"Sal, we gotta go and never stop going 'till we get there". "Where we going man?" "I don't know but we gotta go" - Jack Kerouac, On the Road -

Friday, August 16, 2013

DAY 10: The long road ahead

Williamsburg, Ia - Webster City, Ia : 146 miles. Total: 1195 miles

I shoot out of the motel at 8AM, late. The air is very cool and crisp and I should be wearing the long sleeves but again I decide not to. Let's acclimatize to the cold, if I wear warm clothes now, what will I be wearing in Yellowstone?  I long for warm sunlight but nothing doing for at least an hour, heavy clouds swirl around the sky like bees in a bag. I make up for time and cold by riding fast for the first 30 miles or so until the road surface stops cooperating with me and I find myself on a very unpleasant torn-out road. Winters are tough around here and the weather breaks the road easily. There are cracks that run across the top every 10 yards and everytime I hit it the bike jolts and the wheels rattle. I pace myself, I take several breaks today as the 1000+ miles ride begin to pile up. I ride up and down, up and down, and then up and down some more on my way through Iowa. I travel across an increasingly hilly terrain. After so my miles through rural areas and tiny towns I hit Ames, the largest city I go through today. It is a charming town with lots of shade and trees. During my rest stop standing outside one of the town's gas stations I look down at the bike and see chunks of mud on the front hub that have been there since the rainy days in the Appalachians. The lower tubes are covered in tar, the brake hardware, front and back, is coated in dust from more than 10 days spent riding across the country. The black bag attached under the seat is a total mess of dust and dirt, the upper bar has stains of sweat and sunscreen. What about the rider? I think about my sore legs and that tweak in my hip. Then there are the chapped lips, the unshaven face, the hair fins caused by my helmet, the spots of something unknown but dark on my face, grease marks on both legs and arms, and the general level of gross that comes with a ride of this kind. No matter how many times I wash my hands there is a constant shade of black on my palms. I haven't taken a day off since I have started and the effects are starting to add up. I know that my body could use a rest day but my soul has no rest, it's restless and as long as adrenaline takes care of my occasional dips in energy level, I know I am going to be okay. 

If you are reading this you will have to forgive my incoherent state and my nonsensical ramblings. I am tired, I rode 146 miles today through hilly Iowa. I am trying to make sense of today's ride but my thoughts are all jumbled. I am sitting in my hotel room after a while day spent riding through rural Iowa. I don’t write reports or facts, not even thoughts, I write feelings, fleeting intuitions, passing infatuations with my sensorial emotions which I experience on the road. Many hours in the open air through towns and fields and road junctions do something to you. My brain works vertically not horizontally, my restless fingers dance fast on this keyboard, the words coming out of my brain are as fast and eager as the fibers in my muscles when I turn the wheels of my bicycle, the legs just flow, they don’t think and so do my words in this journal. This is MY America. This is MY life. This is MY race. I realize this is not touring, it is a race against time. When I sit on my bed with the tablet on my lap and I set out to write I have no idea how long I will write. What will it be? Maybe twenty minutes of bothersome journaling, maybe two hours of uninterrupted illuminating flow. This is the beauty of travel writing I suppose: spontaneous, disjointed, absurd. Like the road. This is what it is. I need this for my ride, keeps my brain in check and my muscles relaxed at night. After the usual shower is writing time.

I cannot explain it but it is an exhilarating feeling to leave a town behind, riding a few miles out just to turn around and see it becoming a tiny speck in the horizon. It’s a sweet good-bye, knowing that I will never go back to this place gives me a wave of adrenaline hitting me and retreating from my body in a matter of minutes. On I go toward another town.

I did a lot of that today, I rode many miles through the fields of Iowa. I take a break at a gas station where the back road crosses the highway. I see a long dusty line which perfectly cuts across the field, like a laser line on a wall. I stare at it with a smirk on my face ready to attack it. I push on the bike and I gain speed in an instant. The wind caresses my face furiously. My legs spin, I feel strong, in control. The scene repeats itself again and again. I decide to avoid the mess of Des Moines. I would have lost all day dodging my way through potholes, traffic lights and big highways. I go North all the way to highway 20 and I find a wonderfully paved road which takes me there. I spend miles alone, cars are hard to come by, the country beams at me and the corn plants shimmer in the sunlight. It is the first day of complete bright blue sky, not a cloud in the vast blue and the wind doesn't spoil the party. It is ideal today. My legs feel heavy though and I sense that a rest day must be taken soon. Maybe Sunday. The afternoon goes fast and just when the daylight begins to wane I crest another hill I see Webster City nicely tucked in a green valley and with 146 miles for the day, a very exhausting day, I ride to the highway junction where a low-budget motel awaits. The place smells like bleach but who wants to complain? I smell worst than the place. After a hot shower I cross the road to look for something to eat, the choice is depressing: either Pizza Hut or Mc Donald's. I am lucky tonight.. A few Big Macs will do and I will use the wifi too. The motel is so run-down that the internet connection is too weak for updating my journal. There is a mini-market next to Mc Donald's and I stumble in to buy some water. I can't focus on anything. I walk through the aisles on the glossy, bleach-smelling floor of this grocery store staggering from one shelf to the next looking for something that tickles my appetite. I am so exhausted that I am not even hungry but I know that I have to ingest food, I need to supply my worn out muscles cells. My hands almost shake and bleary-eyed I rest the few products on the counter and the woman must have taken pity at my zombie-like state. I buy some sugar-filled food and lots of water and head to the fast-food restaurant. I eat the disgusting food that tastes like plastic and I write nonsense until I decide to head back to my smelly abode. It is past 9 PM, as I cross the overpass on the way to the motel I look at the highway below me and see cars shoot by like bullets. There is no discernible quality to this place and yet all I need is the sky above and the fields that unfold everywhere. The air is clean and fresh and my lungs cannot get enough of it. This is the best type of solitude for me; the one you don’t fear, the kind that makes you stronger and makes you eager to explore the world by yourself. As I walk back I notice hordes of families that enter Mc Donald's with so much clutter and noise that I am thinking that traveling by yourself is the best thing that there is in the whole world.  And I feel very sorry for those who don't have the chance to do it.

The light is suffused by a tawny glow which seems to twinkle in the gentle breeze. This is the most desolate I have ever been on this trip and the real desolation has not started yet. I am founding what I am looking for.


  1. It boggles my mind how you find stamina to write in your journal after 146 miles of riding!
    It's good to hear that you found satisfaction in solitude. You are right, not everyone has the opportunity to do so. Enjoy the solitude dear Luigi, the Zen created on this journey is priceless. mcl

  2. I have to agree with Maria, another 100 mile plus day, wow. Inspiration comes from all around and having the peace and solitude of the road has to provide that inspiration. Someday I hope to be able to get out there and give it a go but until they I follow you and get that inspiration from your ride. Keep it up you are doing fantastic.


  3. The progress so far
    69 people will get clean water

    Good to see progress in miles traveled and progress toward the Charity water goal. Excellent job! So cool!

  4. Dear Luigi ,

    From Francis Bacon " whosever is delighted in solitude is either a wild Beast or a God " :-)

    It is fantastic what you are doing ! kisses

  5. veramente l'ha detto Aristotele...

  6. Luigi, a me fai venire in mente Pasolini:

    "bisogna essere molto forti per amare la solitudine
    bisogna avere buone gambe e una resistenza fuori del comune..."