13 Sep 2010, 8:31pm
leave a comment

moving forward

taking a much-needed rest day in farmington, missouri, after ten consecutive days on my bike. i’m back on the transam after adventures and misadventures on the katy trail–mostly, lots o’ rain. and flash flood warnings. we found indoor shelter for our nights in sedalia and rocheport thanks to the incredible generosity and kindness of strangers. then we spent a night camping in the park in hermann (where we left the trail) and woke up at 1am to thunder and lightning and heavy rain. i dragged my tent into the concrete pavilion we were camped near and sat up on a picnic table waiting to calm down. in the morning we all slept in and waited as long as we could to pack up our wet stuff. sixty miles from there to steelville, which is a story for another time (ideally in person, accompanied by a pint of good beer). no rain that night, but such a heavy dew that our stuff was soaked in the morning anyway.

jason and gregg took off ahead of me pretty early yesterday morning, and i rode by myself into farmington–a pretty nice ride except for eight miles or so on a big divided highway. here in farmington i’m staying at a really nice bike hostel called al’s place. glad, as ever, to be back on the transam.

and on pavement! the katy trail was lovely, but the crushed limestone surface slowed me down more than i expected. sixty or seventy miles took all day dawn to dusk and left me exhausted. i was getting worried about time again until i got back on the roads and suddenly felt lighter, hills and all. i’ll cross the mississippi river (!!!) into illinois tomorrow and the ohio river (by ferry!!) into kentucky by friday. kentucky is only one state away from virginia. virginia virginia virginia.


(dear missouri, this is not a wide road. no love, stacia)

(we just crossed route 66, in cuba, mo, but pretty cool to see it! this town had lots of murals)

it has sort of stopped feeling incredible–that i’m biking across the country, i mean. doesn’t everyone do this? i am always sort of annoyed when i meet (physically able) people who say, “oh, i could never do that!” if you wanted to, you could. you just have to DO it. you can’t just talk about it. but–often what annoys you most about other people are the things that annoy you about yourself, of course. i am (at least a little bit) tired of riding my bike, and i think because of that tiredness, and because i’m now well over the halfway-there hump, i am starting to feel the World of Possibilities that lies ahead after this trip kind of shrink and shrivel up in the face of the Work it will take to make those possibilities into realities. but one step at a time, one day at a time, one muthafuckin’ pedal revolution at a time. oh boy.

last night i met another eastbounder, rod–i’m surprised it took us so long to cross paths!–who grew up in kansas and now lives in sydney, australia with his british wife–they met while traveling when they were young. he has kids who are just a bit younger than me, and we talked (among other things) about the “figuring it out” process that folks my age are going through. he told me he supports whatever his kids are doing as long as they’re moving forward in some way–learning, traveling, working, whatever. i think i’m learning something on this trip about moving forward, hah! you just have to do it.

8 Sep 2010, 11:47am

on the road again, takin’ me places where i’ve never been

hey there from missouri. less than a month now until my self-imposed deadline for arrival in yorktown of october 7th (plus i got a train ticket outta williamsburg on the 9th) and i’m the tiniest little bit worried, i gotta admit. we’re off-route right now, about to spend a couple days on the katy trail (yay!), and my knee is killing me. “we” is myself and the two dudes i met in hutchinson, jason and gregg. we’ve been biking together since toronto, kansas. here’s the highlights:


i spent a whole day in hutchinson taking care of errands, eating a lot of cheese (i <3 dairy), et cetera. oh, and some guy ran half a block to give me a copy of the new testament. the next day, i rode to buhler, 17 miles away, to pick up a care package from my mom full of snacks and goodies. while i waited for the post office to open, i hung out in a little coffeeshop and ate the best cinnamon roll i have had on this trip, fresh out of the oven. probably solely because of that coffeeshop, buhler was the first town in kansas to give me the warm fuzzies (some towns just feel good).

(wild turkeys!)

i tried for a century and made it 84 miles, to cassoday. i could’ve made it the last 16, i think, but the next place to camp was 36 miles away and the daylight was fading. i camped in a park full of spiders and, notably, trees! eastern kansas has more hills, more trees, and more lazy creeks than western kansas. never thought i’d be so happy ride up hills! oh, also vultures. they look pretty beautiful from a distance when they’re flying, pretty creepy up close when they’re picking at roadkill or (yes really) hanging out on headstones in cemetaries.

(this photo would be cooler if i’d taken it while i was actually riding, so the speedometer didn’t say zero)

(a cat i met in cassoday)

the next day i thought i might actually ride a century, to chanute to meet up with jason and gregg, as per the tentative plan we’d made in hutch. i realized by about fifty miles in that i wasn’t gonna make it, and planned to camp in cross timbers state park, just south of toronto. i was about two miles north of toronto when gregg called to say that’s where they were. they’d met some folks who let them camp in their yard, so they decided to hang out there for another night and wait for me to catch up. i guess toronto’s july 4th fireworks display had been cancelled for some reason and rescheduled for that night (september 4th), so after sunset we all biked down to the state park and watched the fireworks, up close and personal. pretty cool.

cassoday to toronto:

next day we rode to chanute, just forty miles or so. stopped in tiny benedict at a little cyclist-friendly shop run by a real character. he was very religious and instead of the days of the week, which pay tribute to gods other than yahweh, his hours sign said “first day,” “second day,” etc. he’s closed on the seventh day, of course. i ate some crackers and peanut butter at the picnic table outside his shop, and he asked me, “you know you could be eating healthier peanut butter? you ever hear of smuckers? it’s just peanuts and salt.” i looked at my jar (some “natural” brand i found in pueblo) and read the ingredients. “peanuts.” i’m way ahead of you, dude. i don’t know what corn syrup is doing in anybody’s peanut butter, either.

we also met this guy on the road:

on monday we left the route and headed to missouri and the katy trail…

missouri’s got lots of interesting roadside signage–

we spent our first night in a park in nevada (that’s pronouced nev-AY-da), which gave none of us the warm fuzzies. in the morning a thunderstorm came through, which we waited out at the library. then, before we got ten miles, gregg got a flat and then jason. then jason got another flat. i got one thirty or forty miles in. dang. we did pass a couple cool stores with friendly people and lots of tasty snacks (honey toasted pecans? dried apples? jelly beans? yum!). and the light was beautiful…

we did not make it to clinton like we’d planned. instead we camped outside of a church near ballard, missouri, home of frogs and monster spiders:


hangin’ out in the library in clinton. soon: the katy trail!

2 Sep 2010, 9:46am
leave a comment


written last night

the story of how i rode for ten hours today with scarcely a break and don’t even have a century to show for it, but had a pretty great day anyway (abridged):

* not too windy!

* get a flat ten miles into a 58-mile stretch of no services on route when i accidentally ride myself off the edge of the road ’cause in kansas obstinacy (i thought the word was obstinance, but spellcheck corrects me) is generally rewarded more than alertness, so i put my head down and pedal…

* all out of unpatched tubes, and i’m really not too sure of the efficacy of my patches. i bet on the most likely candidate among three patched tubes and manage to wrangle it onto the wheel, which i can’t pull all the way away from my bike (or so i think) ’cause it’s hooked up to my generator lights. when i am just about finished, the connectors slip off easy-peasy, just like they’re designed to do to make fixing a flat possible. of course.

* pump up the tire as best i can and set off again.

* a few miles later, the tire’s lost a bit of air. okay, so it’s gonna be a slow leak. i can live with that. pump it up every ten miles or so. not too bad.

* clouds gather ominously overhead. nothing i can do about it. they’re keeping me nice and cool. the wind’s picking up–from the east. but that’s okay. the clouds part and move together again. the scenery is pretty today–through quivira national wildlife refuge. there’s even some trees!

* meet another solo woman on a bike, janeen, who actually greets me by asking, “are you stacia?” no way! we chat about the usual. when i head off again, my tire’s gone flat. pump pump pump pump.

* so little traffic i feel like i’m on a bike path! lovely!

* a bit futher on i’m due to pump up the tire again. when i go to attach my pump, the valve stem pops right out and disappears–not that i would know how to put it back in if i could find it. ok. pull the wheel off–pull out the tube–try another patched one–pump it back up–i’ve got it all the way back on the bike before i realize it’s not holding air at all. pull off the wheel again.

* this is the point at which a guy on a motorcycle passes me, looks back, turns around, and asks me if i’m doing all right. since at this point i’m wondering if i’ll need a ride to hutchinson (my destination for the day, and also the nearest bike shop), i tell him what i’m doing, and that i’ve got one more tube left to try. he introduces himself as tim, the pastor of a nearby church, and offers to stick around while i see if i can make it work or not.

* he asks, “are you getting a little frustrated?” and i surprise myself with the truth of my answer: “no, i’m all right. really i’m just glad to be outside!” yes. yes yes yes yes.

* meanwhile tim calls a cyclist friend of his, don, who digs up a tube of the appropriate size that he just happens to have lying around and offers to bring it out to us by the side of the road. by the time he gets there, i’ve got the last tube on and it seems to be holding air all right, but he gives me the tube anyway, just in case.

* i am on my way again.

* in nickerson, a woman at the convenience store where i stop to fill up my water bottles asks me where i’m headed and gives me directions into town that’ll take me right to the bike shop. for the last nine miles or so from nickerson to hutchinson, i’m headed straight into the wind. but it’s okay–the bike shop doesn’t close until 6 and the wind keeps me cool. a headwind teaches strength and patience maybe even better than a mountain pass does–and, though maybe i am reaching a bit here, mindfulness as well, i think. you can’t anticipate from one moment to the next how hard the gusts will be or where exactly they’ll be coming from. it really keeps you very present. plus, you can’t brag about it the same way you can about the mountain passes.

* get to the bike shop and buy two more spare tubes, just in case. realize i’ve got another one coming in a package from my mom that i’m picking up tomorrow, which will make four–i’m sure i’ll never get another flat now!

* head to the bike hostel at a nearby church. finally meet up with the two guys ahead of me i’ve been hearing about for a little while, jason and greg. they like to ride at night (it’s cooler) so they head off again pretty quickly, but we might meet up in a bit and ride the katy trail together. also meet a family from missouri riding to arizona–they give me great, clear directions for getting on and off the katy trail, and reiterate that it’s lots more pleasant than the ozarks. since there’s also a note on the bulletin board here from a westbound rider describing in grim detail the traffic situation on some of those roads, i think i will ride the katy trail after all.

feelin’ good. it’s way past my bedtime. gonna sleep in tomorrow, maybe find a coffeeshop.

and then

this morning i woke up alone in a church basement, missing my home and my friends and loved ones more than ever. anicca.

(probably the last i’ll post for awhile! hoping to track down an sd card reader to use in libraries, but i’m sending home my netbook today. the angle required for the screen to work is officially too sharp for the screen to be, you know, SEEN. i’m pretty annoyed. cute and cheap they may be, but i don’t recommend an asus eee pc.)

(the loudspeakers at the major intersections on this street played a country music satellite radio station. yup.)

heading east:

(no kiddin’)

(we saw this sign once or twice in some other state, too. it actually means “there’s a picnic area comin’ up in the middle of nowhere,” but i always read it as “look out, a tree may fall on your picnic table!”)

scott city:

next morning:

(this exists. in dighton, i think)

cutest graffiti ever (anywhere else in the country this would be covered in vulgarities, right? here it’s birthday wishes and celebrating high schoolers):


another sunrise:

(the full message, written i think in old stone fenceposts, is “christ pilots me”)

(because trees were not exactly in abundance, settlers carved fenceposts out of stone. there are lots of them around still, though there are also wood and metal ones now)


(there’s a lot of this, too. i thought this one was noteworthy ’cause the other message in it is “and you better get married, too!”)

(janeen and precious, her bicycle)

(i usually spare you photos of roadkill that’s this far gone, but i thought this was really interesting)

books i’ve read recently

* bury my heart at wounded knee by dee brown–
heartbreaking. important. american imperialism is, of course, nothing new… and manifest destiny continues to poison the way we interact with other nations and peoples. we are doing it right, we are a democratizing/christianizing/civilizing force, and the resources of the world are ours to dispose of as we see fit. what has changed? it’s not quite “might makes right,” that would be too obviously imperialistic–more like this weird belief that america has might because america is right. i don’t know. in all these museums and so on, it’s easy enough for me to put myself in the shoes of white settlers who were just trying to make a life and who were terrified of indian attacks and so on. in the same way, we can be sad and outraged about 9/11–but to pretend that indian attacks or 9/11 were completely without cause or explanation is misguided and inexcusably ignorant. the root cause, i think, is the same.

* courage: the joy of living dangerously by osho–
i picked this up at a bookstore in boulder for obvious reasons, as i was preparing to set out alone. this book is wild, wandering, and a little wacky. osho talks himself in circles sometimes, and i don’t agree with all (or even most) of the conclusions he winds up at. which he would probably approve of: “anything that is not based on your experience, accept it only hypothetically.” he also has a funny habit that sort of warms me up to him as a person of using funny little jokes to not-very-effectively illustrate his points–i mean, i get the feeling that he just wants to share the jokes.

i was surprised to read in this book a mention of “the dark night of the soul” just a few days after my own such night in denver. osho says:

“for many years you believed yourself to be somebody, and then suddenly in a moment of loneliness you start feeling you are not that. it creates fear: then who are you? … it will take some time for the real to express itself. the gap between the two has been called by the mystics ‘the dark night of the soul.’–a very appropriate expression. you are no more the false, and yet you are not yet the real. you are in limbo, you don’t know who you are.”

ahh… the liminal space! one place where i think osho and i disagree is that he thinks everything you TRY to be is a mask over who you ARE, which you need to accept fully. i think you BECOME as you DO, i guess. and then osho says: BE an adventurer, CHOOSE the path less traveled by, etc–and i don’t really understand how he can say both. he seems to vacillate between believing in free will or not as it serves his point.

as for ‘where is freedom?’ (always my question)– “insecurity is an intrinsic part of life–and good that it is, because it makes life a freedom, it makes life a continuous surprise. one never knows what is going to happen. it keeps you continuously in wonder. don’t call it uncertainty–call it wonder. don’t call it insecurity–call it freedom.”

mostly, i feel about osho the way he feels about freud–”in fact he is a little bit cuckoo, but sometimes cuckoos also sing beautiful songs.”

some other beautiful songs:

“god simply means the whole universe. it is not a question of having to face a person; you have to face the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the stars–the whole universe. and this is our universe, we are a part of it.”

“nobody is against you! even if you feel somebody is against you, he too is not against you–because everybody is concerned with himself, not with you. there is nothing to fear. this has to be realized before a real relationship can happen.”

“the english word ecstasy is very, very significant. it means to stand out. ecstasy means to get out–out of all shells and all protections and all egos and all comforts, all deathlike walls. to be ecstatic means to get out, to be free, to be moving, to be a process, to be vulnerable so that winds can come and pass through you.
     ”we have an expression, sometimes we say, “that experience was outstanding.” that exactly is the meaning of ecstasy: outstanding.
     ”when a seed breaks and the light hidden within starts manifesting, when a child is born and leaves the womb behind, all the comforts and all the conveniences behind, moves into the unknown world–it is ecstasy. when a bird breaks the egg and flies into the sky, it is ecstasy.”

“it is very easy to think about love. it is very difficult to love. it is very easy to love the whole world. the real difficulty is to love a single person. it is very easy to love god or humanity. the real problem arises when you come across a real person and you encounter him.”

“be responsible–and when i use the word responsible, please remember not to misinterpret it. i am not talking about duties, responsibilities, i am simply using the word in the literal sense: respond to reality, be responsible.”

* the omnivore’s dilemma: a natural history of four meals by michael pollan–
i would really like to list all the things i learned from this book, which i really, really(, really, really) enjoyed. maybe i will, when i have more time. mostly, though: it is a mistake to believe that all we know about a system or process is all there is to know!