Week 2: A Ballooning Sphere of Concern
Days on the Road: 16
Miles Traveled: 620
Towns Visited: Santa Barbara, Pt. Mugu, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Costa Mesa, San Onofre, San Diego
Current Country: USA
In a moment of inspiration while en route from Santa Monica to Long Beach -- I reached down, grabbed my water bottle from its cage beneath my seat, wriggled it free, and successfully squirted lukewarm water into my mouth -- all while steering my 80-pound bicycle with one hand.
This may seem like a small feat...
... But for someone who could not conceive of relaxing her grip on the handlebars just two short weeks ago, it represents a huge milestone.
Remembering that first day – the panic and the cortisol that flooded my bloodstream when I tried to clip in and instead fell repeatedly – it seems impossible that we could have already reached the end of the road in California, with ~600 miles under our belts.
And yet, here we are! In San Diego, our last stop before the Mexican border.
(Or rather, ten miles northeast of San Diego. If you ever do a distance ride and your friends offer to host you when you pass through "their town," make sure to get their address BEFORE you design your route around them.)
And while the physical progress is extremely satisfying (and the upcoming 2-day break abundantly deserved)...
It also means that things are about to change, significantly.
Because, although we’ve already had our fair share of setback and calamity...
(Like the moment when two highways merged and we suddenly found ourselves sailing along in the middle of the freeway at 40 mph; or another when an oblivious driver ran Bruce off the road very slowly...)
... In reality, the California coast has been training wheels compared to what's next.
With its smooth asphalt and wide shoulders and dedicated bike lanes and ocean-view hike-and-bike campsites for $10 per person, California's version of distance cycling has been downright luxurious.
Which has allowed my general sphere of concern to remain blissfully small -- limited to whatever is happening between my body and the bicycle and the 5-foot radius of space around us.
Now, as we prepare to enter Mexico, that sphere of concern is about to BALLOON exponentially.
... To accommodate vast stretches of empty desert, relentless beating sun, and undrinkable water taunting us from every faucet.
And yet, when someone asked which country we were most “afraid” of cycling through, I was surprised when Bruce said Mexico.
I have such fond memories of the country – mainly from living with a host family in Tepic when I was 17, with a host sister the same age who was the queen of the local Rotary Club (she literally wore a tiara at an event we attended) and who introduced me to her crew of friends like I’d been part of it all along.
When I think of Mexico, I think of the first time I made a joke in Spanish that someone actually laughed at; the relaxed, playful vibe of no manches and no hay problema; how visibly delighted strangers get to hear you speak their language; and the joy of squeezing fresh lime on everything.
... Which, I gather, is not what MOST people think of when they imagine traversing the country by bicycle.
And while I’m extremely tempted to chronicle all the disturbing evidence that has been brought to our attention by those who love us and fear for our wellbeing...
I can’t bring myself to do that to you.
Because, while we probably WILL get robbed and spooked and duped more than once...
And while I fervently hope that we will NOT get kidnapped or tortured or dissolved in sulphuric acid for filming in the wrong place at the wrong time...
I also believe that WHEREVER you go -- there will be good things, and there will be bad things.
And you just can’t live your life in fear of the bad things.
Or, more accurately, you can -- but why would you want to?
Wish us luck... the adventure is only just beginning.
This story originally appeared on www.jessicamastors.com.