I found myself riding alone as dusk began to fall. By now all of the ORV riders had migrated to their northwoods bar of choice to drink well into the night. I had left one of those bars in Hatfield only a couple hours earlier, filled up on cheeseburgers, french fries, and Coca-Cola. Not to mention just a bit of secondhand smoke.
The Jackson County ORV trails earlier in the day had been quite a slog. The fine sugar sand had permeated my riding boots while pushing my bike through it. I had stopped three times to empty the contents of my boots as the pressure on my toes had become too much. I had gone through an emotional roller coaster, vowing to hit the next bit of pavement to quit out, and then vowing to finish what I’d started. I mourned for the competitors behind me who would surely curse my name, for it was I who had organized this mess.
Now I was cruising in the cool dusk air, making up time lost earlier in the day, pushing myself further into the night on deserted fire roads and ORV trails unreckognizeable to me. It is hard to explain such an easy concept, but this was one of my goals for the TransWisconsin: to ride alone, away from the comforts of civilization, down trails I did not know, and into the darkness. In short, I wanted to race my own race.
Heavy rain had closed many of the ATV trails to motorized vehicles. The heavy soil had settled flat and no longer showed the tire tracks from wide open throttles. Man-made tracks had been replaced by those of common woodland animals such as deer, raccoons, and small black bear. The black bear tracks would wander aimlessly back and forth on the trail, likely searching for wild berries to feast upon.
As dusk became darkness I came upon a small campground to pitch camp at. There was shelter if needed and most importantly potable water, which I was getting low on. I pitched my small tarp next to a tree on the damp ground, filled my water containers and rinsed my wet, sand infused, socks out from the days ride. I slipped under my tarp, nestled into my quilt, and feasted on pepperoni slices, gummi bears, and granola bars.
That night as I lay in the cool, damp woods my mind wandered as I fell into a deep, comfortable sleep. It was only day two of TransWisconsin and I had transitioned into the simple and peaceful rhythm of eating, riding, sleeping, and living simply on the bike. It had been a difficult day, pushing through the sand, but I had accomplished my goals and felt good about overcoming my fear of riding alone.
I haven’t talked, or written much about the days I spent touring through rural Wisconsin this past summer. They challenged me physically, but most importantly they took me inside myself, into my fears of riding alone in unfamiliar terrain, and getting comfortable with the deafening silence of solo travel. They are my favorite riding moments of 2010.
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