The tone of todays blog has changed in my head throughout today... This morning did not start well. Once again, I struggled to get up (what? You arent surprised) and by the time I went off to breakfast it was gone 7am, only to find the door to the lobby locked so no breakfast. So I put on my helmet and headed off before the sun had risen.
Actually this was great because I was treated to a beautiful sunrise and the scenery had somehow changed overnight. No longer the oklahoma trees but red earth and hillocks with scrub bushes, like what I thought the midwest was going to be.
My good mood dissipated mainly because of the state of the roads here. At first glance you would think they were fine, but the composition of the tarmac made it feel as though I was pedaling through treacle.
I kept looking at my wheels to check for punctures or brakes rubbing or something to explain why I was crawling along. Nope nuthin like that to blame it on. It quicly became clear to me that my head and my legs werent playing the game today.
Matt Dixon kindly put a piece up on my wall about how when you ride, it creates a void in your head for thoughts to come and go... this is true, but also for the negative ones, which are much harder to remove. So my thoughts turned to the days ahead.... big mistake! The enormity of what I still had to do became almost overwhelming, particularly as I hadnt yet reached the point I had originally intended to reach yesterday. If I was 15 miles behind today, what would tomorrow be. Could I possibly catch up the miles lost and so on. The pressure of a late start added to these thoughts. Now normally I would come up with some phrase or saying to break up the pattern but today these thoughts stuck in my head for a while. I was crawling along at 10 to 12mph on the flat and the wind and the cold were adding to a general lack of oomph.
It took all the willpower I had not to stop at the first motel I saw, crawl into bed with the covers over my head. I was this close to stopping and taking another rest day... what stopped me, well the thought that I may need this day more in the next 2 weeks than I needed it now. Sure things felt crap but they could be worse and who knows what challenges might lie up the road.
So I plodded on until I came to Elk City, the first waypoint for todays ride. Once there , I kinda missed my turning and found myself on a smooth, wide hard shoulder.... the interstate... oh well ... I could always pretend not to know it was illegal, play the stoopid foreigner card if stopped. I loved it... 16mph with little difficulty, flying along, what a difference a good road surface makes. So in this manner I shot along to the next junction, where with regret, I once again joined the frontage road.
For the next few miles of bumpy drudgery I found myself contemplating why I put myself through these things. I love my life back home and am not running away from anything, I am more running towards something I think. ! Many years ago I was in a car accident, we got hit by a lorry on the M25, and although we were physically unhurt, I struggled with the thought that I had dodged the proverbial bullet. It was because of this that the invincibility you feel when you are young was suddenly and brutally replaced with the fear of dying- sorry cheery subject I know. Since then I have always been chasing life, because I realise how precious and short it can be and how quickly it could have gone that day. So I try to pack as much into my life, experience as many things as possible, chase my dreams, because I believe that this is the only shot you get at it.
The ironic thing so far on this trip, whilst I have seen and experienced huge amounts, it has only made me think more about everything and everyone I appreciate back home... I have always expected this though and wear always a pendant with the words, 'the life you seek does not exist' on it, a lyric from a mike peters song (of course) which reminds me that however far away I go, all the best things I have in life... my family, friends, work... will all be waiting for me when I get home.
So back to why do all this then.... because I also believe that part of life is testing yourself, making yourself do things that appear too hard, because then you can take those lessons back with you to your real life and use them to enhance the person you are... does that make sense?
Anyway all these thoughts invaded my mind and provided some distraction from the leg aching task of the day.
Now having missed the oklahoma memorial I was determined to see texola, the deserted town on the border. I was on my last legs, 7 miles to go, pedaling squares, knackered.... and then oklahoma decided to say goodbye, by raining on me.... cold tired and now wet, I was about ready to pitch my tent at the roadside when I saw a sign........
Not from God, but for a cafe... wearily I pulled up with the full knowledge that if I stopped I wouldnt get to mclean today. I went in and found a besutifully decorated tea room/art gallery. I was asked in a good southern drawl if I wanted anything and soon I was sitting, coffee and cake in hand, chatting to the owner of Tumbleweeds which is both the first and last stop in oklahoma.
It was fascinating how this lady had been drawn to an old building and turned it into this place, full of art, painted wonderfully by herself and providing a weary traveller with a place to stop. Before I knew it an hour had gone but funnily enough the panic of not making mclean had gone, replaced by the joy of sharing stories and coffee. This stop reminded me that (although I have to get to LA in tkme for the gig and flight home, its also about how I get there and the people I meet along the way that make it a journey.
So because of the stop, I set off with renewed fervour... and gave an inner whoop of joy when I crossed the border... ok so it wasn't an inner one, but no one heard (I hope). Texas seemed to recognise my change of mood and welcomed me with sunshine and scenery that some might call boring, but I thought was the picture of perfection...
Cattle lazily grazing in fields of scrub green, which stretched for miles in every direction.... this is how I'd imagined it and it was perfect. The sun lit up the white whisps of clouds as the (now) gentle breeze sent them scudding along. I even saw my first real cowboy, hat and pickup truck, locking in his cattle on the ranch for the night.
The last 10 miles to Shamrock were pure bliss, not because I was flying along, tho the road was better, but because I had been re shown the beauty of my surroundings and nothing could spoil that!
Shamtock provided me with the blarney inn and a steakhouse...
That will do...
Texas is currently my favourite state, lets hope that lasts!