The bike trip is over. It took two months, ten states, five flats, an ocean of sweat, dozens of jars of peanut butter, elevation gains equivalent to an Everest or two, and an ever-evolving infinity of little towns and landscapes, but I’ve pedaled coast-to-coast across the North American continent.
After navigating the Appalachians in Virginia, Mel and I ducked south into North Carolina and rode to Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks. There we ceremoniously dipped our bikes in the Atlantic and spent a few days floating in the ocean, lounging on the beach (taking care not to ruin our striking and oh-so-stylish biker tans), and stuffing our faces with divinely delicious food.
Now I’m back on the mainland, gearing myself up for my final semester at Carolina. The notion of staying in one place for longer than a day or two is alien and rather unsettling. I feel like I’m defying the laws of momentum and inertia by braking to a stop here in Chapel Hill. Mind you, staying stationary has its perks (good food, great friends, showers, air-conditioning), and I must admit I’m excited to trade the bike for the books, at least for now. But I’m sure that a few weeks of being classroom-bound will have me longing once more for the scruffy cycling life.
One thing I’m really going to miss is being the total dictator of my days. When you’re on a bike trip, nobody tells you where to be, what to be, who to be. You are challenged and pushed only as hard as you are willing to challenge and push yourself. Your failures hurt all the more because they are yours alone, but you savor your successes so much more because they, too, belong absolutely to you. Instead of always passing other people’s tests – in school, in work, in life – you design and (hopefully) pass your own test, day after day, and there’s such resonant and enduring satisfaction in that. Sure, making the grade on that chemistry final felt fleetingly good at the time, but climbing the grade up and over the Continental Divide felt amazing then, feels amazing now, and will continue to feel amazing forever.
So until I hit the road again, I’ll be pedaling in my dreams, reliving the agonies and ecstasies of this crazy cross-country cycling adventure. This is Kate the vagabond, over and out.
Check out this movie Mel and I edited from the Cycling X-USA bike trip. Part 2 coming soon.