(Uberaba, Brazil) Today I complete one year on the road. For days now a nervousness has been growing, not about the date itself, but about this last minute post in which everyone expects a summary of things learned, some warm-and-fuzzy that rights all wrongs, an explanation that confirms the future will be brighter thanks to the little steps that have lead to this moment. I’ve felt like a presenter about to speak at the annual board meeting where nothing less than a brilliant display of intellect could keep me in high esteem, keep the pink slip at bay.
Of course, no one pays me to pedal and I’d have to be a sorry sack of weight to be fired from my own bike tour, so why worry then about waking into a day that is different from yesterday and tomorrow only in how I’ve labeled it with imaginary importance?
A few reasons: because despite all the silliness I want this site to be an inspirational springboard (a hundred copycat cyclists with a cause), because I’d like to provide answers instead of just more mystery, because I’d like to solve problems instead of just write about them. I’m not sure I’ve accomplished any of the above.
My worry—which all of sudden doesn’t sound like the right word: challenge?—can be summed up by my favorite musician/poet Mike Doughty when he sings, “So far I have not found the science / But the numbers keep on circling me.” The last three-hundred-and-sixty-five days; no, the last nine-thousand-six-hundred-and-forty-one days of my life, are running laps inside my mind. Instead of slowing to a jog, the days seem to be growing stronger, sprinting faster toward the future.
As much as I’d like to believe I’ve conquered time with momentary (mostly accidental) bliss blackouts on the bike, I’m still very much on the clock, drifting toward old age, with fewer and fewer seconds, minutes, hours, and days to unravel the secrets of this floating globe, to visit all those picture-perfect places on my old desktop calendar, to earn money to eat all the foods I can’t afford, to fall in and accept love, to start a family, to unriddle the inside mysteries that travel by its lonesome will never reveal.
Though I haven’t yet found the science (God, zen nothingness, Truth with a capital T, or even the perfect empanada), I’ve sampled all of them throughout this trip. Perhaps to Mr. Doughty’s surprise, I’ve found with lots of hard squinting and uphill pedaling that the “science” can be domesticated into less rigid philosophies that conveniently make sense of very, very long bike rides.
Yes, the mind is a beautiful tool indeed.
Lately my favorite philosophical play toy is time, which is appropriate because today is an anniversary. I’ve learned that time is synonymous with fog, air, clouds, the smoke that rises off dry ice, and generally anything that you can push your finger through to make disappear. It’s real, but not really. This three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth day is as much a human invention as the words that describe it. It’s an illusion, a trick to get kids to sleep at night, a fake to prop up Switzerland’s clock-based economy. No cosmic calendar crosses its last day red then flips to fresh white boxes whose sole purpose is to track the hurried engagements of our lives. Our perception of time and the way we divide it, save it, and spend it like money masks a dirty truth. I won’t whisper conspiracy, but time got away with a good one.
Mr. Time exists independently of you. He was drinking whisky when you were nesting at the tit, he had already dated a million prom queens when you got the courage to call the girl, and it’s a safe bet he’ll keep on keeping on when your grave is forgotten by your grandchildrens’ grandchildren. He snubs you repeatedly, he could care less about your new car and concert tickets (or your bike tour for that matter), he even told me he won’t invite you to his ten-billionth birthday.
Forget him. The moment when past and future cease to exist is the only Time—he’s everywhere!—you’re breathing this life, not far away in the oxygen-less air of a dream; the only Time—that tricky bastard!—you’re truly listening, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, and loving—my favorite sixth sense—this self-imploding gift of consciousness wrapped in nerve endings; the only Time–ha!—you’re truly present, aware and in awe of the miracle around you.
This post was purposely put off until June 1st, the exact date my plane left United States soil, because I wanted to capture the essence of the one year me and summarize some message so simply that a kindergartener could write it on the wall in crayon. This is it: live now. Four thousand miles of wisdom in two syllables.
With the obligatory moral lesson behind us (which I whole-heartedly believe), I wanted to share with you another feeling that emits from my everything this very moment: gratitude. I’m happy to be alive, I’m grateful for everything I am and have, I cherish my friendships, my supportive family, this blog’s readers, and the strangers that continue to teach me new ways of seeing differently. This decision to bike into the unknown was correct in every way.