The Express Way – Part 3

The past nine days have been a kaleidoscope, the wetter more gruelling experience of the north transformed by the vibrant colours, sounds and smells of the south. Our senses have been infused with the aromas and energy of things we’ve ridden through: the mystical Giant Redwood forests, the heavy wafts from hidden plantations of cannabis, the salty kelp piled in by the Pacific rollers and the smog of wildfire that has tinted the sky and filtered the sunlight. Add to that the endorphins running through my blood from long days and the physical intensity of tackling the rollercoaster ribbon of route 1 as it hugs the wild coastline. It is no wonder my dreams have been vivid. Sleep has been restless. Muscles were aching the closer we got to San Francisco and our rest day.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge I felt a surge of emotion, happiness we’d made it so far, appreciation for Niall, Rich, and new friends, Swann from France and Natalie from north eastern USA. They are both on long solo bike adventures, both kind and happy spirits who we were fortunate to share our journey with. We split a chocolate brownie in the centre of the bridge to celebrate and snapped photo after photo of the iconic entrance to San Francisco.

After soaking up the modern vibe of the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’ in the hippy streets of Haight-Ashbury, I find myself introspective on life and love. I think about the reasons I seek adventures like this, so filled to the brim with physical, mental and emotional challenges. I value my independence so much yet I eagerly trade chunks of it on a trip like this. The tunnel of experiences, people, uncertainty, interdependence and learning it provides is too compelling for me to decline. I sense acutely my dependence on my team mates and the cocktail of reliance and thankfulness it generates in me, and wonder what it creates in them – Niall towing my wheelchair etc., Rich eager to help me whenever he can. In this circus of give and take, it is clear to me what I receive, but I wonder what I give. I have to hope and trust there is something so as not to wound my soul. Instead of worrying too much, I take pictures of pumpkin fields and giggle at the road sign of a bicycle and the words ‘share the road’ that have been edited to ‘share the love’. Yep, we’re in California.

The hypnotic effect of riding for hours keeps me musing. I realise I am comfortable out of my comfort zone and more restless when in monotonous routine. Perhaps I am eager to fill my days in case there aren’t many more, countering a fear of death, an inevitability that I have come close to far too often. Or maybe it is just my nature to crave the marrow of life, endlessly hungry for the nutrition it gives. Feelings of vulnerability, connection, challenge, compassion and love seem more intense in the laboratory of an adventure, a mega-dose of essential vitamins that make me feel better. Occasionally I am envious of those who are peaceful in the cradle of routine. I know I will be able to appreciate it again soon too, after this latest kaleidoscope.

For now though, each day is a new adventure, nothing certain except the moment, that waves break rhythmically onto the shore beside us, and that the road ahead is blocked with a giant landslide! Navigating the Big Sur will be interesting. I look forward to the next chapter in the sunshine state.

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