Saturday, May 3, 2014

Verily, with every difficulty there is relief

~22 miles to Melbourne
~60 miles to Vero Beach
~10 miles to class at Hibiscus Children's Center

I packed my bags in the morning, per usual, as I prepared to head back to the coast towards Melbourne. An inner tube fell out of my bag as I was packing (I've been carrying around several extra just in case). I found this strange because they've been sitting all the way at the bottom of my bag untouched. In fact, I was beginning to feel cocky and confident about how I only had one flat tire all trip, about a month prior in Washington D.C.

I was back on the coast with the Atlantic, riding Scenic Route A1A. When I was crossing a bridge to return to the mainland from the intercoastal, a sharp nail pierced my tire, leaving me with a flat on the busy bridge. Florida is nice in that the only hills are bridges, but oftentimes the bridges are 2-3 miles long as you cross the different rivers.

I knew I couldn't fix the flat on the bridge-- there wasn't even a true bike path-- so I decided I'd walk with the bike the rest of the way over the bridge until I reached land, another 1-1.5 miles from where I was.

In what strange way was I being prepared for this earlier that morning in Apopka?

I walked cautiously with the bike as I crossed the bridge, having decided I'd choose a nice location to fix the flat, now that I was allotted that opportunity. It is actually enjoyable for me to fix flats and to fix the bike; I like to be informed of the mechanics of this beast of a machine that is my loyal companion in this 1600-mile journey. Neither of us have been on a bike tour prior to this trip.

I arrived to Melbourne, where I'd only be resting for the night before continuing the next morning to Vero Beach. When I awoke in the morning I had every intention of leaving before the sun arrived. But I still didn't make it on the road until 8 AM. It takes me time to gather my belongings (and myself) each morning.

The ride to Vero Beach was some of the most difficult biking weather as of yet. Painfully and dangerously hot, and I fought heat exhaustion and feelings of faint all day. I took my time, stopping often for water.

As I crossed bridges and rivers to different inlets, I'd sometimes go through stretches without seeing a gas station or store for awhile. And when you're drinking 3 water bottles every hour in this heat, that becomes frightening and dangerous. 

I'd pass through more affluent areas, feeling almost joyed to see water fountains wasting water on people's lawns. I'd hop off my bike and douse myself beneath their fountain, a fraction of me wondering whether they'd look outside their window and notice this crazy girl in spandex and a bandana showering herself in their fountain, the majority of me being too overheated and destroyed to care.

I continued onwards, hoping to soon find a place to restock on water and hide from the sun. I haven't seem too many cyclists out-- probably because of how hot/humid it is-- but I saw a woman standing on the side of the road beside her bicycle. I decided to ride to her to make sure she was alright; I hoped maybe she'd know how far the next store/gas station was, too. 

It turns out that her and her husband were riding together but had gotten separated and now she was semi-stranded there waiting for him to return. I asked her if she knew where the next gas station was, and she was unsure but guessed that maybe 5-6 miles up the road (south); I hadn't seen one north of where I was in well over an hour. I had only sips of water left, and I felt panicked. 

She then remembered that there was a fountain by where we were-- the kind that you shower yourself with after having been in the sand/ocean. I was relieved. I biked over to the fountain, hopped off and stood under the steady stream of lukewarm water until I was soaked and could feel my core temperature decreasing. And I filled up my water bottles, the taste of (my own) salt the dominating flavor in my mouth.

I continued on, temporarily cooled, hoping soon to reach my destination.

When I arrived, I napped and restored, feeling so discouraged about how I'd continue the rest of the way to Miami, despite how far I've come and how little I had left to go.

Class the next day was with youth and staff from Hibiscus Children's Center in Vero Beach. ~8 students, teens and adults.

We had fun. I love and am grateful for the connections I am able to make on this journey. Challenging and filled with growth.

I am currently still in Vero Beach waiting for this bad storm to pass, heading further south to Boca Raton tomorrow morning.

There is a passage in the Qur'an that says, "Verily, with every difficulty there is relief."

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