Restless with Flashbacks and No Water

2010 Hilly Hundred, Bloomington Indiana

Hilly Hundred 2010, Bloomington Indiana

Sleepy eyed with hair flickering about like the flames of a fire I stare dumbfounded at the bristle-faced man in the mirror. It’s amazing how a splash of water, swipe of a comb and a dab of toothpaste can transform a slow thinking Neanderthal into a bright-eyed twenty first century gent. Ok, maybe not a “gent” but a marked improvement in appearance and brain function is unquestionable. The improvement is most appreciated when the morning routine is derailed and the transformation never takes place.

 

I gave the hot water tap the usual quarter turn then cupped my hands below – nothing. Is it a broken water main or just Monday? Then I gave the cold water a turn hoping a little peer pressure would help – nothing. While camping I’ve started many mornings without hesitation sans water, toothpaste and comb but in the heart of civilization all I could do was stare at the bewildered face and wild bed-head. “Oh my God, what do I do now?”

 

Coffee with the locals, alive and dead. Eastern Oregon 2010

Coffee with the locals, alive and dead. Eastern Oregon 2010

A piece of gum, a hat and a walk in the desert was the answer. As my Asics laid down a trail of crisp tread marks in the red sand I reflected on how living in one place surrounded by the conveniences of modern life can quickly soften my body and mind. When traveling by foot, bicycle or even public transportation my body and mind are constantly being tested. Simply finding food and shelter is a physical and mental challenge that is made even harder when you don’t speak the local tongue.

 

Prague Castle and Cathedral, 2013

Prague Castle and Cathedral 2013

Toward the end of my recent six months on the road I began to look forward to the simplicity of waking up in the same bed day after day. To have my own space to cook, read, write and just hangout was a recurring daydream. But now after being in one place for just a couple of months I’m beginning to feel restless and the “visions” are starting again. They aren’t scary visions but they are vivid. Like the one where I’m biking along the Clearwater River in Idaho as the sun falls below the horizon and the western sky turns pink. I know I should have set up camp hours ago but I couldn’t bring myself to stop.  The effortless riding, perfect mountain air and breathtaking scenery were too intoxicating. Or that image of Vermont in autumn: walking through a sea of ferns drenched in dew. The droplets refracting the morning light like a blanket of crystals causing the fields to sparkle and shimmer for as far as you could see. Then there are the more bizarre visions. Like the one where I’m seated in front of a plate of nameless food fumbling with a handful of coins; no idea what each one is worth. My auditory system hones in on conversations around me like an NSA wiretap searching for a key word or phrase. But it’s hopeless; I have never heard that language before in my life.

 

Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow Poland, 2013

Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow Poland 2013

Perhaps I’m an addict, addicted to the flow of sights, people and challenges that comes with travelling. Or is it the lack of responsibilities, such as mowing the lawn that draws me to the road? Taking a more scholarly approach it could be the countless educational opportunities that draw me to travel. Learning the topography of an area by walking it, the history by speaking with the people who have lived it and the agriculture by tasting it. Of course the reason could be far simpler; like traveling is the most enjoyable way I’ve found to slim my waist and broaden my mind.

 

Eastern Washington.  Solo ride from Seattle to Indiana, 1975

Eastern Washington.  Seattle to Indiana, 1975

In the corner sits a thirty-year-old bicycle that appears to be yearning for the open road just like I am. Bicycling has been my favorite mode of travel for a long, long time. Pedaling a quiet road, refueling at a local diner and sleeping under the stars is my vision of the perfect day. When you travel by bicycle the people and stories come to you. You look a little strange but still approachable and the locals are curious. Locals also tend to show kindness and respect toward visitors that arrive via their own sweat and resolve.

 

Perhaps I should consult a doctor about these “visions”. A little medication, some counseling and a padded room may be indicated. Then again a second opinion tells me I should grab a map, my passport and that old bicycle and start riding.

 

Cyclist, a little strange but harmless. Indiana 2010

Cyclists, a little odd but harmless. Indiana 2010

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Categories: Biking, Hiking, Travel

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. My thoughts run along those same lines except with a little variation. Just got home from a 20-day tour in the lands (N.Z./Aus.) down under and while there I will admit I loved sleeping in the 4-5 Star Hotels but I also loved the experience of a different culture, different ways, different turns of phrase, and marveling at things and places I had previously only read about! Staying close to the earth and our environment right here at home in our daily lives. Keeping it simple.
    ~~Flame

  2. It is good to see your name in my inbox again. I think back on your Camino de Santiago series on occasion as I am now living in Spain on the Costa Blanca. I enjoyed this story connecting past to present with retrospective photos from your travels.

    I loved the cycling photo on Washington SR126. Back in the days when you were riding in E. Washington, I was riding on a similar vintage bicycle throughout the Puget Sound region including the San Juan Islands. I think of our similar experiences as a common thread, just as I think of the places you have visited that I have also visited or still wish to visit. I learned SR126 was closed in 1992 for lack of traffic, need for paving and no plans to do so due to the steepness of the grade.

    Your fine writing style always makes for a good read. Thanks, Tom. – Mike

    • Mike,

      Great to hear from you and I wish you the best in Spain. Thanks for the encouraging comments on the writing. We have traveled a few of the same roads haven’t we. With any luck we’ll have a chance to travel a few more before we stop rolling. It doesn’t sound like SR 126 changed much from the last time I road it. Thanks for the update. Have fun!

  3. This made me laugh, thanks Brick. The travel bug never stops biting…yippee.

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