I just finished Moby Dick this morning.
I continue to wake up early as I did on the bike trip, but now instead of not falling back asleep, I return to slumber eventually and continue to regain the hours of sleep I missed on the Southern Tier trip.
Moby Dick was my companion on that trip, the audio book that transported me away each night to a thoughtful narrator and the tale of his journey. I would put the timer on each night; it would eventually shut of the book after an hour, well after I had already fallen asleep. Moby Dick became my sleeping pill all, sending me to sleep after just a chapter or two. The next night, I would scroll back through the list of chapters and attempt to find where I had left off. In reality, there were chapters I heard again and again and others I missed almost completely.
Moby Dick was my constant throughout so many ups and downs of this past journey, and it’s helped me make the transition back from those last days in Tallahassee through to this morning when I finally finished chapter 135 and the epilogue. For years, I couldn’t get much past the opening pages after “Call me Ishmael” and Ishmael’s first days in New Bedford and his sharing that bed with Queequeg, who soon became his “bosom friend.” I don’t think I ever even had read to the day they boarded the whaler Pequod.
Like on my own trip, the tension rose until the very end when the white whale obsessed and maniacally haunted Captain Ahab had his final meeting with Moby Dick. Perhaps now that I have finished Moby Dick, I can go beyond the tension of my own epic journey tense climax in Florida.
This morning at 5 after I returned to bed from the toilet, I scrolled to the last chapters and then fell asleep again. When I awoke around 7 am, the novel was over but I had missed the ending, so again I scrolled back one last time and listened to the last few chapters. I thought then of my own recent journey and opened up my blog on my Iphone. I was still snug under the covers.
On WordPress, you get reports on how many people are reading your blog. Yesterday, I got a notification that my stats were “booming” and could tell there were people reading more than just my recent posts. I wondered what they would see if they went back to the start of my Northern Tier trip so I clicked there and got pulled back into my first cross country trip.
How wonderfully refreshing to read those first blog entries through the Cascades. After the very awful ending of my first tour leading experience, I have been in need of some serious healing. My Athens community has helped me with that again and again — to see people who are happy to see me and who respect and enjoy my company. I have started talking about what happened at the end of the trip, and without exception, there has been nothing but incredulousness. Here I have friends and people who know who I am and the work I do. They have no doubt that someone screwy was going on, as it was. With each interaction, my self-doubt dissipates a bit.
Reading those entries from my Northern Tier trip provided more healing. On my Southern Tier trip, I again had wonderful times like I did on that first cross-country trip. Riding across the nation, you can’t help but thinking about the landscape around you and the people who have lived there over centuries, about the harsh outdoors they survived in, about the cruel ending the Native Americans nations experienced, about the motivations, strength and loneliness of the settlers who kept pushing further west. I met other cyclists on the road, traveling solo like I had two years previously and felt a connection to them that I never felt with my fellow Southern Tier cyclists. On the days I drove the van, there were my conversations with Walmart staff across the country that transformed my feelings about Walmart and there were the kind helpful people who checked me in at RV parks, state campgrounds, and motels.
And like on my Northern Tier trip, there were the wonder of discovering what was around the bend and the picnic lunches and convenience store stops and the wind and sky and birds and trees beside me and rivers and creeks I crossed.
What a journey it was. So, goodbye Moby Dick and thank you for the constant comfort you have given me these past two and a half months.