the last thing i remember is attempting to pull my foot out of my toe clips as i fight the downhill pull of a 100lb bike. the ground races towards my face. this does not feel like it is going to be a graceful moment.
a split second later and I’m swimming, ass-deep in a weedy ditch full of drainage water. my bike, halfway in along side me, looks as if it were testing the temperature of the water before it totally jumps in to join me.
“damn bike threw me in! got thrown by my horse.”
i am only slightly more soaked than a moment ago. it’s raining hard again and we’re attempting to climb a concave bitch of a hill, the first of many today along the Delaware river, just outside Barryville, NY. we are still in the first third of the NY State bike route and it is mountainous as hell. the route we are tracing is an angry, red zig-zag of a line, like it was scrawled by a child with a crayon and limited dexterity.
we’ve only just left camp and I’m already laid out.
still sitting in the ditch in the pouring rain, i survey the damage. I’m covered in grass and slugs. a nice gash on my leg of a mysterious origin, now bleeding. camera seems to be fine though. i actually begin to feel bad, because upon closer inspection it seems most of the carnage involved disturbing the surrounding vegetation more than my equilibrium. i start to laugh really hard at the absurdity of this scene and look up at mr. andrew frasz staring down at me from the road.
the look on his face is familiar and i’ve come to understand it is one that consists of a combination of genuine, pensive concern and a whole lot of disappointment.
“well. c’mon. let’s get it out.” he sighs in his mumbly patton oswald voice. i still have a shit-eating grin on my face. too bad he hadn’t pulled out his camera instead. or at least laughed with me. he makes me feel crazy sometimes. maybe i am. maybe we both are. we’re both on this epic bicycling quest after all.
within a few minutes, we’re riding again. slowly. my left boot now makes that great squishy, wet farting sound of soggy canvas. this hill is a long one. andrew rides further up ahead of me, most likely still worried and now embarrassed for me. i don’t mind though, just gotta battle this incline. i resume singing whatever song that was stuck in my head prior to my wipeout. grey squirrel, grey squirrel, shake your bushy tail…
the ridiculous thing is, i knew this was what my morning was going to look like. maybe not the swimming part, but i knew this hill was the first thing we were facing. our bike route map comes along with a handy-dandy topography cross-section. the first half of the trail is a jagged, spikey cardiograph (most likely bearing a close resemblance to my heart rate as i attempt this hill) before it flat-lines further out west and lands (kerplunk) in lake erie. every morning, i gaze longingly at those drawn out, gently rolling flat parts of our map and drool a little bit. it’s like absolute filthy, dirty, smutty smut to my eyes and legs.
as mr. frasz and i finally reach the peak of this hill, only to be faced with the next sonuvvabitch looming ahead of us in the mist, i recall a story a friend once told me about his bike trip from montana to san francisco. he had warned me about having a map like this, with the topography laid out so perversely before us.
“i didn’t have a map like that, i was lucky. i think i might not have gone if i knew what the terrain looked like some days.”
and so i muse, with grass shards clinging to my wet legs and arms and blood trickling down my shin and my shoe making that wet-canvas squishy-fart; for as much planning as i thought we needed before we set out on our epic vision quest bike tour adventure, sometimes you just don’t want to know what lies ahead.