I pack my bedroll before dawn, blowing on my hands until they can be warmed by a pot of oatmeal. It’s always oatmeal. If I have enough water I make a Thermos of tea. If I don’t I count miles to the next town.
My clothes are never really clean. There’s only so much you can do in a gas station sink. If I’m lucky I shower once a week. I cycle in the wind, the rain, the glaring heat, sometimes for eight or nine hours a day. If my stomach is full, it’s only full enough to keep going.
It sounds like a lonely, plodding existence, but it’s not.
There is something special, almost spiritual, about being alone for miles, with only the rhythm of my heart to keep time. There are no voices but the wind, no direction but home. I breathe and I think, I think and I breathe, until my thoughts disappear with the road beneath them.
Evening arrives like a lover. Slowly she bathes me in light I never knew existed. Pink and orange and lavender spread before the horizon as my shadow grows long. I ride sated, mesmerized, while the Prairies cool to crickets and gold.
That’s my magic hour.
It restores me, makes me new. Distances that earlier seemed impossible are now within reach. I straighten my back and pedal, trying to push deeper into the world before me.
Only the night can keep us apart. It falls, as it always does, and I have to stop. To go farther would be to misuse something precious – a jewel in a blind man’s hand. I make camp and stir my rice. Antelope walk past, calmly huffing my scent. Owls dive through the darkness. Coyotes howl from unseen heights.
By morning they will all be gone. I will wake alone to a cold Wyoming morning, happy as hell for another pot of oatmeal.