It’s been two weeks since I started cycling from Lisbon, Portugal, on the west coast of
the Iberian Peninsula. I’ve had one rest day so far. In two weeks I cycled across Iberia from Lisbon in the west on the Atlantic Ocean to Vilanova i la Geltru on Spain’s east coast on the Mediterranean Sea. Unf#*%+ing believable!
I started my day in a bad mood. I was feeling lonely. I told my husband I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep this up on my own. He said to take it one day at a time. I rolled my eyes. I’m LONELY!
As I cycled on a gradual 40km-long incline, I thought to myself how there were advantages and disadvantages to this solo touring deal.
1. It can be lonely at times.
2. There’s no one but yourself to blame when you get ridiculously lost and end up cycling 186km instead of 120km.
3. There’s no one to complain to or be a spoiled brat with when the going gets tough.
4. You feel less safe on your own, especially as a woman.
1. People are really on your side cheering you on.
2. You can cycle at your own pace and get to your destination in your own time without worrying about anyone else’s different pace.
3. You choose what to do, what to see, when to sleep, when to wake up, when to stop, when to eat, and how much money to spend.
4. When you need to pee by the side of the road you’re not holding up anyone else.
5. There’s no on else to argue with so even though one of your personalities is being a spoiled brat, another personality plays the role of mature adult.
6. Your mistakes are your own and there’s no one else around to burden you with blame.
Today was such a lovely day. The weather was perfect. It was bright and sunny with a cool breeze. I kept putting my fleece on and taking it off because I couldn’t decide if I was warm or cold. The roads were so much better than previous days. I could tell I was cycling into a better-served, more well-connected part of the country. I cycled on roads that weren’t too busy or too quiet. The scenery for most of the way was amazing. I cycled through a valley with fields on every side. Bunnies jumped into the bushes as I cycled past. Bunnies, bunnies, bunnies. So many of them! I then climbed up a mountain. It was a 7km climb. Up, up, up, and round, round, round. I was really enjoying the effort, feeling as if I was achieving something, while at the same time relishing the views of the valley below. As I was looking everywhere around me, cycling steadily upwards, thinking how great life can be sometimes, a red car going down the mountain on the other side of the road gave a brief honk. I looked up to see the driver was a woman. She shot her arm high up into the air out her window, clenched her fist, and gave me the power signal. That made me cry. It wasn’t the first time car – or truck – drivers acknowledged me on this trip. It took me awhile to figure out. Vehicles would pass me giving a little honk. I began to look after awhile to try to figure out what was happening. People were waving at me! Three days ago when I was cycling on the motorway a truck on the opposite side gave me a big honk and a wave. I get lots of that from truck drivers. And cars pass me and I see the back of someone’s head and a waving arm. It is so touching. These are complete strangers. They have no idea who I am, where I’m from, where I started cycling from, where I’m going, or why I’m doing this. They can’t ask me and – obviously – they don’t. The only part of my story they’ve seen, the only part they will ever see, is that brief glimpse of me pedaling on a bike on some road in Spain. That’s all they need to cheer me on. I wish there was some sort of way I could personally thank each and every one of them. I rarely wave back. I’m either too exhausted to lift a hand or only realize what has happened when it’s too late. I wish they could know what kind of an impact that small gesture from a perfect stranger had on me.
I descended into the valley below and after some 40-more kilometers I caught my first glimpse of the Mediterranean. I’ve seen the Mediterranean so many times but never has it looked so beautiful. I was suddenly hit with what I had just achieved and cried again. This journey was always going to be more of a mental challenge for me than a physical one. I have many demons: self-doubting demons, anxious demons, scaredy-cat demons, lack-of-self-confidence demons…the list goes on. Every single morning I hold a dialogue with my demons and have to convince them to give it another chance. It’s never easy. But today I reached the f#%^ing Mediterranean, baby! Me and my demons did it together, all on our own.