A Lifetime of Memories for a Shoeful of Dust
What do you call it when you have profound nostalgia for the not so recent past?
We’re only a few days out of Nashville, a few days from all the new friends we’ve met, the great meals we ate, the comfortable beds we slept in and it seems so distant – a dream. We are on the road again, the stunning Tennessee country side moving around us like a three dimensional postcard. We are moving, but moving slow, overcoming the inertia of being still.
Riding a bike all day affords you a lot of time to think, to solve the worlds problems in your head, to question the nature of space and time. One thing I am constantly struck with is the endless march of the present. Pleasure and pain is fleeting. The agony of a seemingly endless climb, the transcendent joy of late night conversations with new friends is equal in Time’s eyes. Neither lasts longer than it should or moves faster than it should and when it has passed, there is nothing left but ephemera, the photos, a journal entry, half remermbered dialogue in your head.
We are approaching a year of being on the road, a year of moving through this American landscape wide-eyed and hearts open. A few nights ago, as the rain was coming down hard against the tent I went flipping through the photos in my iPhone and was stunned to see all that we had experienced. Going through each photo, I feel momentarily transported back. We are on the Amtrak riding to Portland, we are in a pop-up tent on Orcas Island listening to horses run in the dark of night, we are eating the best hamburger ever in Seattle, we are cold and hungry in the desert….we are in this tent in middle of Tennessee and I am looking at my iPhone wondering where all that time went. I experience something like extreme nostalgia for the recent past, the futile gripping of thin air.
Time is a funny thing. Earlier today, we broke down camp and rode down some lovely country roads and stopped at a swimming area by a lake to have some tea. It was just perfect and I feel blessed to have done something as simple and beautiful as that. But that moment is over and has joined all the rest, the remnants of which exist on my iPhone.
Laura and I joke that we have traded in a “prime earning year” for a “prime living year.” We definitely have lived this year, maybe more this year than we have in the last five. And yet, the funny irony of it is that we really have nothing physical to show for it except for the strange tan lines on our feet. A few years living in town and you can amass roomfuls of stuff. A year on the road, living life as full as you know how and we have no trophies, no employee of the year plaque and by all accounts we probably have less than when we began.
A lifetime of memories for a shoeful of dust. In the end will it have been worth it?
We met a man while we were checking into camp the other day. He was older, round about the belly and looked like the farthest thing from a cyclist. The first words from his mouth were, “Is that a Brooks? I had one of those.” He goes on to tell us about a bike tour he did in ’79 in Germany with a twinkle in his eye. He tells us about how when he was at camp one night lightning struck a tree by his tent, it bursts into flames and it was the most scared he had ever been but by god it was the time of his life. Listening to him talk about the trip I can see the old age momentarily lift from his face and at that moment, I know that this trip, every painful and pleasurable moment will have been worth it.
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