Thanks for your letter, which I got in Barea.
I'm sorry I didn't answer all your questions (or
maybe I did, indirectly); it's just that the
technical-detail-stuff doesn't convey the "colors
and textures" the way I want my letters to. I'd be
happy to answer any questions at camp though,
it's just very hard to write them in a letter right now
(especially since I have very limited letter writing
time!) I love to get letters though, and even though
I can't guarantee a personal reply on this trip,
I know that I appreciate them!
By the way, are you linking the website to
the NBTSC one? Because that's what I'd told people
before I left...
Anyway, here's the letter which is long overdue,
and I hope you can decipher it! If you feel like you need
to edit something, you can, especially since it is hand-written
& I couldn't really edit!(The above was a note enclosed with the following photocopied letter. I didn't edit anything in either letter.)
Sat. May 17, 97
I'm sitting here in a pavilion in Marion, Kentucky, listening to the rain and the wind. It is such a nice feeling, that it's raining and I'm not getting wet! Today is a layover day, no riding and I'm going to stay here in the city park for another night. My knees have been crying out for a break, and I haven't had a layover day in 8 days...
Anyway, so much has happened since I last wrote, I don't know where to begin! But Marion is the last city I'll be in before I enter Ill. And so I figured I'd better buckle down and write this letter. The one major new thing is that I am no longer traveling alone! Since Roanoke, VA, I have been riding with James Rode, who has also been homeschooled for his whole life. It's been interesting and different to ride with someone, and it's been a very good lesson in communication skills... when you are traveling like we are, you really get to see the brave, helpful, and wonderful sides of the people with whom you're traveling. Conversely, however, you get to experience their annoying and aggravating qualities as well! And when there's two of you, it's important to keep the lines of communications open: we are a team, and we're all that the other person has. So we've been working on that, and doing pretty well, I think. And having someone else riding with me is good in many ways... It's so much easier to laugh at the 25 MPH headwind when there's someone else laughing with you; it's easier to face barking pit bulls who chase cyclists when there is more then one person; and it's nice to have someone to appreciate things with...
So. Since Roanoke, I've picked up the pace a bit, and in 2 weeks I have gone about 700 miles. Two days ago was my longest day yet (70 miles). and that's when my knees started crying "listen to us! Give us a break!" So today I am letting them rest, and in three days (in Carbondale, Ill.). We'll be taking another rest day. It's hard, because although on the one hand it's absolutely luxurious to sleep till 9:00, not riding for a day does break the rhythm I've begun to develop since Roanoke. But I am quite happy to be under a roof (of sorts) today, and for once not have to pedal on through the driving rain...
I am becoming very intimate with the weather. It is both exhilarating and frustrating, because even though it's great to be outdoors almost all the time, it is also hard to motivate myself to keep doing through headwinds and cross winds, driving rain and mist, etc. etc. etc. But it is just a part of the challenge of my days, and I try to have a good attitude when thunder clouds loom on the horizon...
Kentucky has been both a difficult and wonderful state. When we crossed the VA/KY border almost two weeks ago, it was as if the state line was visible. Eastern Kentucky is very economically disadvantaged and that fact is clear everywhere. The coal mining conglomerates have ravaged the land, leaving the people with poor soil, no money and not many opportunities to better their situations. For the first few days of riding in KY, we didn't see a single house - just ramshackle trailers and junk-filled yards. There was litter all over the roads, and the people we met were not happy ones. It was a depressing area, and I could sense the anger of the people who lived there. The coal companies definitely mad their presence known, too, by the monster coal trucks rumbling down the road, and the enormous potholes they make (and which we are still bumping and rattling over!)
I've had a few incidents involving weird people, and after those few days, I was getting a bit depressed myself. Scared too. There were a few times when I was very glad to know that I had a male companion (much as I hated to feel pressured into feeling that way!), when cars full of obnoxious guys whistled and cat-called out their windows. I'm still figuring out how to deal with that, especially because James and I wont be riding together the whole way. And besides, I don't WANT to feel unsafe riding alone-it's so awful to feel vulnerable and alone and not know what to do! Yet I don't want to be stupid either-I know that there is danger our there, and I don't want to be pollyannish about everything... My mother pointed out that I need to distinguish between my feeling of anger and any sense of real DANGER I may feel. So I am working on it, and trying my best to understand this country I am beginning to feel so close to...
When we arrived in Barea KY though, the trailers became less frequent, the litter more scattered, and the people more happy. It was as if we were in a new state, and it was also rather disconcerting because it was such a clash between poverty and prosperity. We stayed in Barea for 3 nights, in the home of a wonderful family who let us, two total strangers, stay in their spare bedrooms, cook in their kitchen, and take numerous showers! Their house was brimful of books, and I started reading about the recent history of the mountain people in Appalachia. I had been witnessing the poverty; I wanted to understand why it happened in the first place. I went to the museum there to learn more, and I also made a book list of almost a dozen more books that I want to read when I get home. The funny thing is, the more I am learning about this area, the less it scares me. Marie Curie was right when she said "nothing is to be feared, it is only to be understood." So I am learning all I can.
Now that I am getting more physically fit, I am able to sing while I ride, without huffing and puffing! Yesterday, for about 10 miles, I went though my repertoire of all the Hebrew songs I know, the notes fluttering away on the breeze almost as quickly as I sung them. I sing different songs on different days, or when I'm in different moods: some days I ding folk music, other days just simple earth chants, and often just whatever pops into my head. Singing soothes me, it helps me appreciate whatever happens to be in my field of veiw at the moment.
There are so many neat things to SEE when you're on a bike! We saw a water moccasin sunning itself on the creek bank the other day; a nearly-hidden house; a huge field of yellow flowers; a particularly beautiful horse; a garden in someone's yard; the colors of the trees. It's also been fun watching spring change to summer, see the different flowers bloom and fade, and feel the weather change. It's so hard to describe everything, really, because it almost seems like I'm not seeing extraordinary things; I'm just learning to look at ordinary things in new ways. And it's so good- it feels like I feel things more intensely lately. As I go through cities and farms, meet new people, experience hardship and pain, and ultimately joy and triumph. I sometimes feel as though I become a different person when I mount my gray bicycle. A person who finds reserves of energy and gumption which she never knew she had.
I've discovered that it's just impossible to put everything into a letter- and this time I didn't try. I hope, though, that I'm able to convey a little of the thousands of colors and textures of my journey, as I pedal on to Oregon...
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