~90 miles to Florence, SC
I had no idea that this would be the case (refer to an older post to be reminded I am no cyclist), but there are dogs everywhere out on these country roads, and they all want to run after me. I'd like to see a census report of how many people own dogs in North Carolina and South Carolina. My guess is all of them.
But, more seriously, bicycles are so foreign to dogs out here, and many of them are trained to protect their property/attack, that it is very terrifying to ride down the roads and be accosted by them. They see you before you even notice them, and, before you know it, they're chasing after you.
I haven't developed a tactic yet. All the advice I've received says pepper spray, spray them with water, kick them, hit them with your pump, etc.
So far, I just sprint.
It's worked thus far; eventually the dog tires out and stops chasing you. But I think this is more of a temporary solution than anything. In fact, I really don't even feel safe being on the roads anymore without a new plan. The roads are way too desolate for anything wrong to happen.
The ride to Florence was challenging and really pushed me into a new gear that I didn't know I had, or had forgotten I had.
I kept up a steady pace: ride the road, avoid the dogs, fill up the water bottles, eat a snack. Repeat.
No matter how you look at it, 90 miles is a long day. I needed a new reminder, and so I taped a note to myself on the bike which says "Is the Buddha on the bike?"
For me it means to bring more conscious breath awareness during the ride. It is so easy to get swept away with thoughts of reaching the destination, thoughts of the pain, thoughts of wanting to give in, etc. But with a reminder to stay with my breath, I can bring more present moment awareness to my ride, focus more on the journey, tolerate the pain, pull deeper into my source.
Some days I honestly can't tell whether I'm riding the bike or whether it's riding me. Or both. But about 70 miles in to the ride to Florence, I no longer felt like "me"; like it wasn't my doing anymore.
Ride the road, avoid the dogs, fill up on water, eat a snack. Repeat.
Running low on water, I passed by a Baptist church (as I frequently do) with a group of people outside. I decided to approach them to see if I could fill up on water inside. I wasn't really sure whether that was "kosher" or not, but there are a lot of things I do now that I normally wouldn't: like change my shirt and pants in public, walk around a cafe in my socks while my soaked shoes dry, lay on a patch of grass next to a highway, take a nap on a restaurant table, etc.
The people were very friendly and were glad to let me fill up with more water. An elderly woman mentioned she lives in Florence and that we were just about 18 miles out now. She wanted to drive behind me to make sure I arrived safe. I wasn't sure whether she realized it'd take here a mere 20 minutes to get home while, on the other hand, it would probably take me another hour-and-a-half.
I told her, and she said, "Oh, I don't mind. I've got nothing to do but make dinner later on."
And so she followed in front and behind me. For an hour-and-a-half. Patiently. I tried not to rush (it's hard to do when there's a car tailing you) and reminded myself that she truly wanted to see me through to Florence.
Is the Buddha on the bike? Only sometimes. My body was truly hurting by now, and I dreamed of resting my legs and eating a meal. "I wonder what I'll eat," I'd think. Or, "if she asks me if I want a ride, I'll say yes," I'd think with tears in my eyes but too much pride to give in and ask her myself.
But she never asked. She just patiently followed me. And I finished the ride to Florence. And dinner was truly delicious.
I am currently still in Florence due to the severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings, but tomorrow I will finish the ride to Columbia (92 miles) to arrive on time for Wednesday's class with Palmetto Place Children's Shelter/St. Lawrence Place.
Still figuring out a game plan for the dogs...