We rode out of High Springs, Florida, this morning as a team of four, and everyone from Iowa got a flat tire today. First Nick, before we even got out of town, then me, with about 35 miles left, and then Tony, when a screw punched through his rear tire on Highway 20. It was my first flat since just east of Langtry, Texas, and Tony’s first flat since just east of Van Horn, Texas. I’m crossing my fingers for the last 40 miles tomorrow. If I get a flat with less than 2 miles left, I’m walking it in.
We rode nearly half a mile out of our way today to thank a BCM donor, Dean Chance, for his recent donation. Turns out the Southern Tier route goes right by his office in Gainesville, so we stopped and had lunch with him, got a tour of his office and an adjustment for his old pal from chiropractic school, Tony. Then we enjoyed 16 miles of bike path all the way to Hawthorne, and then we took Highway 20 all the way into Palatka. And that was day 48 of 49. Tomorrow, 40 miles will get us to the Atlantic Ocean.
I was reading a blog from some other bike tourers, and Dwight, the guy writing, said something to the effect of, “I can’t wait to get back to my normal life. Wait, what am I talking about? This is my life.”
Today felt like the 50th day in a row we did this. In reality, it was only the 48th day out of the last 52. This has been my life:
Alarm goes off. Hit snooze for five minutes. Get up. Chug 20 ounces of water. Put in contact lenses, brush teeth and apply sunscreen to face and arms.
Walk to hotel breakfast area and begin stuffing face, looking for protein-rich items like scrambled eggs and oatmeal. Eat until full. Get up, get more food, eat until uncomfortable. Grab second cup of coffee, return to hotel room. Look at map for day’s route.
Apply chamois butter to ass. Put on cycling bibs and jersey. Put camera in right jersey pocket, cell phone in middle pocket, mace in right pocket. Pack everything in appropriate stuff sacks and cram into BOB trailer bag, nervous that it won’t all fit. Leave out SLR camera to strap to top of trailer, along with stuff sack containing tire patch stuff, pump, chamois butter, and arm warmers. Look at map for day’s route again and put map in shorts pocket.
Take bike outside, check tires for air, brakes, and chain. Pick up BOB trailer, complain to self about how heavy the goddamn thing is, and set it down behind bike. Hook trailer to rear axle. Start riding.
Stop at first convenience store and grab one 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade, which will be warm by the time I get around to drinking it. Also purchase three Snickers bars, two 99-cent bags of cashews, and two packs of peanut butter cracker sandwiches. Stuff in handlebar bag. Look at route map again. Put on gloves, which smell awful.
Start riding. Talk to Tony, or self. Sing lyrics of songs. Make up other lyrics. Moo at cows. Wave at horses. Check rearview mirror every two minutes for cars. Think about girlfriend, parents, friends. Miss girlfriend, parents, friends, mountains, good coffee.
After 10-15 miles, stop on side of road to pee, straddling bike and hiding behind handlebar bag. Start riding again. Pedal 50 to 90 more miles, worrying about that sore spot on my ass and if it’s going to turn into a saddle sore, and what a saddle sore is. Listen to my bike, try to determine what’s making what noise. Wonder if these tires will make it all the way to St. Augustine, if they need air, if the rear one has a slow leak. Wonder if something is feeling funny through the bottom of my feet and what that might mean — chain, loose chainring bolt, broken cassette, broken pedal.
Think about that person I haven’t thought about since sixth grade, wonder whatever happened to that guy I worked with at that bar, think about what the rest of my summer will be like, what the rest of my life will be like. Remember that it’s only March, and when I get back to Colorado, I’ll still be able to go backcountry skiing.
Steer away from potholes, rumble strips, rocks on the road, broken glass, chunks of wood, roadkill, reflectors on the pavement, the edge of the road. Look at garbage on the side of the road, observe that I’ve been seeing Natural Light cans in the ditch consistently for almost 3,000 miles. Always one shoe in the ditch, never a pair, except for that one time in Louisiana where there were a pair of brown shoes. Reapply sunscreen.
Eat lunch. Drink Coca-Cola. Pedal more. Check watch, mentally calculate how much time we have until sunset, calculate how many miles we have left, try to estimate our time of arrival at our end town for the day. Worry if we have enough time left before sundown. Pedal more. Shake fingers out, wondering if I’ll ever be able to feel anything through my pinky fingers again. Reapply sunscreen. Stretch calves by pushing heel down at bottom of pedal stroke and holding for a couple seconds. While doing that, try to see if the top of my chain is dropping because my freewheel isn’t moving.
Pull into a hotel. While Tony checks in, text Facebook, Twitter, Mom, Dad, Josh, Jayson and Nick our mileage and end town for the day. Get message from Facebook that an error has occurred. Get excited if hotel has coffee in the lobby. Roll bike down to hotel room, unhitch trailer and pull into room. Take off cycling shoes.
Eat dinner, way too much food again, knowing I’ll wake up hungry in the middle of the night regardless. Don’t even think about not ordering dessert. More Coca-Cola.
Return to hotel room, drink water so I’m not dehydrated tomorrow, and so I can sleep. Check map for next day’s destination. Remember what time zone we’re in, call girlfriend, go through photos and write blog entry. Update Facebook page. Set alarm according to next day’s mileage. Sleep. Wake up one hour before alarm is due to go off, worrying about something in next day’s ride — will this or that break on my bike, is our route on heavily trafficked roads, is my heel going to start hurting again, am I going to run out of chamois butter, etc. Fall back into deep sleep just before alarm goes off.