I arrived in the middle of the night, wrestled my bags into a hotel room fell asleep too late, and woke up even later. In a frenzy, I built my bike someplace between the bathroom and that silly half-desk that you never really use except to let your suitcase explode all over. I found my gloves, my overshoes and a rain jacket and shoved my now gaping bags back out the door. My adventure – of escorting Ashley + Jered home – was about to begin.
This scene sounds hectic, but its one that I’ve come to love; one I find myself in, wearing a smile and laughing at just how uncomfortable and awkward it can be, and yet how symbolic it is. I’ve traveled a lot this year, more often with a bicycle than not, and in a totally f*cked up way, I love the way that the hotel rooms are typically small enough that the bike ends up snuggling near you at night, leaning against a wall. Your vehicle for exploration resting like a horse in the stable. When you travel like this, sometimes you find a pair of underwear in with your wrenches (don’t judge me.) Sometimes those wrenches, or a little tube of chain grease, sneaks its way into your toiletry kit. But it’s worth the little inconveniences because when you wake up beside a bicycle your task for the day is typically to just get on your bike and go. Go all day. Until you get “there,” eat, fall asleep, and do it again.
The invitation to ride with the Gruber’s home to Athens was a generous and kind one; one that I couldn’t pass up even if I wanted to. I love these two like my own family and there are few things I’d rather be doing than following the course Jered has charted out on a map, and seeing where it takes us. Escorting them home was very much about being there for them, and welcoming them to a time in their schedule when they get to relax, remember what they love about bicycles (in case so so many days on the road have made them forget,) and just giving them a big fat hug of relief that they’ve arrived back to the United States in one (err, two) pieces. But escorting them home was a gift, a gesture of kindness to myself as well; in the only way that a 4-day, 400 mile journey can be.
I never could have imagined just how much this year would throw at me, and I never would have imagined how transformative, and therapeutic, the days I’ve spent on the bike through it all have been. Wherever I am in the world, or in my life, it’s a great place to be when I’m on two wheels. Just when I think my heart couldn’t hurt any more, my legs couldn’t scream louder, my body continues – inching ahead with each breath. No matter what the pain, so long as you commit to pedaling through it, the clouds will clear and the summit will reveal itself. Once you see the bike as a therapy, I’m not sure when you stop using it as a tool to satisfy your soul but at every turn, every time I rebuild my bike in a new place, I get excited to see what I’ll find out there along the way, and IN there along the way too.
The Chasing Fall trip was 1200 miles in total – from Emmaus, Pennsylvania to Athens, Georgia over 12 days. The four days that I joined for were marked with rain and rather miserable weather along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but I did capture a few images to share of the color pops and bursting boughs that lined the route home. Some of the days we were smiling in the sun, other days we were wiping the grit from our faces and eyes with sleeves covered in more grit. The morning that I woke up with eyes nearly swollen shut from the dirt thrown off of a wheel into my face as we were making way to the South Carolina border was a particularly memorable one. And still, the show went on. As it does.
I’d been hoping to make it out to the East Coast to ride in the colors of fall and feel autumn creeping in and this trip absolutely sated that desire; I’m really looking forward to having some time to enjoy the changing of the seasons – literally and figuratively – back home in Boulder, to appreciating the chill in the air, to slowing down enough to sip holiday libations with good friends, and feel my cup of proverbial gratitude for all the adventure in life overflow.
The images Jered captured of #chasingfall15 will be published in Bicycling Magazine in the coming little while so watch for more there. Pretty sure that we all agree: the more places we take our bikes, the more places we want to take them, the more we trust that they’re carrying us in the right direction and I’m pretty excited to see what direction they lead us to next.