Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 42: Brantford, Ontario (Canada) to Niagara Falls, NY

Today's Mileage: 72
Average Speed: 13.5 mph
Max Speed: 36.2 mph
Moving Time: 5:15
Blog & Ride Details

Just as the "lasts" of this tour are passing by one by one, a personally sensitive time of year looms. Each year, as August 3rd approaches, I become consciously aware of a particular last. The last month, last week, last day, last night. Even though I feel stronger as each year passes, the thoughts are always the same. This year, the thoughts are preceded by seven. Seven years ago right now, Rickey was still here.

I feel his presence everyday. I don't hold onto his presence because I believe that he is actually around, but because I'm afraid that I'll forget what he feels like if I don't. In some ways, the spirit of his presence is here because I keep it alive. The part of me that aches to embrace the impossible wants to believe otherwise, but the part of me that clings to logic reminds me that - seven years later - I am still vainly searching for some sort of connection with him because I hate how much further away my memories of him feel as time moves on.

It's like when my mom - a devout Catholic - found me a few days after Rickey's funeral, sitting at my brother's computer in their Asheville home, crying and googling psychics who claim to communicate with the dead.

"Oh, Katie," she said softly as she touched my shoulder, "I know you want to believe in things like that right now, but they are taking advantage of people who are hurting like you are."

I knew she was right, but it made me angry that she said that. I wanted someone to tell me that he wasn't gone forever. That there was still some way to reach out, to communicate, to right our wrongs, to say all the things I should have said. Do the things I should have done.

In that way, the spirit of memory is a double-edged sword. It can be maddening to realize all the things Rickey will never know. And to re-realize them over and over again. And to know that the presence of him that I feel is one that I create in my mind; it's not an authentic, tangible comfort that will ever materialize. Sometimes I'm not sure if that makes me feel more lost.

I don't know how to articulate this thought so that the words match the feeling ...

... I hate the idea of believing that he knows how I feel, that he can see all that has happened through some sort of cosmic eye, that I'll one day see him again and be able to relieve all of my emotional burdens by talking to him. I hate believing those things because the likely reality is that he doesn't know how I feel, he can't see all that has happened since he died, and I will never see him again.

In the present, it hurts even more to imagine spending my entire life hoping for something that I believe, in the back of my mind, probably isn't real. It might not be unlike the mentality of someone who is serving a life prison sentence. They have to cut off the worldly desires that they'll never again be able to see or enjoy outside of the prison walls in order to cope with the moment. And I can't let myself wish daily for absolution that will never come. I'll never hear Rickey say that he forgives me.

So I have to focus on forgiving myself.

I tried to focus on taking photos of the scenery between Brantford and Niagara Falls, but the project provided little distraction from memories that tend to consume me once the flood gates are opened. Even as the morning hum of the crickets scored the sunrise, I couldn't make the sounds of nature drown my thoughts.

I rode alone in the early part of the ride until Toronto Mark and Joe appeared on my left and began talking to me about hermaphrodites. They're comic relief was perfectly - albeit inadvertently - timed.

And as The Swiss Train glided by, proudly donning their Swiss jerseys in honor of their national holiday, Daniel was pedaling with one hand on the handlebars and the other over his heart, singing his country's anthem. I couldn't help but laugh.

Later, it was Sandy, Andrew and New Jersey Mark, who unknowingly added much-needed entertainment value to my day. Andrew is a library of Shakespearean tales and has mastered the art of great storytelling. He tells a story a day during laid-back segments of the route. And during a chocolate milk stop at a gas station, we discussed the differences in American and Canadian products.

Notably, there are the cars ...

... the candies ...

... and the product design.

Pringles markets a variety of snacks in Canada that we don't have in the United States, but Trojan has kept it basic.
Sensual O must be a Canadian thing though.

Sanitation appears to be more willfully enforced ...

Ellen's quest for world domination graced the Canadian dairy cow population ...

... and Niagara Falls.

And, most personally fulfilling of all, I entered my current home state.

But in the back of my mind, my private thoughts were always just below the surface.

It seemed ironic - or timely - later this evening when Joe said something that was more poignant to me than he may have realized. We were watching the fireworks over Niagara Falls, sparsely chatting with other cyclists about sore, aging joints and muscles, and Joe said, "Enjoy being 30, Katie. It all goes by too fast. It's ok to look forward to something, but don't ever say that you wish it was Friday or next weekend or next summer."

I guess I had never specifically thought about it in that way before, but as the fireworks exploded over the river, splashing our darkened faces with momentary flashes of luminous colors, I realized that I had stopped doing that seven years ago.

More images from Brantford to Niagara Falls:

Click here to view my entire photo album of Day 42 [TBA].

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Niagara Falls, Day 42
Across America North:
Niagara Falls photos


Anonymous said...

see you do look like a baby car!! actually you & maddy might even have better milage lol

Monique D. said...

aaaaw... KT :-/

And On another note...i think i'm gonna start doing that whole 'don't say i can't wait until next friday' bit. Time is truly passing too quickly as it is.