Day 100 11/19/15
Blink, blink. Squinting through puffy eyes, I see the side of the tent. Ahh! I SEE the side of the tent!! My heart races. I sit straight up. Last night I didn’t set an alarm, and awoke in a panic as it was starting to get light out. Then I remembered, it’s alright. We planned this. Today we only have 30 miles to go, and we needed a late start anyway due to rain. I look over and see Biscuit taking up half Mark’s pad, and Junebug is snuggling my side. Mark looks over and does his half smile thing, takes his pillow and hands it to me. I scoot in closer using his pillow to lay next to him and Biscuit. I hear his breathing slow and deepen, my eyes start to flutter closed, I notice a giant leaf on the top of the tent, and it makes me smile as I drift to sleep again. We have seen a season change on this trip.
Wait, what was that?! I’m jolted awake. No, calm down girl it was probably your hair falling onto your arm. Go back to sleep. Ahh! No it wasn’t my hair! I sit straight up and fling whatever unknown object off my arm. Frantically look around, there it is! A spider! Grabbing the closest object to me, I smash him… With Mark’s pillow. Mark: “Hey! Don’t use my pillah.” (Yeah, pillah, in his southern accent, which made me laugh hysterically) Me: “well what should I have used?!” “How about any other thing in here but my pillah….wait! he’s not dead!!! Squish him again” so I get him again … yup, with the pillah! “No!! Why??” “Shut up! I just saved your life”. Laughter is Junebug’s favorite thing, so she runs up to our face and starts giving us kisses. What a great way to start the morning.
We decided since we had a shorter day today, we could have breakfast at camp. Yay!! A real meal!!! We look around at our rain soaked camp and decide to make a break for it. So over to the screened in front porch of the empty cabin rental next to our campsite we go…Stealthily… You know as stealthy as we can get with two people in high-vis carrying two big, white, reflective bags, two dogs, a blanket, and an armful of water bottles. I make oatmeal for me and granola for him. Biscuit and Junebug are at our feet. As I’m sitting in a rocking chair looking out to the river, sipping a hot cup of instant coffee, I’m smiling. It’s rare for us to enjoy a breakfast together. One of the things I enjoy about this trip is the different facets it brings. We enjoy things more deeply because we have gone without. We enjoy these crisp mornings because we have endured brutal heat. We enjoy a hot breakfast because with our 2:30 wake-ups, there is usually only time for a protein bar. We cannot know light without dark. We have become even more grateful for even simple things.
We wash dishes in the spigot outside, and repack the bags. Just as we are headed out the door, the ranger pulls up to kick us out. Guess we weren’t that stealthy. We can’t be in the porch with dogs. There are so many aspects of this trip that are complicated because we have them with, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We carry 30lbs of dog food, a 150lb cart, and we can’t see many of the sights along the way, eat out, or stay in an actual bed. But I look down at those two waggy tails and see so much joy. They are family, and we simply wouldn’t be on this adventure without them too. We wave to the ranger, drop things at the tent (to avoid any additional squirrel incidents), and head off on our walk. A couple miles will do us all good- we have had some long days, with intense hills that have fatigued our muscles. Our legs are tight, our bodies stiff. This walk loosens us up and prepares us for the day ahead. The dogs are enjoying the cooler weather, tails up, noses down. Exploring. Adventuring in their own way. The trees are canopying over, and the leaves are falling gently and slowly like red, yellow, and brown snowflakes. Stillness. Silence. Walking side by side. We check the radar, as we do several times each day. Oh no! Rain is coming. “C’mon puppies, time to head back to camp”. We walk briskly, intently. Mark and I both know our gear in every detail, where everything goes, and how to efficiently get it where it needs to be. So we start moving in a rhythm. Putting away two pads, two sleeping bags, “pillahs”, dog blanket, dog pads, panniers stuffed and back on the bikes, bikes unlocked, seats uncovered, tent tore down. It’s starting to rain so we stuff the last of the items into the trailer and walk the bikes up to the covered picnic pavilion. We take turns changing into bike gear, and putting the last of the items away. Check radar one more time, and head out. The campground is 3 miles into the park and the park is 2 miles off course. Uphill! It takes us nearly an hour to get on course again, the rain is coming down. I look down at the water running off my handlebar bag, my glasses are fogged with humidity and raindrops make it hard to see, and I smile, thinking of how perfectly suited our gear is for all weather conditions. We anticipated the circumstances and put a plan in place in advance, which is how we remove the power of “excuse”. When we want something bad enough, nothing can stop us, not even rain. We stop under the overhang at a gas station and as Mark is buttoning up the waterproof panels of the puppy wagon, we are greeted by a man with one leg. Jeff explains he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident and of it he says “but if we live our life in fear of what could happen, we aren’t really living”. I reflected on that for the next 25 miles. To really live is to be free. Free from fear. Free from attachments. Free to be. To do. To live. We are free. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, and if I am not granted one more day, I know I fully lived, because if even for a moment, I was free.