Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 45: Henrietta, NY, to Liverpool, NY

Today's Mileage: 93
Average Speed: 16.3 mph
Max Speed: 32.0 mph
Moving Time: 5:45
Blog & Ride Details

As we rode along the Erie Canal at sunrise, passing local cyclists on their morning rides, I thought about how we could easily be mistaken for any of them. Or be any of them. Exercising before work on the old towpaths where horses and mules once pulled canal boats from lock to lock. The only difference between them and us was that we had cycled there ... from Oregon.

I've been trying to wrap my mind around the "from Oregon" since we cycled through Boise. As we get further and further from our point of origin, it becomes less easier to comprehend. We cycled here from Oregon. We've spent the last 45 days out here, pedaling, and we're just as amazed as the wide-eyed responses we receive when people ask where we came from.

Forty-five days later, as I cycled along the Erie Canal, I began thinking about how I've changed since I timidly pedaled out of Astoria.

The physical changes are most obvious to me - though they're likely less apparent to anyone who isn't me - since I know me and look at me more than anyone else knows me and looks at me.

I'm probably in the best shape I'll ever be in my life right now. I feel stronger on the bicycle. Toronto Mark told me that I should have my legs insured like Betty Grable. I was even more flattered once I googled her.

I think he was referring mostly to my tan, which may look nice with my cycling attire; however, I have ridiculous, not even remotely enviable tan lines that look absurd in civilian clothing.

While my face, arms, fingers and legs are golden brown, my torso, upper thighs, hands and feet are pasty white. My Oakley sunglasses, with their powerful polarized protection, have imprinted a ribbon of pale skin across my nose and around my eyes. Raccoon eyes, some call them. Andrew says I look more like a panda. There is also a line along my jawbone from my helmet's chin strap.

Alison has lines on her forehead from the design of her helmet. She doesn't typically wear a cycling cap or a do-rag underneath, and I've been calling her a Klingon.

[Standby for photo of Eileen's chinstrap line, courtesy of Leo
- once I ask him for a copy]

At least I'll be going home to New York City, where weirdness is the norm rather than the exception - though I expect that I'll have to answer curious inquiries regarding the distinct variations in skin tone more than once.

I do gross things now, like pee in a cornfield and wipe with a leaf from a cornstalk or walk barefoot in the hallways and lobbies of hotels. Regardless of the fact that I've stayed in 45 hotels in 45 days, I've always been attentive to the condition of my feet, as well as the conditions to which they're exposed, but when your big toes start to look like this ...

... you begin to care a little less.

I'm astounded at what I can put my body through and what I can make it do when I don't think it can do anymore. Though I still have much more to learn about the various techniques of cycling, I feel comfortable on my bicycle. Maddy and I find a rhythm together more often. My ass can still hurt, but it hurts less. I've overcome challenges. I feel more confident, more able.

I like climbing now. I hated pedaling up mountains in Oregon, but as I've become more able on the bicycle, I feel anticipation, not dread, when approaching inclines. I didn't know that I don't like the flats until I found out in Minnesota that I don't like the flats. Hills, peaks and summits give you a sense of thrill and achievement. Maybe that's why the Tour de France isn't in Kansas.

Thanks to frequent heat rash, I use hydrocortisone like it's lotion. I ice my knees and my left Achilles tendon more often than I brush my hair. My eyebrows haven't seen wax or tweezers in nearly seven weeks, the result of which could justifiably ban me from most nightclubs in New York City. And the muscles and joints in my legs are so tight, I'm not sure that walking in stilettos is in my immediate future. I've gone days without wearing makeup or carrying an overpriced handbag. I haven't had a manicure. I can survive on a few changes of clothing. I don't know the latest celebrity gossip.

And I see North America differently. I see it in lengths of roads, in patches of sky, in tones of sunrise, in blurry images of towns and villages. I see it in the faces of my fellow cyclists.

You'd be amazed by all the ways that more than 3,000 miles and 45 days on a bicycle will change you.

But then your family surprises you in Liverpool, and you realize that you're mostly still the same.

More images from Henrietta to Liverpool:

Click here to view my entire photo album of Day 45 [TBA].

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


ccocochris said...

OMG u are on the home stretch and to top it off....well for me, personally is getting home tonight and finding a postcard from u in my mailbox!!! I have to say it made my day! To say that I'm so very proud of you doesn't even seem enough at this point. I never had a doubt that you couldn't or wouldn't do it and I hope that you being you and the person I know, will actually give yourself the credit you deserve for accomplishing something so amazing and awesome! KATIE, U THE GURL AND WHEN I GROW YOUNG AGAIN, I WANNA BE JUST LIKE U!!

Monique D. said...

I love this!! Such growth you've experienced!!! I'm too excited to see you next month. And Mommy & Daddy Spear came too?!! And was that David?? Thought he was in Asia. Anywho, so proud of you!!!