By Mark Major
The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. [Ecclesiastes 9:11]
I didn’t entertain the notion of whether or not I could accomplish riding my bicycle across America; I always knew I could, and simply needed a plan. I’ve been blessed with the dream and physical ability, and have plenty of experience with these daily mileages. The plan was provided by the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure, and along with the help of my sponsors here I am in Atoka Oklahoma after 95 miles in heat topping over 100 degrees.
I’ve found my place amongst the riders and manage to hold my own. I like to ride relatively fast so have often found myself with the quick riders first to arrive at the day’s destination. That reduces time in the saddle, the place from which my greatest discomfort arises.
I don’t arrive last, nor won’t ride the support vehicle- my ego let me for it would rather see me die. Maybe I’ll lose that somewhere along the way. Perhaps while I sweep.
Nobody likes to sweep, except Kert, but then he seems to like flat tires too. Normal riders avoid Melissa’s “so who’s going to sweep?” that immediately follows the last “Oyee!” in the morning. The duty of the sweep is to be the last rider, encouraging others, helping with flat tires- generally ensuring the general welfare of all. The sweep should be confident they can finish the day’s ride. The sweep has the longest, slowest day, and on a long day perhaps up to two hours more than they would if at their own pace.
That’s where I found myself this morning. After Melissa’s request my hand shot in the air. Ok, more like there was dead silence- not even Kert (but then he’s been volunteering every day for over a week anyway) so I bemoaned my offer with great reluctance while reminding everyone of my extreme generosity. Kristi humbly joined me without fanfare.
The first third of the day was through rolling woodland on roads lacking traffic. As the day progressed the roads grew wider and gained cars while losing trees. The temperature rose. This is where I realized the relative immensity of this ride.
As I stated above I didn’t undertake bicycling across America with any doubt I could do it. Others have greater challenges but still undertook this same adventure. There lies the difference. I’ve gone swiftly and I’ve gone slowly. I find the fast ride challenging in the tight pace-line, early miles going at 20 per hour, then keeping a high average through the day and being quite impressed with myself. In the back, as sweep, it’s a different ride where ego is a burden. Ego does not serve to change another’s flat, encourage another’s mile, sooth heat stress- it only steals from me and others. My pace is slowing, and though I know I will always be tempted to stomp my pedals in chase of those skilled at speed, I must nurture my skills at serving. I had a good ride, barely finishing with Kristi and Kert- my teachers.