Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Survival, Somehow

Eli 19.10 is coming up with his wonderful girlfriend this afternoon and staying for two days before they leave for a two-week National Parks trip. 

They'll be camping, which causes me some anxiety. 

Actually, a fair amount of anxiety, because parents always worry about situations where their children could be vulnerable. 

Of course, I have to remind myself that when I was twenty, I went on the most ridiculous trip ever. 

I had been a camp counselor at a summer camp in Massachusetts the previous year, and had gotten to be very good friends with an older counselor from Florida who was into endurance runs. So he proposed that I meet him in Tallahassee in June, we take a bus to Daytona Beach, and run down to Miami on the coast. 

Believe it or not, that wasn't the stupid part (we did do the run, and it was both brutal and fantastic).

The stupid part was I wanted to bicycle there from South Texas. 

The thing about me at twenty was that I just had no real fear of anything, except groups of people (introverted, remember). I wrote to newspapers along the proposed route, said I was going to write a book about the trip, and asked if they could publish my letter in their paper to hopefully have people offer places to stay. 

Incredibly, they did. 

This was 1981, remember, and things were less complicated back then. So people wrote me letters and offered their homes for the night. 

I didn't get the bicycle and the panniers, gear, etc., until very close to the trip, so I only had time to take a very small number of rides. 

In my favor, though, I was very strong from running, and I was young, and the coast of Texas is very flat. So I started out, doing about 35 miles a day (which is really not much, unless you've never done it before). 

I was hopelessly unprepared, really, but as long as you can turn the pedals, you keep moving down the road, and I did. 

The route I eventually went through was about 1,000 miles, and it took about three weeks or so. I do remember riding 106 miles one day in a part of Florida that was very hilly, and it was 104F that day. 

I stayed with strangers for three weeks, rode on lots of scary roads, and it was all okay. Even though looking back on it, I don't know how. 

Eli 19.10 is prepared, careful, and has a car, a phone, GPS, a credit card, and a companion. I remind myself of all of those things.

One other thing I remember. After about a week, I got into a car for the first time after cycling about 300 miles. It was incredibly disorienting to go at highway speed, so much so that it was hard for me to even look at the road. 

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