Day 51 Monday, August 29 Austin to Middlegate Station, NV 64 miles
Ah yes…images of leisure cropped up for me again today. As I neared the second climb of the day I once again yearned for a wine country bike tour–5 miles, glass of cabernet, 5 more miles, a crisp chardonnay, repeat steps one and two as often as necessary. The second image was being able to sit on my bed with a good novel. I mailed my last one back home while in Ely and haven’t found a book store since. Carson City is just two days away and a book is definitely on the agenda. A third image has me looking forward to getting to the coast for the final leg of the tour where the ocean air will be a welcome prize for surviving the desert heat.
I have nearly come out the other side of this particular wilderness. It’s strange. Physically, I feel fine. Today I rode 64 miles with two moderately difficult climbs. As I pulled into Middlegate Station (an old stage coach stop that hasn’t changed much) I felt like I could have gone another 25-30 miles without pushing myself too close to the edge. I feel like I just get stronger every week. It’s the mental fatigue that I feel today and, I think, began yesterday as I described that I just didn’t have much on my mind. It was probably less a Zen moment than simple tiredness!
Actually, I am sure the heat and the dry conditions are at the root of much of this. It is one thing to wake up in the morning and prepare to ride next to a mountain stream all day. It’s another thing to wake up and begin the routine of calculating food, water, time, wind conditions, heat and storms and trying to get to the next oasis before the conditions drain the last ounce of energy from you.
Tomorrow and Wednesday should be reasonably easy days. Fallon is only 50 miles away and even though I could do more miles than that Carson City is another 60 miles beyond that. The shorter days and arriving in two large towns with more services feels like a bit of a reprieve. I said in an earlier post that each of the days on this “Loneliest Road in America” look doable, but it was the package of doing a number of days like this in a row that would be the challenge. That has been the case. It just wears one down one day at a time. I am not begging mercy, by any means. But, I do recognize the mental fatigue tonight even as my legs feel ready to go again.
In closing, the Camino de Santiago, a religious pilgrimage in Spain that dates back hundreds of years has come up a number of times. One of my church members did a portion of it two years ago. I stayed with a Warmshowers host who had completed it by bike recently. One of the commenters to this site linked me in with a bike tour group that organizes bike pilgrimages on the Camino. And this morning I met Peter in the same International Cafe in Austin who had completed it by bike a few years ago and has a certificate to show for it.
I have thought about what comes next after this pilgrimage. Leading a group on the Camino de Santiago certainly has crossed my mind. I just think how our spirituality these days is tied so intimatelywith idea of journey, openness and discovery. This pilgrimage has convinced me that there is no substitute for the kind of depth, reflection, growth and connection that one discovers on the road.
For now, though, it is best I keep focused on this pilgrimage and let the next one unfold in its own time. This pilgrimage is now calling for sleep.