Why I Bike Tour: My ‘You Are Nowhere’ Moment

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A gas station in Nebraska speaks the truth.

“YOU ARE NOWHERE!” I screamed to the empty bike path. “YOU ARE NOWHERE!”

It’s been raining on and off for days. On this particular stretch of rainy bicycling, I am cruising down the Hamilton-Brantford Rail-Trail. The pro of being on a rail-trail is that there aren’t any major hills, with the exception of riding under highways. The con is that this one is not paved, but is rather what the internet called “stone dust.” I tried to google what stone dust is, but couldn’t figure out from google alone whether my bike would be able to handle it. This is how I find out.

I stop to pee, because, why not? As I notice the steam rising up from my urine-spray, I also notice the grime. Not on me, but on my jacket. I touch my non-gloved fingers to my back and find that there is a thick coating of tan-gray mud on my bright blue jacket. I go back to my bike and realize that everything–my panniers, my food bag, my water bladder, my poor bicycle frame, my brakes–is coated in mud. Without fenders, there’s nothing to shield me, my things, and my bicycle from the perpetual spray of mud. Excuse me–“stone dust.”

I get back on my bike and start laughing. I have transitioned from what could have been misery, past self-pity, to bliss.

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A paved bike trail from earlier today, covered with fall leaves, trees still holding some green.

I yell. I scream. I hoot and holler. There is no one on this trail; I haven’t seen a single person for hours. I am surrounded by farmland and wilderness. On one side, a vibrant green, short crop has been planted on the rolling hills. The green seems florescent, unnatural, in the midst of all this rainy, Ontario gray. On the other side, the wild takes over. The trees that loom overhead have mostly lost their leaves. The bare branches release the occasional bird, attempting to find shelter in its arms. The trail below me is littered with yellows and oranges, all of which has lost its beauty to the Ontario gray. My bike rides easily atop these drenched leaves and through the puddles. I am hyper-aware of its movements because I assume I can slip, fall, and die in the middle of nowhere at any time.

I haven’t slipped, fallen, and died in the middle of nowhere. But I am nowhere. So I yell.

“You are nowhere! No one knows you here! You are irrelevant to all who are here! You don’t know where you are, you could be anywhere! It doesn’t matter who you are here, you are nowhere. You are riding your bike to find a stranger who may give you a home.”

I smile and I laugh and I repeat these words to myself. It’s pouring; the rain has gotten through to my shoulders and upper arms. My feet are soaked, and have been all day since my shoes were still wet from yesterday. I haven’t had feeling in my big toes for hours. If I were to stop bicycling, I would just get more drenched. My body would cool down, I would start to shiver, and I’d never get warm and dry. Instead, I keep riding towards tonight’s Warmshower’s host’s home. I laugh and smile the whole way. I repeat to myself:

“You are nowhere! No one knows you here! You are irrelevant to all who are here! You don’t know where you are, you could be anywhere! It doesn’t matter who you are here, you are nowhere.”

Rolling hills, a week ago

Rolling hills, a week ago

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