Anyways, before we left on this trip, there was nothing concrete to hold on to about it. Two months in the saddle of a bicycle, pedaling more miles each day than I had ever pedaled in one day, witness to a nation and to nature I'd never seen.
Our daily lives are kind of like this: wake up to the Kooks, boil water (or don't), pull on dirty spandex (or wait until after breakfast), pack up again (just like yesterday), dry everything off (it has inevitably rained), do little meaningless things that take another half an hour, head out.
And then we're pretty much on our own for eight or ten hours a day, since we ride pretty far apart. Often, I fill the space with music or podcasts or, more recently, audiobooks since I finally bought some headphones that actually stay on my ears (currently re-listening to Sarah Vowell's Partly Cloud Patriot. Her humor comes from obsession and my aspiration in life is to find people, objects, places, ideas to obsess about).
Or I don't fill it and I just let the sounds be what they are. It feels like my brain's only just begun to be able to cope with stretches unfilled by anything but road sans external stimulation. I talk to myself by having conversations in my head with the people I've met, the only way I can get around the weirdness of internal debate. Anyone else do that? Oh and one of my favorite continuous transitions on this trip that requires me to cut the noise is the birds, watching and hearing them change from one species to another. Their calls become common for a week or longer, then rarer and rarer and new distinct chirps take their place. The first place I remember matching a bird to its call, it was sitting on a power line in the bucolic high desert of northeastern California. They seem more colorful here as we move east, some with bright orange breasts, and the dark red cardinals, which I can only name because Naomi mentioned it.
Other indulgent reflections:
I think this is true for Rachel too but I can only speak for myself - though we spend most of our days on blacktop and indeed seek out the best roads - we've deacclimated to the concrete of the cities, which are loud and hard and grey and busy. Before this trip, the constant busy of the city was a source of comfort and creativity, the bustling helping along my mind too. But for 95% of our trip, we've been bordered by nature (preserves) or farms, and the ground around is soft and the dirt's right there and wet and you can grab a clump of it and you can stop to pee in the grass and eat lunch watching some sheep and there's not so much in-your-face stimulation that's ever present in urbana.
Not that we won't learn to love cities again or don't love cities anymore but they are so overwhelming right now, even the small ones, even the 50-minute-commute Chicago suburbs we passed through the other day.
One of the most finally-put-into-words moments of podcast.. from an episode of Strangers.. told the story of a Alfred Corchado, a journalist who immigrated from Mexico in the 50s or 60s. And when he was in high school, his biggest dream was to be a crew leader at the farm he worked at and buy a car.
And not to imply there is anything small there - Corchado had ambition - but his ability to apply that drive was limited to the world he knew. His family had different dreams for him, so his mother convinced him to go to college by promising the car. He talked to an adviser there for the first time, and Corchado told him he wanted to be a hairdresser. The counselor has him take an aptitude test - whether those are any good isn't the point, the point is the adviser suggested he try to be a foreign correspondent. He became the editor of the student paper, took an internship at a paper in Utah (over NYT), and started working on a story about migrants there.
"That's when I understood how powerful this profession could be... being able to find people who took me back to when I arrived in California and suddenly you're giving them a voice."
I usually don't like commentary on stories, but I love host Lea's conclusion:
"When a kid grows up .. and can't see much a future for themselves, let's not write that off as a failure of imagination on their part."
You know best what you grow up knowing. And while some find a way to face a world of unknowns and find a path that is big and bold and fulfilling, others can't do it on their own because that outside world doesn't really exist for them. Maybe. I don't know, my parents have made sure my world of opportunity has been petty big. I'm lucky.
But my idea of what a futur can hold has grown a lot on this trip. Like you'd expect, we have met so many people on this trip whose normal is substantially different than ours. Whose expectations, habits, childhoods, and futures dreams really do seem otherworldly. We live in the same country, speak the same language, and more often than not, really like each other. But our paths never would have crossed save for the happenstance required by a journey like this one and that's been exhausting and worth remembering - that people dream of different paradises largely dependent on what they already know.
Enough for now I need some coffee.