15 miles (24 km) - Total so far: 97 miles (156 km)
My leg of the trip is over.
It's taken me a week to figure out what to do with this journal. It occurred to me that I could delete it, or simply let it fade into the abyss of cyberspace, but I've also noticed that there are very, very few, if any, journals completed after one has 'failed'. Plus, it's a good example to set for others: perfection is NOT required for membership. In the interest of honesty, and hopefully as some sort of a humble service to others who may be contemplating such a trip, I decided that brutal, humble- honesty is the noblest of paths.
So, here's a dose of humility: I never had a prayer!
The first day of the trip was fine, as you may have read. However the next day was a different story on several levels. First: significant 'disconnect'. I began to sense that the trip had morphed into something it wasn't intended to be. Getting lost in the 'how' rather than the 'why'. Over a few months, I had gotten lost on that level to a degree I wasn't even aware of. I wasn't happy with the route, destination, the pace from having another rider, and even the mundane particulars of this particular tour. Something was just wrong! I would have been fine and kept going; adapted and adjusted. However, one we reached Franktown, and turned east on Hwy. 86 there came the hills...
I expected hills. I had lightened my load significantly, and while I knew they'd be difficult, I had SEVERELY overestimated my physical conditioning. The 9 miles between Franktown and Elizabeth felt like it was killing me. Ever since we'd left, I had a consistent pain in my upper back that I had never felt before. Also, an aching left shoulder, numbness in my left hand, headaches, and even an instance of slightly slurred speech. Like a fool, I didn't pay attention to them and simply attributed it to the bike; getting adjusted. I expected it to be hard. More on that in a bit....
We got to Elizabeth, and pulled into a Safeway so Bruno could dry his sleeping bag, and so I could charge my cell phone and video camera Bruno had attached to his handlebar. I went inside, wrote in my journal for a bit, and when we got ready to leave the 'disconnect' was chaffing me to the point where I had to talk it out with Bruno.
We sat there for 3 hours.
The most significant problem, in consideration of this venue, was the fact that this wasn't 'our' trip. It was never intended to be. We had decided independently to do this before we knew each other existed! I decided to try to find someone to come along, and that's how we wound up together. I had said from the beginning that if it wasn't working out for either of us, rather due to pace, personal- preference conflicts, whatever, that we should be willing to shake hands and go our separate ways. It was pretty obvious that my pace was annoying him, and worrying about that was killing mine! There was NO way I could keep his pace. Not even close. Couple that with the physical issues I was feeling and some circumstances at home, the desire needed to take this trip died right there.
I obviously felt guilty. Bruno bussed to Denver to take this leg of the trip with me, and I was quitting after a day and a half! To his credit, he was very understanding and actually supportive. No one was mad, yelling, or arguing. As a matter of fact, a few days later he pointed out that if he hadn't come here, he probably would have ended up back in Montreal, rather than on his way to Mexico. So, in some backwards way, I suppose it was a benefit to him. I obviously found a great partner! We chatted some more than finally decided to find a place to camp for the night, and I made arrangements to have my GF pick me up. Luckily, there's a park/ campground right on the east end of Elizabeth, so we stopped, ate, chatted and I waited for my ride.
The next day, I told my mother what had happened with the pain, headaches, slurred speech, and she scared the shit out of me! Both she and my father have a history of heart disease. She was afraid that the signs I had were either acute 'warning signs', or worse. It had never dawned on me... yes I'm ignorant... that all the pain I felt on that bike was on the left side of my body. She was able, as a former nurse, to point out several things that I hadn't been aware of.
I was on the brink of going to the doctor, but without Bruno's luxury of Socialized Medicine, I've decided to try to handle things myself first. Yes... I'm quitting the cigs. After 20 years, they'll finally be given up, after much struggle I'm sure. I've managed to cut them by about 2/3 with no help, and relatively easily. Fear will do that! I've also joined a gym and have been going everyday with a serious focus on cardio. After 10 minutes Sunday, the guilt of leaving Bruno in Elizabeth left me. I REALLY had NO prayer in hell, or anywhere else, and God knows what might have happened if I had continued on and ignored it. Maybe nothing? Sure. But I'm glad I didn't roll that dice.
Of course there's disappointment. I'd been planning for six- months, and invested alot of time, effort and money. However, one thing that occurred to me has stuck, and taken root. It seems that sometimes the process of achieving something is more important than the thing itself. I enjoyed the summer that was filled with the anticipation and even anxiety. The two weeks Bruno was here were great, and thanks to something I read about 'only preparing for your first trip once', I paid attention to it all and enjoyed it. Goals are great if you want to buy a car, house, climb the vocational ladder. I'm not one for equating my status in life with how many 'goals' I can reach. All too often, goals are imposed anyhow. Check out "Grand Illusion" by Styx sometime...
It reminded me of that old adage: "Life's a journey, not a destination." Cliche' I know, but isn't it truth?
While I was planning the trip this summer: Life happened. While Bruno and I were here pontificating: Life happened.
I wouldn't trade any of it. Now, you know what I get to do? Experience what it's like to quit smoking! Experience going from piss- poor to excellent cardio health, and all that comes with it. Sounds a bit extreme, doesn't it? Like Pollyanna on Meth perhaps, but true. Part of the tapestry of life.
My primary goal with this trip has been achieved too. Vitam Impendere Vero: Know yourself. I've learned too many things to count. There is a difference between knowing and improving. To improve, you have to identify, REALLY identify it, then attack it. So, the next mini-phase of my life has been presented to me: try not to have a heart attack!
So there it is, in all it's naked honesty. I didn't make it to Mexico, or even Oklahoma. It's taken a week to put it together, decompress, and re-evaluate, but I don't consider it a failure. I'm better, and wiser for it. Is there really anything else to ask for?
One final word on Bruno. He's doing just fine, of course. He's almost to Lubbock, Texas now and is finding our Texan comrades very agreeable! I'll post a few of his updates on here, so if you're interested to see how things turn out, feel free to check back.
He's about half my age, but he's one of the rare young people, in my experience, that actually teach you something other than quoting textbooks. I admire his courage, honesty, and wisdom. Wisdom's a hard thing to come by at a young age! Oh, and I'll pray for you!!