Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Bubble of Determination

"If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";


If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!"


-Kipling




So, awful awful times today. Awful. Really bad.


As of today, we are on the plains. Great, we thought, no more mountains. And we were hoping that the prevailing winds from the West, along with the smooth earth would help us sail right along. But we were wrong.
We did 96 miles today, insisting that we show up in Shelby, MT. The 100 degree heat was bad, but nothing that we hadn't dealt with before (Everywhere we go, people say, "Oh, it's never this hot around here - but they say the heat will break in a few days." We've been hearing this for weeks as we drag the heat across with us). What also hurt in a new way was the 75 mile stretch with no services, not even a tree for shade in the aforementioned heat. But what was completely debilitating was the 20 MPH headwind (coming from the SE, another unlikely meteorologic event) for the entire day.
When we rode, we struggled to maintain 10 MPH ground speed into the wind. When we stopped, we had no shade and flies would immediately swarm around us. As we came into Cut Bank, both of us were ready to fall off our bikes. At the diner, I couldn't eat much, as my digestive system (a non-essential function) had shut down a while back.
And we still had 25 more miles to go. It was very hard to get ourselves up out of that diner and haul our bodies another 25 miles, but we did it. About 10 miles into those last 25, my water ran out, and my emergency water had acquired the strong taste of burning plastic and was undrinkable without vomiting. My front tire, due to a staple found earlier in the day, was getting increasingly flat. The headwind was getting stronger, trucks kept whizzing by our elbows, and I was very very tired. And all I wanted to do was dump my bike and sit by the side of the road and cry. But there was no time for that. I figured that I would either ride that bike into Shebly or die on the road, and I didn't really feel like dying.
Then a train went by us, and gave a few long toots on the whistle for us. And though it sounds stupid, it is little things like that, knowing that some totally unknown person is cheering you on, that makes you go. And we did. Jason, also feeling a few shades past death, came up and we waged war on the wind. For a little while there, it was just him and me, battling the wind in a little bubble of determination. In the end, things like drinkable water and inflated tires take a backseat to utter determination. They say that the spirit/mind gives out long before the body does, and I think we got a little taste of what that means today.

1 comment:

steve said...

Wow, exciting stuff. Keep it up!