Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 25: Pierre, SD, to Chamberlain, SD

Today's Mileage: 83
Average Speed: 14.3 mph
Max Speed: 31.0 mph
Average BPM: 118
Max BPM: 160
Calories Burned: 1864
Moving Time: 5:45

We are half way across North America!

Or just barely.

Mixed emotions came with this day ...

I don't feel like we're finally half way. I feel like we're already half way. I've been enjoying myself so much out here that I don't want it to be half over. There have been some overwhelming challenges, sparking overwhelming emotions, creating overwhelming moments. Half way is bittersweet.

"Half-way" ago, I was cycling out of Astoria, Oregon, taking a left out of the Holiday Inn Express under the Astoria-Megler Bridge. My head was spinning as I took my first pedal strokes and the reality of the miles ahead really hit me. I was cycling my first mile of 3,629 across North America. I felt so small. The distance was daunting. The elevations were intimidating. It was dizzying to think of it all at once. I felt a bout of anxiety trying to rise in my chest as I cycled into this journey and out of my comfort zone.

So I did the only thing I could do. I focused on one day at a time. That day, it was 69 miles to St. Helens. Over 1,800 miles later, the moments have flown by. Time just won't let you hold onto it.

This journey becomes more than the destination.

It becomes your lifestyle.

The hotel rooms, restaurants and banquet halls become a blur. Depending on the luggage load time each morning, you set your alarm for as early as 4:15am. You groggily pull yourself out of bed and slip into the bicycle clothing you laid out the night before. If your roommate is Beth, there is giggling before you've even washed the sleep from your eyes. You apply chamois cream and sunblock. Stash energy gels and snacks in the back pockets of your jersey. Shake carb/electrolyte powder in one of your water bottles. You inhale your breakfast and hit the road, often before the sun is visible on the horizon. You pound the pedals for hours on end. Sometimes you cycle alone, relishing in your independence and letting your mind wander to thoughts you had set aside (just as your friend Bianca instructed in a greeting card you opened back at the first hotel). Other times, your pedal strokes are filled with some of the richest of conversations with fellow riders - from the profound to the inane. All the while, the miles pass all around you. At adrenaline-pumping speeds, in slow and strained climbs, or in breezy, lingering strides. Sometimes your body tightens with incessant aches or wobbles sloppily from fatigue. Sometimes you feel light and carefree. As a woman, you envy the backsides of men as they face a tree, bush or field of wheat, relieving themselves with little effort in location selection. You might progressively become less selective of the places where you choose to urinate when facilities are not immediately available; less self-conscious if you are not entirely concealed in your squatted position by dense shrubbery and occasionally wave at other cyclists over the tall grass as they pass by. Meanwhile, you're watching out for rattle snakes. Your skin becomes a canvas for irregular tan lines. You instinctively stop breathing through your nose when you see roadkill ahead. You rest at a SAG stop. Sometimes you take a pit stop at an isolated, dusty corner store. Fig bars, trail mix, fruit. Refill water bottles. Trudge on. You arrive in the next town and set up camp in the current hotel. Stop by Dairy Queen once - or twice - if there is one in town. Toronto Mark is keeping a DQ tally. Shower. Nap. Blog. Chat. Mechanics hour. Laundry. Phone calls if there is cellular service. Stretch and ice sore muscles, tendons and joints. The evening RAP reviews the highlights of the day and outlines the following day's route. Dinner. Two desserts. Share stories. Bedtime. More giggling. Lights out.

There is repetition in the daily routines but the sights, sounds, smells, feelings and adventures are different every day. So when it's half way over, a bittersweet symphony rejoices the accomplishment and laments the approaching finality.

How will I go back to real life after a dream like this?

More images from Pierre to Chamberlain:

Click here to view my entire photo album of Day 25 [TBA].

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Across America North:


joy said...

Congratulations! You are freakin' awesome!!! :) I am loving following you across the country. I wish I was at least 20 years younger and many pounds lighter. Enjoy the second half of your journey!

Monique D. said...

These are my favorite pics so far. Congrats & keep trekking!! Still many more days to come...

Unknown said...

Amazing woman, determined, and inspiring human being! Katie, congrats on your half way mark. What an amazing journey. I recall your first days cycling with Chus in Vigo, I sure couldn't handle the intensity of it! It really doesn't surprise me, that you are doing something many may dream of doing. Rock on!

Katie said...

Thanks, Katherina! But did we cycle in Vigo? LOL!

Katie said...

Oh! I just remembered! Spinning classes! Hahahaha!

Anonymous said...

after browsing a lot of crappy blogs today, thisone is different!