Saturday, August 18, 2007

Heads or tails

The wind is one of our most constant companions and points of interest. On the first day the wind was pretty calm, on the second day we had an unbelievable side wind, on the third day we were elated to have a tail wind most of the day, on the fourth day we had a head wind again as we navigated our way through 17 miles of road construction, on the fifth day it turned from a side to an oblique to a relatively gentle head wind, on the sixth day we had a pretty gentle head wind again as we came into South Dakota, and on the seventh day we rested.

It's a good thing, too. Huge storms threatened the integrity of Arty's camper, let alone three bikers out on the road. I awoke to the sound of water spattering near my left arm from the corner of a ceiling vent. The day only got more interesting from there. As the rains continued, so did the leaking. We strapped a tarp over the top of the camper, only to have it snapped away by increasing winds. At that point, we abandoned ship and headed for cover at the casino in Mobridge, near where we had camped.

It's taking us much longer each day to get to the towns we want to get to, and several days we haven't made it to the intended town. We are constantly re-evaluating based on our energy levels, time of day, distance to the next possible stop, terrain, weather, etc. When we get in for the evening, we’re exhausted and quickly become quite loopy—finding the simplest things absolutely hilarious, and having great difficulty with the English language. We’re also supporting and relying on each other in fuller, deeper ways than we’ve had to before, I think.

It’s also been difficult to connect to the internet to update this little blog, but we finally have a solid connection at the casino, and I trust we’ll be able to find a place to connect in Aberdeen in a few days. We’re not quite at the half-way point yet (we’ve pedaled 276 of about 650 miles), so we likely won’t make it to St. Joseph by the 24th as we hoped, but the 25th or 26th seem doable, especially since it looks like the topography flattens out between here and Aberdeen. Every time we’ve crested one hill these past several days, we see another one, which sometimes elicits some of the grumbling that Benedict warns against, but we keep pedaling, and take breaks when we need them (which is sometimes very often).

In Joan Chittister’s commentary on the Rule of Benedict (Insights for the Ages, Crossroad, 1992), she reminds us that Dietrich Bonhoffer once wrote, “There is a meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler” (158). We’ve seen so much, experienced so much, been stretched so much, yet details get blurry and things are running together already in the midst of it all. But the “meta” lessons will keep coming to us as we keep mulling this over for some time to come, I’m sure. And perhaps those we’re meeting along the way—whose stories we hear and who hear our stories—and whose stories meld into each other’s—will know more of the meaning of this journey than we are yet aware of.

For me, part of the meaning has to do with the small things—going slow enough and being aware enough to see the cricket making its way across the pavement, and having enough compassion to swerve our bike tires around it. And for the trust to persevere in an endeavor that is totally new and full of unknowns and already more difficulties than we imagined we’d face, supporting each other the best we know how, and loving each other even when tempers run short. We’re riding in mist and probably rain today, another new and less-than-exciting part of this journey. We may be wet and raw at the end of the day, but we’re more refreshed for having had one day off the saddle, so we’ll do the best we can. That’s all any of us can do on any given day.

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