Encore

Nearly 2,000 km have passed beneath my feet since my last update and all I left behind was wonder.

Bicycle tour in the mountains near Chera in southern Spain.

In the mountains near Chera, Spain

The roads of southern Spain were a marvel, baked and shimmering under the sun, delivering me to some of the most unbelievable terrain I’ve ever seen in my life. Between blue-green lakes and distant castles I cycled the narrowest of mountain passes, in awe of the world below as much as the sky above.

How it will resonate, I can’t say, but I know the experience defined something within me, something apart from my travels. I’m only sorry that words are all I have to help me share it.

Winding my way up coastal points and down to rocky coves, I crossed the French border in the first days of April. My final descent thrust me through an alpine tunnel, and at the other end were the grind and gravel of the flat lands I know so well.

Mike on Bike crossing the Pyrenees Mountains at the border between France and Spain.

The French border in the Pyrenees

I got lost in my thoughts for days. Peripignan, Narbonne, Montpellier – they all clicked by and I hardly noticed. It wasn’t until I collided with the limestone heights near Marseille that I realized I was pedaling and stopped wondering why.

People often ask why I left home to do this, and still, after 10 months on the road, the only answer I have is that something was missing. Pouring money or alcohol or people through the cracks only made them wider, more obvious. Yet now, with nothing, I am beginning to feel whole and sometimes all I want to do is rush home to prove it. But in my heart I know it’s too soon, and what scares me is the idea that it always will be.

Turkish diner in central Marseille, France.

A downtown Turkish diner

Enough about that, more about Marseille.

The place is filthy, greasy as the paper in a pizza box, and when I hold it up to the neon lights as I walk the streets, I see all the rich and repulsive flavors that make a city spin.

I passed one-legged skippers and hopeless beggars, gypsies and gentry and lipstick in the shadows, a soiled drunk who undid his belt a moment too late, ice-cream chins and the dreamy song of a carousel, lemon rum ladled from peanut butter jars, fountain cherubs, slick harbors, and, oblivious to it all, there was a puppy chasing a plastic bag through the trash.

It’s been an experience like no other and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it.

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4 responses to “Encore

  1. Mike, I hang on your every word! and miss you dearly.

    you and I are having very different experiences right now, but somehow not. I think I know what you mean by “Yet now, with nothing, I am beginning to feel whole and sometimes all I want to do is rush home to prove it. But in my heart I know it’s too soon, and what scares me is the idea that it always will be.”

    I’m beginning to realize in a profound way that we are never whole. we’re never done learning. there is always something we wish we’d known at the time…. I don’t know how long is long enough for the kind of thing you’re talking about, and the kind of thing I’m going through that I think is similar, but I’ve decided to enjoy what’s going on now. I’ve also decided to stop worrying about whether or not anything is too soon. it’s always too soon! and it’s always too late. and it’s never enough, and it’s always too much. so, I’m just gonna keep my eyes open and be mindful and enjoy this ride while it lasts.

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