Words and Photos by Lorin
I must have written at least 7 drafts of this blog post before deciding to erase all of my progress and either give up or start from scratch. We will see if I make it to the end of this one without abandoning my efforts. Usually, I will write something up and then tell myself that I’m not a writer and that I have no business trying to share the thoughts in my head with the anonymous readers of the web. Why would anyone care about what I have to say about biking across the country, the iridescent bluffs, heterogeneous landscapes, or insurmountable generosity of strangers?
If that sentence sounds strange it’s because I used a thesaurus to come up with those adjectives. I often feel like the words I need to describe what I’m seeing are beyond my vocabulary, which isn’t surprising because I often have to autocorrect words that contain more than 10 letters. That’s probably why I end up tossing draft after draft of any attempt to try to explain what I’m experiencing while traveling across the country. By the end of it, I feel like I have tried to fit into a mold of syntax and grammar and pizzaz to make what I want to express sound interesting. But the truth of the matter is that everything is so interesting that it’s practically indescribable.
The first question anyone asks on this trip when I tell them that I studied journalism is, “are you going to write a book?” The very thought of writing a book makes my stomach churn. I’m baffled by the art of eloquent words and do not feel that they come naturally to me. My brain works in a visual way. I have a voice inside of my head that narrates my thoughts sometimes, but usually I am drifting off into a montage of memories and imaginary scenarios. If I am not sitting-in as the audience of my mind’s showreel then I am usually observing and absorbing the world around me. I enjoy slipping into a neutral state of mind so that I can take notice of the sounds and sensations of my environment that are often numbed in order to keep me focused on the elements that are most pertinent to my survival. Becoming aware of my body’s interactions is a mechanism that I have adopted in order to center myself and feel physically present. I will actively choose to feel the wind on my shoulder, the pressure of my palm on the handlebar, the rhythm of my breath, and so on.
I am frustrated with my inability to describe or express the complex experience of this journey. I wish that I could link a camera to my eyes and project everything that I am seeing. It kills me that I can’t take out a camera at every moment and document. In some ways, I feel discouraged from documenting with my camera in the same way that I feel discouraged from writing. As if no words or images can do it justice. But, I have come to realize that it would be selfish for me to keep these thoughts and images to myself.
As I am thinking of what to say next, the faces of women that we have encountered come to mind. I started to get used to the scoffed response that some older white men would express when they heard that two young women were riding their bikes from coast to coast. Shaking their heads and mumbling phrases about how they would never let their daughters do the same, that we were crazy, that we should at least be doing it for a cause, or that they truly did not understand why we would ever want to do something like this. But one day, I encountered two women working at the kiosk of the campground we were staying at. When I told them what we were doing, huge smiles stretched across their faces as they sighed the word “wow.” They went on to say how amazing our journey must be, how brave we must be and how inspired they were by the idea of a trip like this. Throughout our travels we encountered more women and families who expressed how uplifted they felt by our story, strangers said they were proud of us, and parents encouragingly told their children to look at us and know that they could do that some day.
Perhaps, I was so focused on this trip being a big step for my personal growth that I didn’t take the time to understand the impact that it could have on those around me. In some ways, I think it has had an equal, if not greater impact on others. One of our hosts from Montana sent us a message the other day saying that he and his son took a multi-day canoe trip and that a big part of the reason that they actually did it instead of just talking about it, was because of our example. One day, at a cafe in Minneapolis, a man asked if we wouldn’t mind telling him more about our story so that he could share it with his wife and daughter in hopes of inspiring them to do something similar. He and I talked for a while and he was so grateful that he treated us to tea and cookies for simply sharing a few details about the trip. He said that growing up in Spain, women were not encouraged to take big risks like this, he had high hopes for his family to break that mold and said that our story would be very helpful in doing so.
This all goes to say that while I don’t feel like I can accurately describe or capture the magnitude of the beauty of this trip, I want to try to share at least some of it for anyone out there who might benefit from knowing that we did it, we are doing it, and that anything is possible. Without further adieu, here is a jumble of iPhone and DSLR photos that I think depict some classic moments of my experience thus far. I recommend listening to Myth by Beach House while looking through them, that’s what I’m listening to as I write this and it’s blowing my mind. Life is amazing!