I want to talk about wind. A cool breeze on a hot afternoon is pure magic. But that same breeze blowing at your face when biking on the side of a U.S. highway while semis pass you by. That wind is hell. Ok, maybe that is an overstatement. But, imagine this. Imagine you are running with all your might while Arnold Schwarzenegger is pushing you back. You move little by little, but every step is a fight. That was how many parts of today felt. And yesterday. And the day before. Today I learned that when the wind is pushing you back and you need a little extra pep, Lady Gaga radio on Pandora—my dad’s suggestion—works wonders.
Now, let’s talk about gravel. Again. Gravel is excellent for, hmmm, what exactly is gravel excellent for? Regardless of how it may excel as a substance in our world, as a road surface underneath a tandem touring bike, it leaves something to be desired. Turns out twenty-first century America still has a whole lot of unpaved roads. In our attempts to evade the U.S. highway mentioned above, we have sought out the county roads. Many of them, however look like this:
Or worse… When we find ourselves on the gravel roads, our only choice is to grin and bear it. Though, I have also caught myself after a few miles of gravel actually praying for pavement. I’m not really a praying person, but somehow when barrelling down a disintegrating road, it seems like the appropriate response.
And then, there was tar. Today, we gave up on county roads and headed back to Route 50. We were at about mile 70 of our 86 mile day and getting a final gush of energy to drive us home (or to Comfort Inn). This American Life proves an excellent distraction, once you have hit your Lady Gaga quota. Then, all of the sudden I felt hot flicks of rock on my legs and looked down to realize that the road beneath us had become hot tar. Looking up, in front of us was a truck spraying dirt on top of the tar. All of the semis, trucks and cars went to the opposite side of the road, despite there being no maintenance people directing traffic, and we followed suit, because, well, tar and dirt and bicycle tires are not the best combination. Needless to say, we survived.
We survived it all. 86.6 miles later we have ridden from Vincennes, Indiana to Salem, Illinois. Our bodies ache.
I kept thinking as we pedalled into the wind about the bigger purpose of this ride. I kept thinking about the impossible issues we and so many of our colleagues are trying to tackle. As I pedalled, I never once really considered giving up even though at times my efforts felt fruitless. Especially when this huge semi passed us, creating a wind tunnel that very nearly knocked us over. I did wonder if we were capable, though. I wondered if we would have the strength to keep pedalling. Amidst this wondering (one has a lot of time in their head while on a long bike trip), The voice of a professor of mine popped into my head. Eve Brensike-Primus is something of a legend at Michigan Law with quite a big fan club. She taught me both Criminal Procedure and Evidence this year. She is incredibly brilliant and a meticiulous teacher. At the end of each semester she does a little soap box speech, meant to recap the class and inspire greatness. She will look out at us quivering, self-doubting, highly perfectionist Michigan students, and say in just the right tone so it lands in exactly the right place, “you don’t realize just how powerful you are; the only thing standing in your way is your own self doubt.”
Through the wind, the gravel, the tar, I felt that today. We think we have limits. We think somethings just can’t be changed. But, the thing is, many limits can be pushed little by little. And change does happen even if it means rushing headlong into Arnold Schwarzenegger. But, it takes a whole lot of hard work, suspension of that nagging voice that says it’s not possible…and root beer floats.