October 17. Five months on the road today, and we crossed into the Central time zone in Tennessee. That made it sink in that we are headed west again. Headed home. Seven months to go. I don’t like to think about it. Mileage is nearing 6,000.
This has pretty much become a lifestyle now. It is normal to not know where we will sleep any given night, or even which direction we will turn the next day. Home is Zippy and our tent, the occasional motel room, stranger’s (new friends) homes and the road, the woods, soon again the prairies and deserts. Home is where Claire is and I am, together. If we have learned anything of importance of this trip, it is this; home is us, anywhere.
Claire figured out the other day that we have spent 52 days off the bike (days of less than 20 miles) visiting friends and relatives and holed up for hurricanes and snow. I like the pace. When we go we go moderately hard, but we stop often and listen and smell and live in the moment.
We tease cows, and deer, cats that hunt the roadside ditches. We laugh at funny sounding birds and wave at cute babies and take the time to listen to an old man’s story.
People stare at us and smile at us, are pleased and entertained in their daily comings and goings by a couple on a bicycle-built-for-two. Sometimes they ask us where the motor is, or pointing to our water bottles, “are those your fuel tanks?”
We do not laugh. We know we are unusual, but… Claire wrote in her journal, “They think we are the parade, but they are.”
We get a great deal of satisfaction out of bringing surprise into lives, and seeing it on their faces, enjoying the double-takes and dropped jaws knowing we cause some few to stop and take stock and reconsider priorities.
We are also sometimes cold and wet and hot and sticky, and scared silly by inconsiderate drivers. Part of the deal.
And yes, sometimes we disagree, but never for very long. We have a pact. Never to sleep unresolved. More often it is fixed in an hour, sometimes fifteen-minutes. Hugs and snuggles are essential to peace. We can disagree and still hold each other. It doesn’t take long for perspective to return, for us to remember what is important.
Tonight we are camped at Rock Island State Park. The shower was hot! Two nights in a row, hot showers! Joy. Our lifestyle engenders appreciation of small things.
The jar flies are filling the trees with their complex music, trilling a canopy of sound over the night. I am reminded of the composer John Cage’s music, music some find monotonous, but that I enjoy.
We cuddle in our tent, rain-fly off, enjoying the moist coolness of the night air, looking at the stars through the trees. Zippy rests against a tree. Safe. Waiting.
The last few nights have been cold, but tonight is warmer. A few mosquitoes appeared as we ate our dinner of summer sausage, raw yam, crackers, tortilla chips, and for dessert, apples dipped in a caramel sauce.
We must have found our hill legs somewhere in the Smokies, because we averaged 14 mph today for 69 moderately hilly miles, and that included quite a bit of slow going in towns.
Tennessee has surprised me in how populated, and how busy it is. It is as beautiful as I expected, more so. My image of the state was of a more southern West Virginia. Hillbillies and mountain crafts and good home cooking. There is some of that, but not much.
This place is hopping with industry, mostly hi-tech, but so far the drivers have not shown the kind of stress toward us that we have found in other populated areas of the East. They seldom react when slowed by us.
We do notice a disturbing amount of trash along the highways and a lot of clear glass from hard-liquor bottles. We have seen two people, at different convenience stores, who were drunk in the middle of the day. A place of contrasts.