Today was the polar opposite of yesterday. The sun was shining the whole time and we got to fully enjoy the Emerald Coast.
During this ride we have come across others cycling in both directions and we have interacted with many others online, offering support wherever and whenever we can. One such rider is Christopher Jones. We have been crisscrossing each other across the Southern Tier and what he wrote yesterday fully captures our ride today. Here is his post with minor modification.
Two months ago I dipped my tires into the Pacific Ocean and set off to ride my bicycle from San Diego, California to St. Augustine, Florida. Coast to coast along the southern tier is roughly 3,000 miles. I’ve stuck to the southern tier half the time, while the other half was spent cycling through parts of the country that I wanted to see. Southeastern Arizona, the boot heel of New Mexico, southwestern Louisiana, and Florida’s Emerald Coast.
The desert southwest felt like pedaling through northern Mexico. The horizon is so far away, pushing over desert range after desert range. Pedaling along the border wall for the first thousand miles was a stunning insight into the vast machinery it takes to keep our borders secure on a daily and nightly basis. All day, everyday. It never stops.
I have heard so many stories from every walk of life about the crisis at our border. I had so many people ask me if I felt safe cycling along the border, and camping over night near the border. Many friends asked me if I was carrying a gun. My answer is this, I’m living a dream, not a nightmare.
I choose to feel safe. I trust my gut to keep me safe, to tell me to turn around if it doesn’t feel right. I have passed over every side of the tracks along this journey. I’ve pedaled through the best parts and the worst parts of small towns and big cities, and I’ve felt safe through every one of them. I have heard every warning there is along the way.
Coyotes or illegals were going to snatch me up out in the desert, or just flat out shoot me for target practice. Illegal aliens were going to steal a car and run me over to create a distraction while they were running from the border patrol agents. Drivers in Texas were going to run me off the road just for THE HECK OF IT. Watch out, the rattlesnakes are waking up from hibernation and they’re cranky. Those packs of wild dogs are going to chase you down in east Texas and Louisiana.
I have fears, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not scared. You either face your fears head on, or acknowledge them and find a safer way around. There are times when no detour exists, and you just have to harden up and run the gauntlet. It’s amazing what we can endure when enduring is the only option we have.
I’ve learned that I can have a FULL-BLOWN, IN-DEPTH conversation with someone on a bicycle, while a convoy of eighteen wheelers passes at 80 mph a couple feet off my left shoulder. I can have that conversation with the same ease as if we were sitting on a couch in my living room.
My only fear over the course of this journey has been to finish it unchanged. I like to think I overcame that fear by the end of day one. Those early days were character building, maintenance days to harden the soul.
Over the course of the past two MONTHS, I’ve found a home in allowing myself to become a conduit for stories. My stories and the stories of the people in the towns just over the horizon, living under the same sun and breathing the same air as each one of us.
The kindness and generosity in the stories of the folks who have opened their homes up to a stranger. Dan and Jean in Eloy, AZ. Manu in Marfa, TX. Mike and Kelly in Sanderson, TX. Julia in Johnson City, TX. Will and Kathy in New Iberia, LA. The world needs more of you. I only hope to repay your kindness somewhere down the line.
The highlight of this journey has been sharing it with such good people…. Everyone who has read one of my rambling posts. I have loved sharing it with you.
Closing in on the last week, I feel like I’m living proof that the journey is the destination. I didn’t come all this way to see St. Augustine, Florida. I came all this way to experience everything along the way to St. Augustine. Some places dug their claws into ME AND will eventually pull me back to dig deeper. I’m looking at you southern Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas. The best part about other places is that I suffered them so that I’ll never have to return.
Clay, Stephanie, and I were shut down in Sunnyside Beach today due to storms. We’re hoping for a small window in the rain tomorrow to make the 25 mile sprint down to a cabin on Tyndall Air Force Base on the other side of Panama City. We will most likely be down again on Saturday due to rain. However, the weather should break Sunday morning. After that, it’s a clear shot to St. Augustine over the first few days of next week. The forecast looks promising, and we may even have some tailwinds mixed in, too.
“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.”~Ernest Hemingway