Today could be summed up in one word: heat. The heat ruled our whole day. We were up at five in the morning to try to get a head start on the heat. We started cycling at seven for the same reason. But before we knew it, we were heading up a mountain in the thick of the hottest heat many of us have ever experienced.
The heat was inescapable. The air was 97 degrees, the trees lost their shade in the twist of the planet, the pavement sizzled the weather back up towards us, and our bodies covered us in thick, sticky, warm sweat. The heat pooled in crevases, hit us in deadened air pockets, and beat us into the ground.
Switchback after switchback allowed us to drag ourselves up the face of the mountain. Crushed by the weight of the sun, and the difficulty of the climb, the only thing that kept me moving forward was a fellow rider. I already, even though it has only been one week, feel like I have a huge new family. And one member of my family needed encouragement going up the mountain–so we both stayed strong. We help each other achieve things none of us could dream of achieving on our own.
But the view from the top was worth the climb–not to mention the descent, and the feeling of elation that comes knowing beauty lies at the end of every hill. I am amazed that we all biked over two separate mountains in two consecutive days! This kind of power that each of us posesses makes me wonder at what else we’ll be able to achieve this summer.
The end of the day brought on depression; a sense of listlessness that only getting out of the heat could vanquish. After 48 miles of the extreme heat, I walked the last few hills to our spot for our second lunch. I was spent. Out of the heat, I felt energized and like I could bike forever, but in the heat on the hills, my legs wouldn’t do as told. I have never experienced this kind of disappointment–demanding something that my body would not deliver. I kept motivating myself: coaxing, begging, bribing, and cursing, but nothing worked. At 48 miles I quit.
My first day in the van, with seven others who couldn’t make it today, taught me something. I may not be able to cycle every single mile of this journey. I missed twenty miles today, and can imagine missing more in the future. This is a hard journey–much harder than I imagined it would be, much harder than even our strongest riders are prepared for, and that is a-okay. 48 of my hardest, hottest miles is a ride I can be proud of, and we all will get across the country safely.