Today's ride was full of reminders. I feel like I was getting some necessary signs from the universe. I'll explain.
Michael and I hit the road by 6:30 in an attempt to beat the heat. It doesn't get unbearably hot until about 11:00 am, so this strategy afforded us some four hours of manageable riding weather. Having hit the trail so early, there was an unusual volume and variety of critters wandering about. The first I came across was a lovely, foot-and-a-half long poisonous copperhead snake. This was reminder number one of the day, basically telling me that I NEED TO WATCH MY ASS AT ALL TIMES. Threats come in all different shapes, sizes and forms, so I can never really let my guard down. In all honesty, I don't let my guard down, and it is very, very tiring. It really doesn't matter that I'm riding 4,000 miles. Those are 4,000 miles without a break. All it takes is one second. So, yeah, the copperhead was a sign that I need to stay alert.
Next, I approached what appeared to be a little rock in the middle of the path. It turned out that this "rock" had a head and four feet sticking out, and that's because it was no rock, it was a turtle. This slow-moving creature inched its way across the trail. As I neared from about ten feet away, a rabbit lunged out of the bramble just behind the turtle. In no more than five bounds it blazed by the turtle and disappeared into the brush.
A part of me felt star struck. I had just witnesed the proverbial race between the tortoise and the hare. These woodland creatures caused me to reflect again. The turtle, though slow and dopey, was cautiously making its way across the path. If I wanted to complete this long journey of mine, I would be well-advised to emulate the tortoise rather than the hare. Overdoing it, particularly as I am discovering new terrains and climates, is not a recipe for success. So yeah, the turtle reminded me that is okay to take my tiiiiiiiiime. This thought would be confirmed just a few hours later as I would watch my new friend, Michael, catch a train home from Jefferson City due to injury. Sometimes slow and stay really does win the race.
In the middle of the day I made an 8-mile round-trip detour to Jefferson City so I could get some Chipotle. In hindsight I feel that the burrito expedition may have been a bit over the top. But, man, in the moment I just really needed that burrito. Once I had the knowledge that a Chipotle was remotely close, I had no choice. Some of the food cravings I get out here are tremendous.
Anyways, as I made my way to Chipotle, I came across an Irishman on his bike pulling a trailer of his belongings. He was accompanied by an American fellow. As is common among touring cyclists, we began talking. The American guy was showing the Irishman the way back to the trail. The Irishman was on a cross county tour. Well, actually, he was on more of a cross global tour. This guy had rode his bike through Africa, Europe and South America before coming to the States. Now he was headed from San Francisco to New York City on the final leg of his journey.
What blew my mind was that this kind Irishman didn't look the part at all. He had some baggy shorts, a polo shirt, regular old tennis shoes, I mean he looked like a guy who rolled out of bed on a hangover to ride his friends clunky old bike to the grocery store, then ended up accidentally riding halfway across the globe. When I asked what inspired him, he simply responded that when he turned 50 he became more aware of his mortality. All this goes to say that the Irishman, casually fumbling his way across the continents, reminded me that many people have accomplished journeys far greater than mine. There's no reason I couldn't make it too.
That was day two on the KATY trail. I kept my eyes, ears and mind opened to my surroundings, and these were the lessons I derived from them.