Old Orchard Beach, Maine – view from my balcony today.
It’s raining. It’s Monday. I’m on the beach in Maine. I drove nearly four hours last night to check-in to one of the most quaint motels I’ve ever stayed. It smells like some kind of floral-brewed tea mixed with fresh linen in my room, or maybe it’s Lysol? My hot water shower was much appreciated after the night before, and especially after a full afternoon into evening of cycling on Sunday. While getting my bike route figured out at my car yesterday for that ride, a woman in the parking lot and I briefly chatted. She asked where I was riding to and I told her up and down the coast. She suddenly, but nonchalantly, says when she does her rosary devotional later today, she’ll pray to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes for me. Leave it to the Catholics, there’s a saint for everything and everyone. I thank her, a little bewildered about her offer and wonder what she’s doing at this motel. I don’t ask people I meet those kind of questions, we just usually talk about what’s happening, information voluntarily given, and topics just pop up. I can add prayers to saints on the list of those topics.
After my successful morning ride to Dave’s Coffee, I had returned to my room to gather my thoughts, check in to social media, and get to some writing. While writing, I am crying as often happens, and there seems to be a pattern to this part of my day. Just when I’m having that good cry or realization, a text or note comes to me that makes me laugh or feel not so alone in my little grief-filled world. The next time you reach out to someone, remember your timing is everything. No matter when, say it, send it: knowing when it is received, you will make someone smile and make life a bit brighter having those few mysterious moments of serendipity between people. It’s what makes us human. We are here on this shared earth to connect with others. My take on receiving a note from someone now makes this large world feel more intimate, distance erased, and gives me encouragement to keep on, especially through my tears now.
Writing now done, tears dried, it’s time to concentrate on today’s route. I’ve come to learn Rhode Island is only 37 miles wide and the portion of the south-western coast end where I’m wanting to go is only about 25 miles of it. Since I’m starting out after 1:00 p.m., it’s possible to do it all, but I’m not sure how it will go because surprisingly there are hills to factor. Hills have been my welcome surprise of this trip: Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and now Rhode Island are what I would call “first gear” states. When in Michigan, most climbs for me have been achieved in some version of “second gear,” now I’m back to my roots of mountain biking from 25 years ago. Those steady unyielding climbs, feeling just the right tension to make it to the top, “first gear” does it and there is no stopping, only pedaling and mind over matter.
I plan a route south on Post Road to then turn left on E Beach Road which will take me to East Beach. Biking along the coast, it’s important to me to ride along the water as much as possible. I chose to wear my black clip-shoes, hoping to work on my speed and have something other than the leisurely ride from this morning. As I start out, I can’t clip in. These clips, I’m trying and it’s not happening. I thought it would get easier every time, but it’s not. I burst into tears as I’m pedaling because I just can’t do what I want to do. I want to write down this note and how I feel in a small notebook I bought just for this trip and moments like these. As I slow to a stop, and place my right foot on the pavement, directly beside me I see a dead female Cardinal. Now I’m full-on sobbing not only because I can’t get clipped in, but here is another dead bird! I’ve come to believe that Rhode Island has only two kinds of roadkill: dead songbirds and random beach footwear. I’m pathetic at this moment, and I just don’t understand what the universe is saying to me right now.
Seeing this bird, I’m reminded of my Stockton to Plymouth ride and the Bullock’s Oriole found in a similar state. My first reaction after tears is to take a picture. (See my previous writing “Bike Magic is Alive and Well.”) I feel it unjust to describe what I did with this Cardinal, but know that it now rests in peace without being bothered anymore. I’m back on my bike, notebook tucked away in my new accessory bag, it’s time to go. I come to the intersection at E Beach Road and there is a green light, no stopping required. Instead of preparing for my left turn, I make an instant decision: continue on all the way to road’s end. You see, as I was deciding a route for today, I kept looking at the southern most tip of the state and instead of saving that for later, I said to myself, I’m doing it now.
Pedaling through the intersection, I kept trying to clip in, and finally my left foot is somehow clipped, but the right clip remained elusive. So similar to my grief: I’m in a 50 percent or less success rate despite trying over and over again to manage some form of happy most days in this life. My life is my bike itself, and when I am clipped in to only one pedal, I’m dragging it around like a snowboard. It’s awkward, I feel like I’m going to tip over, and I feel the weight. Who’s attached to who anyway and is this a healthy relationship? Again and again, I come to the same conclusion: I want to be clipped in with both feet, me and my life now working together and happily pedaling along in that push-pull balance from both sides. I pedal on and hope it will come together at some point.~Paula [To be continued in Pt. 02, it’s time for lunch. It’s also much colder now and I’m putting on several layers. Still haven’t gotten out on my bike. I just noticed it’s started raining again.~P.]