imperfect ending to a beautifully imperfect jaunt across North America *with* my bicycle. May it be what it will be. Goddess grant me the courage to accept every quirky moment of these last steps with gentle grace and kindness because I think that maybe: the opportunity to ditch the Ideal in favor of the Real...this may be the Golden Fleece I was after...all along.