Day 29 Sunday, August 7 Casper to Medicine Bow, WY 94 miles
There was a moment today when I slowed down to take in the view of the endless miles of soft green prairie. With the exception of the occasional car I had ridden myself completely out of civilization. On all four sides stretching for dozens of miles each way there was not a single building—just a lonely road splitting the prairie land in half. I began to softly cry. I don’t know where it came from except that I began to feel this immense amount of grace in my life. I feel like I should have felt lonely. I certainly knew not to linger too long out in that magnificent vastness as the night would have unnerved me. I didn’t feel abandoned, but rather a deep sense of belonging. I stood there alone, but I knew that I was not alone.
I think this was partly brought on by the surprise visit of one of my Colorado friends who drove 150 miles to surprise me with a cold Coke and a few other goodies. Yes, she is a bit of a nut! Had she done this during the first couple of weeks I would have been annoyed as I found myself sinking into a deep, personal solitude. But, as my post on Saturday indicated, I have been finding myself moving out of the solitude gradually and slowly re-entering the world (I even have the TV turned on for the first time in four weeks—PBS, of course—I still wouldn’t be able to handle the rest of the dribble.) Part of what happened with Kathy’s roadside visit is that I had an initial internal reaction of “You can’t do this! This is a pilgrimage!” As I rode on I realized had a stranger stopped me and said I heard about your pilgrimage and wanted to offer some cold drinks and cookies I would have seen it as a God-moment and certainly would have written a whole post about it. I was struck by the contradiction of why I would accept gifts from a stranger, but not family or friends.
This pilgrimage is a microcosm and a mirror of my larger life and I am realizing that it left me with some important questions: “Why do I feel like I need to do this all alone?” “Why doI have such a hard time asking for help?” “Why do I expect myself to be there for others, but won’t ask others to be there for me?” “Could it be that I am not as alone as I have assumed?” Those questions will be percolating in coming days for sure. Tuesday I should be in Loveland (cool name, huh?) where many of the assumptions underlying these questions were formed. I will have a chance to look into the mirror of my subconscious life.
The ride itself today was a mixture of many graceful moments and many miles of punishing riding. I anticipated that it would be a challenging day. The route from Casper to Medicine Bow is 90 miles, gains an elevation of 1500 feet, has only one rest stop with water, and promises head winds for much of the distance. I began the day climbing out of Casper into a headwind and I was already wondering whether I could get all the way to Medicine Bow twenty miles in. I planned enough water for 70 miles and worried in the back of my mind that the rest stop wouldn’t be there leaving me dry for a final stretch. Thankfully, the rest stop was at mile 50 and I filled up with cold water.
The best part of the ride followed. I went through an expansive valley that felt like I was riding through brushed corduroy. Despite the harshness of the environment there was a softness in this valley with sparse green grasses blanketing the entire valley. It is not the lush green of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, but riding in the midst of this sea of tannish green grasses was therapeutic, almost hypnotic.
The highlight of the afternoon was startling a magnificent rattlesnake on the side of the road. Just as I passed, his rattle went off and I recognized it immediately–it has a way of making one’s spine shiver. I looked down just as I passed him just three or four feet away. I quickly checked traffic and made a U-turn hoping I could get a picture of this lovely snake. He was still there warning me not to come too close, but also hadn’t coiled into his defensive, biting stance. This was a big snake—6 feet long and about 3 inches in diameter! He was just beautiful and unnerving at the same time. I rode away with my heart full from this chance encounter. Of course, I also found myself scanning the roadside a little more carefully after that!
The wind turbines scattered throughout the second half of the ride were like riding in the middle of an art canvas. They reminded me of Christo’s landscape art, but on a much grander scale. Sometimes the turbines were set against the late evening sun as their arms rotated together in rhythm. And something about seeing the dozens of them on the horizon spinning away just deepened the feeling of gratitude I was feeling. I can’t explain it, but I felt like I had been the only person invited to witness a new creation. I realized that occasional cars speeding along at 75 mph couldn’t be having the same experience. I got to see a snake and they didn’t!
Tonight my legs feel like mashed potatoes. But my heart is full of grace. Something is starting to shift. I am alone, but I don’t feel abandoned or lonely. This is new for me.