Well, I woke up from a night of sleep. Not good sleep, just sleep. My camp neighbors were pretty loud and it was all I could not to go over there and piss on their fire. Instead, I yelled, "SHUT TF UP" from the comfort of my hammock. It worked, but then the thoughts in my head wouldn't shut TF up.
I was tired, no doubt. Sleepy? Not so much. I drifted in and out of consciousness throughout the night because I was full of anxiety. Why? Because I had just ridden a bicycle far, far away and had no idea if I could make it back home. At least I was comfortable. The new, compact sleeping bag? Perfect. I felt like I had the hammock camping thing worked out to my liking.
I didn't set the alarm on my phone, instead relying on the rays of the sun to wake my up. As daylight slowly creeped up on my campsite, I was out of the hammock and packing up. I ate a little food and drank some coffee stuff I'd bought at that "restaurant" the day before to get me going. And if that wasn't enough, I had my son there to cheer me on.
Well, Lunchbox isn't one for the cheering. He supports me though.
Anyway, with everything packed up just like I had it on the way out there, I hit the gravel road in the early morning hours while it was still cool. I really enjoyed the solitude, even though my legs were a protesting. Oh look, more climbing!
The sun was starting to warm everything up and my legs were slowly coming to life. I knew I had a long ride ahead and the goal was just to pace myself and take it easy. I did that by enjoying my surroundings.
Once I left the campsite, my route home was quite a bit different. Basically I think I was trying to ride every gravel road between there and Charlotte. Gravel grinding is for roadies, but this was bikepacking so it's okay.
Besides, dirt roadies don't want to mess up their Strava times by stopping for pictures and shit.
I felt pretty okay. My legs were a little tired, but the main issue was that my ass was pretty sore from siting on the saddle for so long the day before. I just kind of ignored the pain and made sure to enjoy myself while I was out there. At one particular point I remember looking over my shoulder and seeing a neat view..
Small mountains so you don't usually get views like that out there. I really dig it though.
I did less planning for the return trip and I'm not sure why. Did I think I would be on autopilot the whole time? Did I think I wouldn't make it back? Am I stupid?
I was definitely moving slower during the first part of the day, but as the miles ticked off I felt better and better. About 25 miles into my day I started to get hungry. I mean really hungry. Luckily I spotted a shopping center with a Subway in it, so I rolled up and ordered one of everything. Not really, but pretty damn close. I sat for a bit, trying to get my body to understand that I wasn't giving up and I would be riding my bike all the way back home. Once we had that understanding, I connected to the wifi there and let everyone know that I was on the way back and doing just fine.
And most of all I was having fun...
It's really big, right? You know you wanna touch it.
Just like the day before, I was looking for little victories. There weren't really any to be found though, other than not dying. The heat was getting to me and I had no idea if I would run out of food/water before I had a chance to fill up again. I just kept rolling though, because that's all I could do. And then, a small victory...
I was closer to home for sure. After I took that photo I texted my cousin (who is a Purple Heart recipient by the way) for some motivation and he did not disappoint. Back in the saddle and I started heading towards a place for food. Any place.
I ended up at another convenience store of course, and I had a pretty decent meal. I put down some sugary cola, a couple of chicken and cheese quesadilla thingys, and some chips. I topped off my water bottles and prepared myself for the last 25 miles home. I was so tired, but I was starting to feel like I might actually complete my journey.
Once I started rolling again, it didn't take long before I hit a long downhill that cut back into the greenway. At that point I knew I had only about 20 miles to get home. I'd consider that another victory.
The greenway is mostly flat and more importantly, well shaded. While I normally love hot weather, it was draining me that day. The shaded path was a nice respite from the sun's glaring rays. Once I reached the end, I zig zagged across powerline cuts, parking lots, and back roads. I was almost out of gas and wondering if I had it in me to finish. Like someone flipping a switch, I was suddenly so full of doubt that it scared me. I was struggling, both physically and mentally. I'm not sure what happened, because only moments earlier I was feeling great and full of motivation.
I guess that's how it is sometimes. I dunno. I tried not to let it get me down, but I was seriously considering calling anyone for a ride even though I knew I was close to home. And just when I needed it most, I got one more victory..
I know this place well, since I pass by it on most of my rides these days. And I knew it was only about three miles from my house and that three miles ain't shit. I got this. And wouldn't you know it, two pretty shitty climbs later I was rolling into my driveway. I couldn't believe it. I really had no idea if I could do this, but like most things I tried it anyway. I was pretty worn out, my ass hurt, and I was an emotional wreck.
I didn't know if I was proud of myself, or upset that I would even try such a thing.
Maybe not a big deal to you, but a huge deal to me. I'd accomplished a goal that was set only a few months prior, and this should lead to a bigger goal.
Am I ready to ride across Florida?
Who gives a shit. I'm doing it anyway.