I have just felt so angry since John’s accident. Many of you know, my ‘ginger’ shows up quite regularly as I move through life with my gut leading the way and the slow simmer just below the surface. But this level of anger is new even for me. It has no consistent target, no warning, and seemingly no end. It’s just right there, always with me.
Part of it, I know, is because the plans we had to bikepack frequently this summer were ruined for something so unnecessary and so so painful – something that has impacted our lives deeply as we wade through recovery and restoration. I’m not gonna lie – it’s been brutal. And I knew right away that I would have to bikepack alone this summer in
order to keep up my training, dial in my kit and prioritize my gear. Being an introvert, I have never shied away from being alone. That was not the challenge. The test was if I could ride for three days and camp alone without my best friend, protector, cheerleader and fixer-of-all-things. John wanted me to do it – to prove to myself that there was nothing to fear. I knew deep down in my heart that it was inevitable and something I also really wanted to do. But I also knew I needed to be safe on my first solo so my route incorporated familiar places and some bail out spots if needed. I’m not stupid.
I started prepping about a week in advance, asking John all kinds of questions, practicing changing a flat (well, at least taking the wheel off and on and watching some YouTube videos), collecting my gear and packing and repacking my soft bags. I wanted to test my mettle, so I was not what bikepackers call a “weight weenie” who try to cut weight on everything. I carried our two-man tent and insisted that the weight of my hammock and straps would be worth the effort (it was). I only brought cold food so I wouldn’t have to carry fuel or pots and that was a good choice for this trip. Things I was glad I brought: bear spray, cards, TP, sunscreen and my hammock. Things I brought but was happy not to have used: rain jacket, bike tools, and powerbars.
The trip was pure freedom for me and I thought a lot about my anger and where it was coming from and where I could put it. I decided to follow the advice of Mumford and Sons and “learn to love the skies I’m under.” And they truly are beautiful skies.
I was proud of myself for doing new things – biking with such a load and sleeping outside by myself. I rode a total of about 93 miles and was in the saddle for just over 10 hours. I have a long way to go for this Uganda trip, but I got a good start. I truly enjoyed every minute of it….well, until the last hour. I ‘bonked’ big time about 9 miles from home. I tried walking my bike to see if my legs would come back. I tried laying in the shade to get my heart rate down. Nothing was working and things just didn’t feel right so I called John. He offered to come and get me. I said yes. Then I said no. And then I cried. I didn’t know what to do.
He then suggested that he come and get my bags so I could ride the last miles without gear. Good idea – yes, let’s do that. We loaded my bags in the car and I stood up to get back on the bike and almost fainted again. Nope, I was done. I was very frustrated with myself as I forgot to eat anything salty that day (which was really hot) and I got really dehydrated and had heat exhaustion to the point of feeling nauseous and fainty. I was kinda wobbly on the bike and didn’t feel safe anymore. Oops.
So, my first solo ride was a learning journey. I learned that I can do more than I think I can, that bears do run away if you just talk to them and tell them to leave, that two-day old camp burritos are delicious, that mosquitoes can’t eat you if you just keep riding, and that my anger can be defeated with gratitude that I have someone I can rely on so I don’t have to “go solo.”