Rolling plains to big hills to desert. Vast, empty desert.
South of Austin the ground in Texas is hard rock. Thorns and scrub. Nails on the road.
Fractured wheels, pierced tubes. Broken spokes. Issues appear frequently.
I’m radiated with the sun-rays. Beamed into the road, flattened, and exposed.
Pressing, pushing onto the asphalt. With all I got.
I’ve learned quickly I don’t enjoy cycling.
Grunting, and pounds of sweat. Bags of Haribo Candy, endless Gatorade, and tacos cued on GPS 50 miles away. A pillow is bliss. Standing is a respite.
My legs hurt, my back is aching, my hands start cramping. There’s no pinpointed pain, no open wound.
An accumulated anchor, dangling inside my mind.
I play the math mile game. 5 miles, covered 6 miles. Got 30 miles left. That’s 5 6 mile segments. That’s 3 10 mile segments. Oh, I did 7 miles already. Let’s round-up, I’ve made it a third… *Checks phone* 8 miles! I’m not even a third of the way to my halfway point!
The irritation escalates.
Not with the physical experience, I’m never angry at my body. Just my self.
Is a water break a necessity or an excuse? Should I check my pace again?
All the doubts compounding, expanding into my mental regulator. I’m working overtime to keep a grip. Keep sanity. There’s enjoyment, there’s exhilaration.
I yell. Multiple times an hour. A loud screech to expel the tension. Get up the incline, rest, not for too long. My legs relax, my thoughts do not.
I try, I try, but sometimes I realize, I just can’t try any harder. Fighting and peace are antonyms.
Tracking historical markers. Telephone poles. Staring at my feet. Bending, shifting, melting into the asphalt. Head down, and listen. Listen to your thoughts Nikita!
Treat yourself better than this!
Don’t count the miles.
Don’t be disappointed.
Just look back. I was there, and now I’ve gone. Every roll of the wheel, another increment. Closer, closer to what’s always far away.
The only burden on your bike is you.Ben Irvine, from Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling
As I’m writing this right now, I’m on the side of a service road off of I-10. In the middle of the Texas desert, 110 miles from El Paso.
More spokes fractured, and my wheel is now unrideable.
It’s windy, and I’m waiting 4 hours for a ride.
Yet I’m happy (and it’s not due to the fact I’m not biking).
Salvation never arrives when I’m going fastest.
It doesn’t appear at the grandest landscapes, or the end of a long day of riding.
All of these things are rewarding, yet not the ultimate liberation.
I’m being chased by myself, to go further, push harder, contemplate deeper.
Whenever I divert, redirect, and accept- the beauty truly takes hold.
Wading in the current- through the stream of the mental battle, the physical challenge, the mechanical break-down. Yeah- it always hurts.
Slowly, I’m teaching myself to acknowledge: I feel pain, and that’s fine.
Don’t power through to make it stop swifter. Rather expose the vulnerable. Look at the wound, and heal instead of ignore. Remedy instead of accept.
Shed the endurance, the strength, the stamina. The fuel of “I’m strong and I can do this” lasts for 1-2 hills, but no longer.
With the sun setting into the Chihuaha desert, my fears dissipate into the haze.
This should be rock bottom. A broken bike, a wide expanse, a straight lined road.
The wheels should turn, but they don’t.
I should cover distance, but I’m not.
I’m always afraid I’m moving too slowly.
Finally, it’s all concretized inside- it’s all relative, subjective, and small. I stare out at the mountains, in the far far distance, and with a certain confidence, I can say: I’ll make it.
I’m detaching the anchors from my mind.
I’m finally dissipating into the expanse.
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.Alan Watts
The other source of inexhaustible, always renewable energy: everyone else.
The support I’ve received on this trip has been tear-inducing, joyful, reaffirming.
From my close ones- family, friends. The support you provide carries my core.
The strangers, who quickly turned into friends; you excite me, push me, and have shown me the intrigue of a place so close to Dallas yet a world away.
Fascination in the world doesn’t base in a location, but how you look at it.
To those who remained strangers; who offered me water, stopped to ask if I was ok, sold me a snack.
Even the smallest of interactions empowers and perpetuates the human spirit.
This journey has been strenuous, exhausting, and hard. Eye-opening, mind-altering, and stunning.
I’m feeling as energized as ever.
I’m ready to keep going,
I feel the wind in my sails.
Resources on the Road
David Goggins– Ex-Navy Seal who ran 205 miles, broke the world record of pull-ups in 24 hours (4030) amongst other achievements. Started as an obese roach exterminator in his early 20s.
Alan Watts– Spiritual writer, teacher, and a man…who knows how to convey the vision.