Since day 1, we've met about a dozen cyclists that were riding the Trans America Trail. For the most part, the two minute exchange was enough time spent talking to them. They were always nice, but they don't really pop up in my mind after going in our opposite directions. There was one cyclist that we met that we often think back on, though. She was a solo rider that we met on our second day. That was only 4 weeks ago, but it's comical how naive Chris and I were back then.
I never really told the story since I didn't write a Day 1 post, but Day 1 was straight up awful. I do tend to be nostalgic and brush over the negatives sometimes, but I'll always remember Day 1 for how it actually was. We did far too long of a day and biked into the dark. We couldn't figure out where the hostel was that was listed on the map, so we had to set up camp in an employee parking lot for a Civil War battleground. I remember us being filthy; I don't know how we were so dirty, but it was the worst we've been all trip. The parking lot obviously didn't have any showers, so there was no fixing that. After I got settled in my tent and began to question what the hell I signed up for, there was a brilliant flash of light that completely illuminated my tent. The storm that followed was unlike anything Chris and I had seen before or since. Despite waterproofing the tent's seams, using a ground cloth, and using my rain cover, everything was drenched. Although we didn't sleep very much, we quietly rolled out of our tents at 5:30am to the sound of Chris' alarm. We gathered our thoughts and gear and biked to the closest gas station for breakfast. While sitting outside staring blankly and eating quietly, we met Lydia. We've since realized that she had probably stayed at the hostel that we couldn't seem to locate. She was just a day short of completing the route that Chris and I are currently following and couldn't have contrasted us more. The first thing we saw was her vibrant smile that displayed her overt cheeriness. We were tired, filthy, and miserable. We didn't talk long at all, but she excitedly said how Illinois and Missouri were her favorite states. We hadn't expected to hear that, but we now know why. The Midwest has been good to us. While suffering through the Appalachians, I kept Lydia's words in mind. I looked forward to moving on from the South to the Midwest and am pleased that Lydia was right. Sure, the hills are still tough- but they're tough everywhere. The people have been genuine and helpful, we've been experiencing more scenic views, and the riding has been great. I'm sure that me writing a post saying how much I like the Midwest will result in tomorrow having some tough riding, but oh well.
Some scattered thoughts from the day:
- We are in the city of Houston, which is in Texas County. I'm sure there's an actual reason, but instead of looking it up, I'm just going to assume it's some kissing up to the lone star state.
- The lunch options were plentiful, but we decided to go with what we thought was the healthiest option: Taco Bell. Think about that for a second- the healthiest option that we saw was Taco Bell.
- At a Chinese buffet for dinner (not the worst call we've made), a woman came over to us. She's also doing the trail (and going East like everyone else we've met). She asked us how the rest of the trip was- particularly Virginia. There's really no good in telling her how difficult we thought it was. We didn't want to downplay it and get her hopes up, but we also didn't want to psych her out. She said that she was expecting the trip to be all downhill from here. We waited for her to crack a smile or give some indication that she was kidding, but she didn't budge. She just came out of Kansas, the state that is used as a synonym for flat and boring (sorry Kansas), but was expecting the trip to be downhill from here. I think she will soon realize that the hills will follow her to the Atlantic, I'm sure that she will crush the remaining part.
- We have somewhere between 60-70 miles tomorrow. The city we're going to has over two thousand residents, so it's practically a metropolis by my standards these days.