This post, written one year after day 43, is drawn from the daily journal I kept, and is written as if it just happened.
July 1-July 4
Osceola, WI >>> Montevideo, MN
The Gateway State Trail into St. Paul/Minneapolis is amazing! I love this city. It has the best bike infrastructure ever! There are so many bike paths and trails it’s actually a little hard to follow the map, but it wasn’t really an issue as a wrong turn just led us to a street with a bike lane.
Midge and Gordon, two of Carl’s friends, put everyone up for two nights. We had lots of wine and were entertained with stories of travels to Georgia (the country) one of Gordon’s favorite places to visit. After a lovely evening I headed to a hotel. I bought Joel a plane ticket to the Twin Cities for his birthday, and I didn’t want to impose extra bodies on Midge and Gordon – though something tells me they would not have minded.
I’m so excited to see him!!!!! I didn’t think a mid-ride visit would be possible, but everything lined up – we’re in a big city with a major airport around the 4th of July, the one week he happens to have off work. We were upgraded to a suite! That bed had an armada of pillows, so I parked myself there for pretty much the next 18 hours. Joel, who has been sick for three weeks, was also happy to just chill. He’s gone to the doctor a bunch, but no one can figure out what’s going on. He has an appointment for an endoscopy, but it’s not for three more weeks. I’m trying not to worry too much. Craig suggested that he misses me so much it’s making him sick.
At the end of our rest day – one of my first actual restful rest days – we joined the others for a night of Contra dancing. Carl knows Midge and Gordon through the folk dancing community. The rest of us hadn’t a clue what to expect, but it was so much fun. I think we really needed a high energy, fun, group activity – dance off the stress and just laugh until our sides hurt. The evening was capped with Izzy’s ice cream (top notch). As Joel and I left for the hotel, I told everyone I’d be at Midge and Gordon’s by 7:30AM for our usual departure time. I have no idea how this actually happens, but without alarms and everyone moving at their own pace in the morning, we are all ready to roll at 7:30 on the nose every single day – it must be magic.
The next morning I was at the house at 7:15 and walked into a tense room. Palpably tense. The high spirits of the night before were definitely gone. We left, as usual, at 7:30. Carl and Craig took off ahead. Navigating out of the city for the first 20 miles included lots of bike paths with lots of forks and little signage, so GPS directions were key. Three people in the group had GPS: Carl, Craig, and Rachel. Thank goodness for Rachel. The rest of us just looked at her like, “you can get us out of here, right?” Of course she could.
Rachel filled me in on what happened in my absence. Apparently someone or ones were not happy I didn’t confer about the 7:30 meet up time, and wanted to know what they would do if I was late? How long should they wait? Half hour? Hour? Um…maybe just call or text me. Stupid. Again, drama continued to be created out of really insignificant stuff, and I was at my limit. Rachel, and most of the others, were also fed up with non-issues being made into huge things, but I couldn’t even vent with her without feeling like I was going to burst into tears. When I get really, really tired, the slightest thing will make me tear up and water will just starts pouring out of my eyes. I can be in a great mood, talking and smiling with tears running down my face. This has only occurred a handful of times in my life, but it’s usually received with confusion and strange looks by bystanders, so I was trying my best to avoid it. Every time I opened my mouth, my eyes would start watering, so I just pursed my lips and kept riding. I’ve been good about letting things roll off my back as they happen, but the stress and fatigue must have been collecting somewhere – even if I wasn’t conscious of it. Later in the day, I finally got some one on one time with Carl, explained my frustrations regarding the preceding six days, and told him I was at my limit. I needed a break.
At the end of the ride, I was staying in a hotel with Joel again – we don’t really both fit in my tent. Carl asked what I wanted to do, making it clear I should be specific. I still couldn’t speak without tearing up, and, other than the night off, I didn’t really know what I wanted yet, so I just said, “pretend like I’m not here, I’ll catch up tomorrow”.
I found Joel in the hotel not feeling well. He was supposed to drive west with us one more day, but changed his plans. He was lightheaded (from not eating enough for three weeks due to the nausea) and didn’t want a 2.5 hour drive back to the airport. If he left from Hutchinson, where we currently were, it would only be an hour drive. I was extremely disappointed, but completely understood. I sent Carl a text explaining the situation and gave more specifics as to what I wanted. I wanted to get up with Joel and make sure he had eaten properly so he wouldn’t pass out driving back to the city – meaning I would not be ready by 7:30. I also didn’t want to ride on highway 7 alone the following morning – a blog I’d read mentioned it was a rough road with bad traffic, so I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t looking for everyone to wait, but if at least one person hung back I would be very appreciative. I also still wanted my night off – I didn’t want to be part of the route/timetable review process for the following day – I just wanted to be told where to be and when. A little while later Carl said we’d meet at 10 at their campground and that was my last communication until the next day. It was exactly what I needed.
This morning it was like a reset button had been pushed. I’m still worried about Joel, but the space and freedom from the group let me relax. The agitated party was still agitated (now with both me and Carl as he was my buffer last night). I tried to understand the reason, but again, there was no logical reason – at least not one that could be articulated. The conversation went in circles and off on tangents. So I just ended it with, “cut me some slack, my fiance was in town, he’s been sick for 3 weeks and I wanted to make sure he got safely back on the road home”. I wanted to add a reminder that I poured my heat and soul into this tour, planned it for years, and just handed it to you on a silver platter – you can figure out one day on your own and give me one morning, but I didn’t think it would help. To my surprise, the discussion did not at all affect my mood – I know I thought I was letting things roll off before, but this morning felt different. I felt lighter – like everything was actually rolling off. The day was beautiful, and I was on a bike ride. Plus highway 7 was in great shape! It must have been recently repaved.
Carl rode ahead a lot today. His shoulder hurts most when his arm is just hanging – rather than supported by the handlebars, so he’s keeping breaks short.
This evening we’re camped in Montevideo, MN. Abby and I plotted out some mileage options, so she could give her uncle and parents an idea of when we’d be in the Badlands. They are planning to meet us there – Abby’s uncle is going to ride with us for a week! I assured her we were all happy to visit with her family and not to heed anyone who says otherwise. Abby and I are very similar in many ways, and the tension and drama of the last week seems to be affecting her too. I’m hoping her family is as much of a boost for her as Joel was for me.
Currently I can’t sleep as a massive storm is passing near by. There’s no rain here, but the sky is bright with lightning, and some strong winds already blew my tent over with me inside it. Rachel scurried over to help me re-stake it, then promptly moved her tent into a nearby shed/small barn.
Hindsight notes: No one ever figured out what was wrong with Joel – he had a bunch of tests. No answers. He was sick all summer and eventually felt better without any sort of treatment about a month after I got home. Maybe Craig was onto something 🙂