I made it. Through week one. Through 13.2 miles of wet gravel, two straight days of unending damp and mist, finding myself the lone tent at a campsite in Palisade, and changing my first flat tire, I biked 50-70 to my destination each night to set up my little home, cook dinner on my dragonfly stove, and read at least a dozen pages of Middlesex before falling asleep to crickets.
Surprisingly enough, in my many encounters with friendly and curious strangers along the way, the word they use to describe me and my trip isn’t ‘crazy’ or ‘adventurous’. It’s brave. Whether it was the Skinners with their little camper in Cass Lake, or Sandy and her family in Crow Wing, or Jane and Joe who invited me to their community pig roast, after a myriad of questions about how long my trip is going to take (just under seven weeks), how much all my bags weigh (I have no idea), and what I’m eating (lots of trail mix, dried bananas for the potassium, and a delicious quinoa/dried fruit concoction for breakfast every morning), all my new friends inevitably elucidate my bravery.
I have never particularly thought of myself as a brave person, even aside from this trip. Open to new experiences, yes. Outgoing, yes. Curious, yes. But bravery is something new, and after hours of contemplation – for what else is there to do during the miles of flat county highways but muse over life – I’m not sure that bravery is a mantle I am ready to take on just yet. Perhaps in future weeks, when my tires have rolled through several states and I can set up my tent in minutes flat. But not yet, not now. There is time.
What I will acknowledge is pride. I am enormously proud that I haven’t quit, of course, but also of my tenacity, my ability to listen to my body, to take care of myself, to begin to trust my intuition more thoroughly. I’m proud of that tire change, despite the fact that I got another slow leak the next day. I’m proud that I can charge my various devices with my generator hub on my front wheel. And I’m proud that I’ve somehow found the grace to accept each day for what it is, be it hills, or rain, or a mostly closed campground or miles and miles of sunny shoulder, pulling me onward to the Gulf.