Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A tragic and unexpected ending

My trip came to an abrupt end yesterday. A few months back, I met the only other solo female cross country biker of my trip. Her name was Jess, and she was headed West on the same route that I was taking East. We crossed paths essentially in the midpoint of the country in a parking lot in Texas, and had an awesome evening of beer and stew and story swapping of all the times people told us we were crazy for being women traveling alone. Anyways, we kept in touch and she hooked me up with some friends to stay with on Peaks Island just off Portland, Maine.

I took the ferry over to Peaks and set out to do a lay of the land lap of the island before trying to make contact with the folks I was going to stay with. I hadn't gone very far when a girl on a beat up old cruiser bike came barreling out of a driveway without stopping to look, and more or less t-boned me. I went flying over my handlebars but managed to execute a flying roll in midair and spread the impact out pretty well upon landing.

Most importantly, both myself and the other girl were physically fine. She was really shook up and in shock, but otherwise ok, and her bike also escaped unscathed. The same cannot be said of my bike. After many years of commuting around the northwest, and almost 5,000 miles over mountains, across deserts, through sandstorms and torrential downpours, my faithful steed Pellinore has met her end.

My downtube was almost completely buckled in the middle- the angle on this picture doesn't really show how bad it was- and there was no way to save the frame.

So I did the only thing I could do: bandaged up the cuts on my hands and started salvaging parts.

I've always been a proponent of the idea that the world provides you with the lessons that you need to learn-- not to be confused with the lessons you WANT to learn-- and having to dismantle the wreckage of what has essentially been my home for four months, the one thing that has been a constant in a routine predicated on change, has afforded me an incredible opportunity to work on acceptance. At this particular moment, I am very aware of illusory nature of control, and grateful for that reminder.

It's pretty hilarious that this happened so ridiculously close to the end. To give a more concrete idea:
Miles traveled: 4903.96
Miles still to go: 108

It also seems fitting that this happened at more or less the eastern most point of my trip. For months I lived by the cadence of easteasteast, and then by northnorthnorth, and it somehow seemed wrong to start heading southwest. I like the decisiveness of having ridden onto an island in the Atlantic, and to now be limping back inland overburdened and on foot.

Sure, I'm pretty heartbroken that this happened, and I'm having a difficult time adjusting to my abrupt loss of independence. Not to mention that I hadn't budgeted for needing to replace my bike. But on the other hand this provides a very definitive ending to a trip that I did not feel ready to end.

On the other occasions that I have embarked on long solo travels, by the end I have always felt at least somewhat ready to return to stationary life. Not this time. This is far and away the happiest and healthiest I have ever been, and the last four months have been an absolute gift of inspiration and momentum. I have been dreading this approaching conclusion. But it is time to go back, time to try to take this sense of freedom and translate it into a (temporarily) settled life.

So here I am, on a ferry with what's left of my bike in a garbage bag, winding my way to my cousin's wedding through a combination of public transit and favors from friends with cars.

I still have a lot to say, and this doesn't count as the introspective wrap up post that I know is coming. Right now I just need a few days to process. Also, those of you who know me personally know how much I hate asking for help; it's something I'm trying to work on becoming better at. If anyone feels that they have the inclination and are in a financial position to do so, I would be extraordinarily grateful for any donations to the "Tessa now needs a new bike" fund. I have been truly astounded by the support people have shown me on this journey, and believe very strongly in the power of small contributions to become more than the sum of their parts. Anyways, if anyone wants to contribute, my paypal email is

Until next time....

1 comment:

  1. Really sorry to hear that your trip has ended! I've been looking in on your blog from time to time and I really enjoyed reading about your trip. I know how terrible it feels to have your bike get all bent up, and I can only imagine how much worse that would be if it meant the end of a big trip like that.
    I wish I had some money to spare at all to help out, but it's going to be quite a trick to pay rent this month as it is. Anyway I thought maybe a kind word would have some value in any case. So a big thanks for taking us along on your journey, it's been lovely. And congratulations on Antarctica... how wonderful to already have another adventure waiting for you!!!