Fading--Sam Carmichael Reflects On Cross Country Bike and Build Ride This Summer
Sorry I've been so long in writing again. Seems there's not much to write about on a blog about biking across the country when you've just finished biking across the country...
I've been home for 3 days now, after spending a week or so traveling w/ the fam: first up to Lopez Island in the San Juans, then through Seattle again (saw a Mariners game and then got to hang out w/ Terra and Erin one more time...), then to Mt. Hood for some hiking, then down to Portland, where we stayed with the Carrs, who may very well be the best hosts of all time. It was all fun, and I decided that I really (really.) like the Northwest, and will probably end up there at some point in my life.
Vermont is hazy, hot, and humid, although the thunderstorms crashing outside my window at the moment will probably pull all that from the air and leave everything refreshed, and a little bit deafened.
I miss all you B&Bers with an intensity and depth beyond what I was expecting. I've been thinking about you, and about the trip quite a bit, because there's not much else to do in Vermont.
I finally got my bike back yesterday, and put it together this afternoon in the yard. That fateful Puget Sound soaking wasn't the best thing I did to it this summer, but the briny crust came off easily enough, and it got me thinking.
As I pulled the last kelpy vestiges from my spokes, I considered the nature of reminders, of memory, physical and mental. This summer was, to use the cliche, unforgettable. That much is undeniable. But what do we have to remember it by? How has the trip marked me? How will it stay with me?
The ding in my downtube is from a wipeout in Columbus, on the way out of the JCC. It'll be there forever. The sand in my bartape is from the Golden Gardens beach, and it is somewhat less permanent. Marks on my flesh have been fading gradually since the 13th: the dull pain in my sit-bones was the first thing to go, thankfully. Scabs from wipeouts and construction mishaps have been flaking off of knees and hands, leaving a few scars but nothing else. My tan is fading, the stark lines on arms and thighs blurring perceptibly. The callouses on the base of my palms have withdrawn, and the tingling in my pinkies has subsided.
All of these were comforting reminders of a summer of effort, of hard work. I cherished each one, not because I have a morbid fascination with scars and scabs, but because they were physical links to the past, to a summer that seemed to stretch out to the horizon in June but ended, like all summers, much too soon. As they disappear, I fear, so will specific memories of the trip. Like bruises, the stories will fade, little by little.
I used to wish that humans were blessed not just with a cerebral memory but also a more physical one, so that certain sensations-- a great hug, a deep kiss-- could stay with us in a visceral sense. So that when they came to mind we felt them all over again.
I feel the same way now-- I wish that we could hold on to our scars and tan-lines, and with them hold on to our summer. I know that, through pictures and conversations and my own fickle, inadequate memory, the trip will live on forever. I just wish that I felt more confident in that knowledge.
More to come, I hope. Thanks for reading.
Love to all,