You can’t fight gravity – except perhaps with laughter. Likewise, there are laws of physics (the study of the natural world and how it actually works) that on a Journey of this type must be accepted and surrendered to, gracefully or not. This is called Reality. The modern world seems to do a pretty good job of finding ways to circumvent (or at least postpone the consequences of) many of those laws and in “virtual reality” many of them don’t exist at all, but on a Long Ride I’ve learned that when I ignore them somebody is going to suffer. Finehorn suffered an absess when I asked her to carry more weight than she could reasonably handle. I suffered heat stroke when I wore the wrong hat and didn’t drink enough water while travelling across the desert under the midday summer sun. Both of those errors in judgement could have been fatal – and I knew better.
In the past week, Katie and I have spent a lot of time poring over maps and calendars and how they coincide, trying to find a way to circumvent (or at least postpone the consequences of) a difficult realization. I am committed to riding into Minot, Maine on 8.November, 2013. That’s another 1800 miles according to my proposed route and knowing how things go it’ll probably be closer to 2000. I have to leave myself a bit of wiggle room for unexpected lay-ups and delays; that’s Reality. Meanwhile, Katie is planning to ride to Kansas City and then points West once our paths diverge – and she is needing to take into account such factors as weather and the Continental Divide and the limited window during which one can cross that natural barrier in even relative safety and comfort when travelling by mule.
Sir Walter the Red, while an excellent mule in every way, needs to take things slowly as he and Katie start their ride. He’s not yet in shape to go 15 miles in a day and he’s not used to carrying packs along with a rider. Pushing him now would be terribly counterproductive, both physically and in terms of his attitude. When Gryph and I were starting out it took us 5 1/2 days to cover the 25 miles to the Pacific Ocean. When I started out hiking on the Appalachian Trail I was in serious pain after 7 mile days, living on Ibuprofin so that I could bend my knees at all. The physical orientation to a life of covering distance over terrain, day after day after long day takes time. Rushing it causes injury – not worth it.
The writing is on the wall and we can all read it clearly: numbered, numbered, weighed, divided. Large numbers of miles left to cover, limited numbers of days in which to cover them, weighing, not only the packs and everything that goes in them, but the costs and consequences of ignoring Reality – adds up to a dividing of the ways. I know it’s the logical decision, for both of us, but it still makes me sad. It’s been really nice having a friend and companion along on the Journey for a while. Katie and Sir Walter have been excellent company for the ponies and for me; we’re going to miss them! There is a strange sort of loneliness inherent in a life lived always travelling among strangers, even when, as so often happens, those strangers turn out to be friends that I simply hadn’t had the good forture to meet yet.
After a year of e-mails and ‘phone conversations, along with the bond of an uncommon desire to cross the country on the back of an equine, Katie and I have gotten to know and understand one another past the superficial level of acquaintanceship. That sort of connection is a rare and valuable thing in my life and this has been a difficult decision. This week I have been feeling like in undertaking this Journey (and committing to write the book – another necessarily solitary endeavor) I have condemned myself to three years of loneliness. I know that’s rather melodramatic, and it hasn’t all felt like that, but I am finally facing the fact that it really doesn’t work to have somebody come and join me for part of the ride. It was a nice fantasy that doesn’t seem to translate well into Reality. OK. So be it.
That said, I also want to say that it matters So Much to both of us to know that there are people following our Journeys via internet and prayer, caring what happens, keeping track of us as we progress. I don’t generally respond to comments on the blog (unless it’s a specific question with an answer that I think might be generally interesting) because when I’m reading the comments on other blogs and see every comment responded to with a “thanks” or whatever it kind of bugs me. However, I do read and appreciate every one of them and they lift me up and make me smile. Ditto with facebook comments! I do try to respond to personal e-mails, even though sometimes it takes awhile, so if you’d like a response that’s a better approach. My e-mail address, along with addresses for upcoming mail drops are on the Daily Update/Contact Info page of the blog.
The photographs accompanying this post are of Rodney, Mississippi – which came within a few votes of being the capital of the state. It’s now a ghost town with 3 residents and a few hunting camps. The river flooded a couple of years ago and you can see how high it was by the water marks on the white church. The cannonball in the brick church was fired by a Union ship after a bunch of the men were invited to attend services and then taken captive. When the cannons starting firing upon the town a message was sent that if they didn’t stop the officers would be killed. The firing stopped, the town was saved, the men were released. There was also a story about a Union soldier who feel in love with a Confederate girl and hid under her hoop skirts to avoid capture – he obviously liked what he saw, since he returned to Rodney after the war and married her. 😉