Monday, September 5, 2011

Gimme A Sign

MST – Day 67 – 7-21-11 – Highway 13 to Highway 11 – Albrittons Crossroads – 24.2 Miles

Today’s heat index was forecast to reach 104.  John and I met at our ending point (Hills Grove Holiness Church) just as the sky was lightening, left a car, and drove to our start point about 38 miles away in Shine, NC (Hwy 13).  We hoped to finish by 11:30 a.m. to beat the heat.  I felt conflicted about whether to do the ride or not.  I had driven a very long way and spent the night, but was it safe to do this in such hot conditions?  John’s the kind of guy who will honor a commitment even if it’s unpleasant.  Should I just let him off the hook?  I needed a sign.  

Well, the morning started out reasonably cool so maybe it would be okay.  And John brought his recumbent bike, much easier on him.  So at 7:20 a.m. I started out in the lead because I had the turn-by-turn directions.  The road was flat and there were very few cars.  John was great about calling out “car back” when a car was approaching to pass us. 

I never tire of seeing these old buildings and farm equipment  - reminiscent of my growing up.  I didn’t live on a farm, but several of my uncles were farmers (mostly tobacco).  I lived just down the road and I spent a lot of time at their places.  I never was required to work in tobacco during the summer, but all my male cousins and friends and my brother did, and I can even remember my mom going to help out from time to time when I was very young.  I remember tobacco slides pulled by mules, hand-tying the leaves to the sticks, hanging them in the barns to cure.  A by-gone era.  

Flowers on tobacco plant

Entering the town of LaGrange, I felt I was working harder than I should, and John said my rear tire appeared to be flattening.  We stopped to check it out and sure enough, it was losing air.  I had an extra tube but no pump.  John had a pump but the connection was not the right size.  Well, maybe if we speed up we can get it over with. 

We were pedaling through a pretty countryside and the air was heating up, but we didn’t feel the need to stop as often as yesterday.  On a road lined with tall corn on both sides, an enormous piece of farm equipment appeared around a bend, with wide-set tires spreading across the pavement – looked like something out of Transformers.  It could have passed over a house.  The farmer waved and chugged on by.

At Living Waters Fellowship Church we stopped to fill up water bottles from spigots at the front of the building.  We knew about this from a note in Scot Ward’sbook.  He notes many water sources on the road route and this is the first time I had used one.  It’s great information to have. 

My tire was getting flatter – what to do?  We kept at it, not stopping to take photos, but after about 8 more miles I decided that I couldn’t continue.  We stopped at Jimmy D’s restaurant at Albritton’s Crossroads, a busy place on a weekday morning as they prepared their hot food bar for the lunch rush for local workers (no fast food chains out here). 

We went inside and sat in the air conditioning to determine what to do.   It was 10:00 a.m. and we were about 13 miles from our end point.  John offered to continue on alone to his vehicle, but I was concerned about him biking alone in the heat.  Looked like it was time to bum a ride.

I asked a fellow waiting on his takeout order if he would take John back to his van while I stayed behind with the bikes.  The patron couldn’t help us but suggested we talk to the owner, Jimmy.  Hitching a ride 13 miles in the country is a big request, but Jimmy stopped his work, loaded our bikes in his pickup and both of us in the front seat and took us back to Hills Grove Holiness Church – the truest kind of trail angel.  He reminded me of my cousin Sammy (one of those boys growing up on the tobacco farm), kind, friendly, willing to help out a neighbor or a stranger in any way. 

John and I called it quits - no sense in trying to pump up the tire and complete the route.  God thought it was too hot for us to be out there and I was not inclined to argue.  As John drove me back to my car, we talked about what makes people engage in outdoor adventures and, conversely, what prevents people from them.  Our conclusion:  it’s not so much in your physical ability as it is your mental attitude.  You've got to be okay with being physically uncomfortable when working towards a goal.

I turned the air on full blast and headed for home.  Along the way I passed tobacco fields and workers pulling the bottom leaves, wearing long sleeves, long pants, bandannas over noses and mouths. 

“If you want to keep going, you’ve got to keep going.” ~ John Jaskolka, age 82.

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