Substituting my forearm for a pillow, I gaze at the blanket of stars above. With wind flowing through my hair, I feel the gentle spitting of salty ocean on my face. The night is calm and the air is warm. I have the upper deck all to myself on the Key West Express. Apparently, the wind blows too hard for the other patrons. I breathe in slowly and exhale deeply. “I could get used to this” I think to myself. I don’t know where Steve and I will be sleeping tonight once the ferry docks into Fort Myers, and that’s the greatest feeling. We choose. Freedom. I tell myself this is only the first of many adventures. This is the life I want to live.
The boat halts at 9:30. Steve and I collect our bikes and begin our hunt for a campsite. First, we need to fill our bodies with some nourishment…even if it is Mcdonalds.
We find a gap between some houses. The tents are set up slanted down a slight hill. Moments later, all I see are the insides of my eye lids.
“Taylor, we are pretty visible”, I hear Steve say as he pulls me from my slumber. “We should get moving before someone sees us”.
The rubber hits the road at quarter past 7. My stomach alerts me that he needs to be filled pronto. We come across a small breakfast and lunch place. Gwendolyn’s Cafe. As I peek inside it seems to have a really nice set up. To our dismay it appears to be closed. As we pedal away, a woman hustles over from inside the cafe. She is chef Gwen. After chatting briefly with her, she invites us into the place early and set us up with some bacon&egg sandwiches and fruit salad. Both of which are on the house! She is a kind soul.
The cool water fills the grimy and blistered palms of my hands. I slowly bring the clean water to my face. As it rolls down my cheeks, it collects filth and falls back to the sink in a blackened stream disappearing into the drain. I attempt to run my hands through my damp hair, but my fingers get caught at each snarl and knot. I suddenly become aware of how long my hair is growing. The man I see in the mirror is a stranger. I am changed by the lessons the road has taught me. The best teacher is life experience. I’ve lived so much life in such a short time.
For a moment I lose myself. My bike and I become one. I pedal faster. With my lips curled back, my teeth appear as fangs. I bite my tongue. The shorts that once hung loose around my legs now struggle to contain my thighs. I look up at the speedometer 25…26…27…I hunch my back and lower my head for a moment and grip harder. 28…29…30…Steve gives a thumbs up. “We hit 31!”, he shouts. We both smile with pride. I reflect back on the second week of our journey. Steve broke away from me for a moment pedaling faster and harder. I was left in the dust in awe at his speed. He topped out at 18 mph. I later asked him, “How did you do that? How did you go so fast with all the weight you carry?”
Well, now 18 mph is our comfortable average pace. Today we hit 31 mph on a straight away. With all the gear we are toting, you could say we are pleased with these results. We’ve adapted to the road and fused with our bikes. We work as a single unit.
I encourage anyone to get up and find something radical to do with yourself. Do something new. Do something different. I dare you to move.