Coming Down

Stuck in neutral in a familiar but far-too-comfortable place, I am flipping through some of my personal musings from the road. One entry that appears in alternating paragraphs of different colored ink (not sure why) seems particularly fitting today.

The initial weeks of cyclical fasting were rewarding, gratifying, and refreshing. The intentional deprivation of sensory luxuries from sweets to songs proved trying but increasingly rewarding. Such quasi-meditation was made easier by the general lack of tempting alternatives. There were brief feasts during the famine, dining and driving with an old friend in Tallahassee and enjoying some of 30A’s carefully-cultivated charm. Byly and largely, though, the ride represented a thorough cleansing, a vacation from vacation and work alike. Just as this routine began to wear thin, I put forth a massive effort and arrived in the most-anticipated city <not originally> on the entire proposed route–New Orleans.

Most people envision NOLA indulgence as a blur of neon lights, neon drinks, and giant Po Boys filled with seafood. This could not be further from my experience, though I feel that I have had a glut of the Crescent City’s Lotos-eater charm. Massive breakfasts, excessive streetcar rides, and a feast of delicate, overwhelmingly sweet pastries and brutishly strong coffee have seduced me into nearly abandoning my initial mission. However, even comforts not tempered by trials become tiresome. Eventually, the last great escapade no longer warrants the claim “I’ve earned it”, and the next entirely inappropriate dessert holds a tad less sweetness than it should. It is time to settle down or move on; the Hungry Transient phase hath run its course.

It’s interesting to read this now, from the Ultra-restless Transient phase a couple of weeks removed from the dutiful freedom enjoyed on the road. Though my daily bike riding is now of the ’50 miles in two and a half hours’ variety, I find its predictability and ease entirely un-stimulating…

I recently got caffeinated and swapped stories with a friend who had ridden from Austin to Alaska, and it is amazing to see how some of us really do live in what feels like a different world. If you feel slightly misunderstood before embarking on such a trek, you will feel an alien in your own home afterward. She too left the music and all other thought-guiding stimuli at home, instead choosing to sink dig deeper into her own thoughts. Sitting there as hours flew by, it really seemed that our conversation was in a foreign language that only we could understand. I enjoyed the wildly varied facial expressions of the semi-eavesdropping folk who filled the tables and couches around us–even when they could hear, they could not understand or comprehend.

I still feel a strange, disarmed feeling being in one place so many days in a row, waking up without a sense of wonder or wander. I am well aware that this will be a lifelong affliction, but without much in the way of literal mountains to climb or destinations to reach nearby, I find myself grabbing at the sides of a slick rock face without footholds. The upside is that such intense solitude makes the current boredom seem low-grade and much less daunting.

After spending almost ten percent of a year on the road (which in retrospect feels like the fastest 35ish days I’ve ever lived) and a couple of weeks resting, I long for nothing more than to be out there again, cursing broken spokes and mooing maniacally at roadside cows to break up the monotony of road noise and grassy fields. There is a purity of purpose and a content tranquil solitude that no amount of trials and tribulations can taint.

I know that the soon-to-arrive developed film and photos will only strengthen these feelings. I’ve developed a deep fascination with the Amtrak rail system and the remarkable amount of places it can go, especially with the level of patience I’ve developed for travel time. I’m still called by bicycles and the open road.. I long for a questionably reliable, minimally insulated automobile that can simulate the bicycling experience while allowing for much quicker progress and the ability to give fellow travellers a ride while swapping stories and philosophies.

And yet we find ourselves attempting to suppress the primal and the perfect, building up increasingly complex lives to create contentment and change in the otherwise static. Every time I get tempted by something shiny and new, I remember that those things all inevitably become faded and old. The only things that don’t are memories, film negatives, and stainless steel.

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