leaving Bakersfield was tough, but my mind was filled with the road right away. We rode California Highway 99 northbound, exiting in Merced. From Merced we rode Highway 59 on one of the longest, hottest, and driest stretches I've ever ridden. The heat held steady around 105 degrees and shortly after leaving Merced I had stopped sweating from dehydration.
Although I was feeling the effects, I was mesmerized at the beauty around me. Rolling hills of golden grasses, cows and horses seeking shade under oak trees, and road after road lined with wooden fence posts and long stretches of rusted wire. Billboards and homemade signs lined every road warning residents of the water shortage and the wicked politicians who are stealing the water from the farms. I was just one more victim of the dry dead summer land that plagued area. Riding nearly an hour searching for water, I cheered with delight when I rolled into a gas station in Jamestown.
After an entire bottle of Gatorade and half a bottle of water, I felt human again. Even though I had finished 3 bottles of water that day, I still had no need to urinate after 5 hours, a clear indicator that I was dehydrated. Sipping from the bottle of water on my handlebars as I ride obviously wasn't enough. In these temperatures, I should be wearing my wet vest. I vowed to wear it everyday going forward.
I enjoyed my time in Murphys, CA visiting my StepMom Kathy and her best friend Joanne. I've known both of them my entire life. Kathy and I share a special bond, both still feeling a deep love for my Dad, who passed away in 1990. Kathy never loved another man again and still has photos of she and my Dad in her living room. Although she's rebuilt a happy life, she still misses him deeply.
To me, there's something precious in that. To have loved that man so much that she still longs for him all of these years seems to embody the meaning of a lifelong love. I love him that way too, as his daughter, and I'm sure it's obvious that I miss him terribly as well.
Even in the driest landscape there can be beauty, if we look for it hard enough. Even in the worst pain, we can find exquisiteness. To the degree of difficulty is a symmetrical balance of joy, if we can appreciate all of what we have before us.
The road has taught me to appreciate the rain with the same enthusiasm as the sun. Running and hiding from pain, avoiding anything that may hurt me, that is not living. Embracing every experience life has to offer is to live fully.