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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Trial by Water

I have just barely enough signal in my shelter in this campground of this tiny town (Decatur) that I should be able to make this post, but I'll have to add pictures later. I didn't take many anyways as it was raining on me almost all day and I don't like risking my phone taking it out in the rain. For that matter, just stopping in the rain is generally unpleasant as it always makes you realize just how wet you are, and then your body doesn't want to move through the wetness to remount again. ...Have I mentioned yet that riding in the rain isn't fun? ...well, it can be, for half an hour to an hour, for the time to commute in town, but then it turns increasingly towards drudgery after that.

It was raining when I woke up this morning, to the cats escaping from the bathroom, neither of which was a surprise. Caitlin and I went out for bagels (drove) and she treated me once again, to a cheese and egg bagel at Breugger's, which was delicious. ...And yes, I'm going to talk about food in every post because biking 60+ miles a day makes me ravenous and puts it, along with where I'm sleeping, constantly on my mind. Deal with it. Her other out of town guests showed up at her apartment while we were there and we hurried back to greet them. One of them was from a circle of friends I hung out with a lot, but despite meeting many times before he claimed to have no recollection of me. What's funny is that I ran into him a couple years ago and he said the same thing then. ...I guess I'm fairly forgettable. I'm okay with that, it will make it easy if I want to take advantage of one time only offers, or as one friend pointed out, if I ever decide to become a serial killer.

I saw the break in the rain and headed out shortly after they arrived. ...It wasn't quite the window I hoped for. As I said, I got rained on with scant, brief exception all day long. And sadly, aside for that, not much happened all day either. After leaving Caitlin's I didn't talk to another human in person, barely saw any, for the rest of the day. I didn't see much but small towns and flooded fields. I didn't have any particular obstacles to overcome or interesting encounters of any kind, save where the shoulder ended for probably 7 or 8 miles between Tekamah and Decatur and I developed a kink in my neck watching my rearview mirror so much (thankfully traffic was very dead, a car every couple minutes generally). If this was a novel, today wouldn't get much page time, just a bit of narration explaining, "he biked in the rain, all day. By the end he was quite wet and rather miserable," then go on to the next day. I go back and forth on whether or not I'm glad life forces you to live all of it and not skip the dull, unpleasant bits.

What I am definitely glad about is that the Olympic Peninsula did teach me something. I won't claim I'm not still an idiot tourist, but I'm at least gradually becoming a more experienced one. My booties, waterproof gloves (ahem, water-resistant), and rain jacket (yep, no rain pants still because I'm still a damn fool) kept me dry enough not to freeze today, and that's better than I've done in the past. I can't emphasize enough, an hour in the rain is easy, but things change when it becomes six. My hands were so numb after the last 15 miles without any stops that I had to rediscover sensation to use my brakes when I stopped.

I reached the campground in the mid-afternoon with it still actively raining, discovered a shelter, saw a lack of good trees, and quickly decided that I did not want to set up my tarp and hammock in the rain, and that official policies be damned (there's a sign saying the shelter closes at 10pm, I'm sleeping on the picnic table in it, because I'm done with the rain. The campground is all but deserted, so who am I possibly hurting? I asked people to convince me to change my mind, prefacing it would be a hard sell, and no one tried. I'm in my bag, with my pad inflated beneath me, and surprisingly comfortable on this stone slab. I really hope I don't have anyone tell me to leave for no good reason. I just want to sleep and get moving in the morning...or whenever it stops raining, since it's supposed to. I've had my fill of rain for now.

Update: Now with pictures! ...Of mostly nothing!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Here we go again

Leaving this morning was tough. I'm not too macho to admit there were a few tears in my eyes. Erin made me a spectacular breakfast, and she indulged me in playing myself out to "Ecstacy of Gold" (which is the best ever music to make you feel pumped by the way). Somehow it feels a little odd that this is my first ever bike trip where I'm not going to visit Erin at the end. But there are other really good friends along and at the end of this road, so that helps.

I'm sore, of course. And I'm not going to complain about everything that hurts, because I knew it all would. It's not my first rodeo. I'm just happy I stayed dry. I kept expecting rain, getting in and out of rain gear (as said rain gear made me overheat), but it never came. It will come tomorrow though, I am sure, supposed to rain all day. Here's hoping I can handle setting up my tarp and hammock for the rain, in the rain. It's supposed to be even windier too. But, one day at a time right? And I made it through this day.

It was mostly uneventful. Riding the MoPac was easy going and full of nostalgia. Riding the highway was the usual tediousness that Nebraska highways are. And coming into Omaha was mildly terrifying and generally unpleasant. Seriously, this is the second least bike friendly city I've been to, only next to LA. It's got busy roads that often lack shoulder, I only encountered one bike lane, and the bike paths are few and far between (though the two I was on were fairly nice). I'm glad I have a straight shot North out of the city tomorrow.

So yeah, bike computer says I did 57 miles today. But it lies, because I forgot to reset the trip before I left (knew I was forgetting something) and didn't remember until just west of Eagle. Best estimate was that it was about 69. It's a start. Journey of a thousand miles, first step, yada yada.

I'm crashing with my friend Caitlin. She took me out to Mother of India and got me well fed, introduced me to her cute kittens, Sputnik and Scout, and chatted with me before letting me have the couch to myself. And now...I'm about ready to sleep. Day two comes in the morning.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

...And dusting it off again

Well, obviously the plans to start making somewhat regular posts didn't work out, being as it's almost two months later. In fairness to myself, a lot has been going on these last couple months, all of which having nothing to do with bike touring. Working quite a few more hours at that job at the bike shop I'd already quit from (because truly good jobs aren't easy to leave), moving in with my friend Erin (yep, the one I stayed with both in Washington and California, because this is clearly a recurring theme) and helping her get the house settled, my grandmother dying, a friend and family member committing's just been a lot going on. Some of it has been good, much of it hard, but all of it keeping me too busy for the blog.

But it's time now. I'm ready. I'm ready to sit on my butt and run like hell at the same time. Because that's exactly what biking is. As Matt, manager at the Bike Rack and one of the most travelled bike tourists I know, told me, when rough stuff happens, sometimes getting away is exactly what you need to recover. I need to get back on the road, back to myself. It's not that I'm desperate to go, not this time. It's going to be difficult to leave Lincoln, more so now than it was the first time. I don't feel the need to escape my life or prove anything. I've been happier lately than I've ever been. I'm leaving out of a desire to travel rather than desperation to get out.

My goodbyes are all said. My gear is all acquired and packed. And while I never did much of a trial run, I've tested all my equipment and finally got in some solid hammock practice. There's nothing left to do but leave. The date's been set for over a week...and now at last it's just a day away. I leave tomorrow. And having told everyone when I'm going and made a few plans with folks to come stay with them, there's no choice any more, no decision to make, only the leaving to be done. And that, well, that's about as liberating as you can get. I'm excited, I'm nervous, eager, scared, all of it at once. And that's just as it should be.

...I kind of wish my planned leave date didn't send me out into the rain every damn day for who knows how many days, but well, that's the way it goes. As I told my dad and several others, if this trip lasts the two months planned, there's no way I'm avoiding rain the whole time, now or later it makes little difference. I'm going to wet, I've just hopefully waited long enough that I won't get cold or snowed on, since I'm headed north. Funny, this time last year I was in LA, my tour for the year already done. I've been thinking about it the last several weeks, where I was this time last year, and how removed I feel from it now in my safe, comfy house. It's definitely time to hit the road.

I feel I should post pictures...but I don't have much. So here's a few from my visit with my sister and my nieces yesterday when we went to Sesame Street Live and the Wildlife Safari in Ashland. Also my badass bag of trail mix. Also my hammock. Also the famous Erin, in garb, because.