Saturday, 20 December 2008
(All my photos will soon be available on a photo-sharing site.)
God I’m fed up. The weather has been diabolical since I returned; first it was freezing and now it’s wet. How I miss those big, blue skies. I’ve lost my momentum and haven’t found my pedestrian legs. Talking of not cycling – I finally took my dismantled Trek of the box on Thursday, which had begun to remind me of the black obelisk in 2001, only to discover the front wheel was missing. There was this note from those lovely Homeland Security people saying they had inspected the box’s contents (for bombs and drugs presumably – which is why they had also sawn through a tubular strut of the pannier rack). How did they manage to leave a bicycle wheel behind though? So, two days later, my poor old bike tries to maintain a sense of dignity, resting on the forks like an amputee, on my bedroom floorboards. Not exactly the way to treat a returning hero, who carried his master ungrudgingly, for 4,760.7 miles across a continent. To think I’d calculated the trip to be almost exactly 1,000 miles less. In the process I lost a whole 5 lbs, which I’ve probably put back on during these three stagnant weeks. I gaze around my flat forlornly at all the rubbish I’ve accumulated over the years, longing to jettison the vast majority, sell up, pack a few useful possessions into plastic bags and straddle my faithful companion once more, to take on another continent…
Three weeks must be about the longest period in the last decade I haven’t ridden a bike. I’ve had to suffer icy pavements and pedestrians (not as dangerous as drivers, but often as disrespectful). Roads; gorgeous, smooth tracts of warm tar; how I miss them. I loved everything about my trip (people, landscapes, towns, food…) but it’s really the great American roads that I am most thankful for. I like to think about the men who toiled to produce them, under-paid immigrants a lot of them I should imagine. I like to think about the fact that you can arrive at any point in the US and as soon as you step onto tarmac you are linked to a virtually infinite network of destinations from sub-Arctic Canada to Tierra del Fuego. I like to think about the millions of people who travel on these roads and have a symbiotic relationship with them. In places like Wyoming the road is an artery pumping life into towns that only exist because of them. It’s heart-warming to feel a part of that throbbing, vital wellspring.
I’m not so keen on the number of vehicles that travel on the roads however. Or the number of journeys (especially short ones) that are made. Or the size of a lot of people’s cars. I’m not so keen on the level of consumerism either, which compared to the UK seems rampant. But this is a time of celebration and contemplation, so I won’t rant on about that.
I’ll post again on Christmas Eve. No, really, I will.