On the second month of touring my friend Josh, from Pound Ridge, NY, joined me to bike to Chicago. Biking with a partner, particularly a male partner, brought up a lot of insecurities I have about cycling as a woman. Im so thankful to the people along the road who showed me through kindness that gender is a construct, without a pre-determined merit.
Our first night out we found an old bird sanctuary on the Hudson River, it’s entrance marked by crumbled buildings. We snuck in through the closed gates, and trees took over the paths that led through the forgotten peninsula. We found a flat area to set up, me in my tent and Josh in his hammock. I laid awake for a long time that night. Drifting to sleep for small moments then waking from nightmares- family stuff that I was attempting to process on this bike tour.
The mental work left me drained the next morning. My wisdom teeth decided to make a bit of an appearance, and the pain got to a point mid day that I just couldn't bike anymore. Josh seemed to be understanding, but insecurities of being a weak woman festered in my mind. But I couldn’t pretend to be tough. I needed to stop riding. We called our host for the next night, Jim, and luckily his mother Karen was able to pick us up.
Karen had a presence so strong and calm a hurricane couldn't knock her. Instead of taking us straight to Jim’s, she treated us to dinner. I just sat there in wonder, absorbing every word and piece of advice she would offer. I’m awe struck in the company of strong women, wanting to know what led them there. Were they ever as confused as I am about my role in this world?
She dropped us off at Jim’s home. “It was so wonderful to meet you. Thank you for everything,” I said while hugging her. “No problem, I’m off tomorrow if you need anything.”
My mouth was in severe pain the next morning. All the local dentists were either booked or too expensive. I laid there ready to die, but Josh found a dentist friend, Jon, a few towns over. They had one open appointment slot, in just a few hours, but we couldn’t pedal there in time. So I called Karen to see if her parting offer stood. Naturally, it did. Karen got us to the dentist office in time. I thanked her again. “You saved my life,” I said to her as we stacked our panniers on the dentist’s lawn. “No problem, I just hope people are as kind to my son on his tour,” she said. I told her they will be.
“People are kind,” I said, hugging her again.
And for Jim they were. he had just finished his tour across the great divide and wrote a beautiful story about the kindness of those you meet on bike tour, called “This is America.” I’d read his stories while laying in my tent, or drinking coffee at some local spot. I’d catch myself getting jealous of his touring adventures before remembering I was also touring. (Editor’s Note: P, if only you knew how many folks will read your stories while on their own adventures and feel the same way.)
Jon the Dentist filled a cavity and reassured me that my wisdom teeth had plenty of room to come in, the pain would ease eventually. “I'll see you somewhere in time,” he chuckled. I looked confused, with the spit guard still around my neck. Somewhere In Time was the name Justine had given to the street where their home and yoga studio were built, which we found out when Jon the Dentist and his wife Justine invited us to stay with them.
Justine hosts retreats for busy, city women from NYC on their large chunk of land. The young ladies would go for hikes, have bonding time, and just let loose. In her kitchen she told me about the importance of female bonding. I leaned against the counter, swishing salt water, absorbing everything she said. Like Karen, Justine had a confidence about her. She was a woman who had struggled with her identity, her career… all of it really. She stood before me being the person she's worked so hard to be: herself.
I woke up early the next day before the sun. I dragged my sleeping bag to the main yoga space and laid there listening to soft music. Through the large windows I watched the fog slowly roll from the mountains surrounding Somewhere In Time. The fog disappeared as the sun rose higher.
Once Josh was up we ate breakfast and set off west. We spent the day without plans, only looking for a place to sleep once the sun got close to setting. Down one of the empty backroads we saw a small bar. As he does with every establishment of interest, Josh checked it out on yelp, and discovered it was listed as a convent. I immediately thought of the movie From Dusk Til’ Dawn. And so we stood there straddling our bikes discussing the plausible reality that within this bar we'd find zombie nun strippers, dancing on counters and eating patrons. We flipped a coin to decide on what to do. Heads, and we’d go get vampire lap dances. Tails, and we’d keep riding. For better or worse, the coin landed on tails.
Five minutes later we saw a woman eating a kale salad. She called out to us, ”Where are you coming from? Need a place to stay?" I couldn't help but laugh at how perfect this was. Yet another random synchronicity on this tour. When Liz isn’t eating kale salads and offering shelter to haggard strangers, she’s a successful architect. Her hillside home looked like one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s works. Large beams ran the living room ceiling’s width, with large windows looking out to the water and trees. Liz’s own home is a testament to her success as a kick ass architect. She offered us her camper across the road, and told us she had kayaks behind the house we could use. Josh and I paddled upstream as the sun set, but we didn’t really talk as we paddled around. I think we were just excited to be there. Bike touring just has these moments of human connection where the unplanned chaos just works out. We drifted back down stream to Liz’s welcoming home, and I watched the last bits of light reflect on the water while I reflected on how I got to where I am.
I know I’m a strong person.
I’ve toured without a riding partner and without the hospitality of strangers. But it's nice to have someone to look at and say "remember when…” and realize it’s not the result of being dependent or needing validation. Pride in one’s independence can have an audience. Powerful ladies are everywhere. You may see our splendor, for we all have nothing to prove.
Patience is a talented photographer and storyteller, whose story above shares her experience of being hit with that desire to leave your life behind for a new experience. In spring of 2016 she left from Tennessee to meander across the country again by bike, the loose goal being to end up in the west. This is Patience's first entry from that adventure, and Patience is Route Feminent's first sponsored rider. Be sure to blow up her instagram and tumblr.