We’re falling apart – both physically and mentally.
I wrote a few days ago about our gear falling apart – our clothes are in tatters and our bikes are falling apart. Yesterday I broke yet another spoke, so my bike is in the shop being fixed now. Will everything hold together for another 2700 kilometers? We can only hope.
The harder part, though, is the mental half of the equation. We’re finding it harder and harder to remain focused and motivated to keep going. Will we hold together long enough to reach Ushuaia?
It would be so easy right now to just hole up here and vegetate for the next three weeks, but we know we can’t. We’re racing Old Man Winter and none of us wants to be pushing our bikes through two feet of snow. If we are going to make it to Ushuaia, we need to push on.
I’ll freely admit there is a part of me who feels we should just climb on a plane and head north right now. Why bother with these last 1500 miles? It’ll be mile after mile of barren pampa with blasts of wind so strong they’ll knock us off our bikes. Do I really want to do this?
I think back to a conversation I had with Ramon, a man I met in Poza Rica, Mexico. “Nancy,” he said, “we’ve been studying about doing big things in my classes for my master’s degree. Basically, to do any big thing, it comes down to four steps – decision, plan, start, redo.”
He’s absolutely right – that’s exactly what it comes down to. Those basic four steps:
- Make the decision
- Design a plan of action
- Go back to the drawing board
But the hardest part of the whole thing is making the decision. I’ve said all along that the hardest part of our journey was making the decision to take it in the first place. How does one make the decision to drop out of everything society expects from us to make our own path through life? As parents, we are expected to drop the kids off at daycare, spend the bulk of our waking hours in an office somewhere, pick up the kids, fix a quick dinner, take the kids to soccer practice, and then collapse into bed exhausted.
We decided – through whatever convoluted path we followed to get there – that we didn’t want that life. We wanted a life on two wheels. We wanted a life cycling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. We made the decision. We came up with a basic plan of action, and we started.
But now we’re back to the drawing board. We’re back where we started. Do we really want to do this? Is getting to Ushuaia really that important to us? If it’s not, I can guarantee we won’t make it.
It’s getting hard now. Someone once said that bike touring is 90% mental and 10% physical. I agree with that. Yes, I can physically push on. I can keep those legs going in circles for hours and hours. But do I want to push on? Do I have the mental fortitude to deal with another two or three months through Patagonia?
The hard part is that all four of us have to make the decision. All four of us have to agree on what we’ll do. If one of us wants to head home, do all four of us do that? Or does that one agree to push on? How does a team balance all those questions?
We’ve never been in this position before. Sure, I was ready to throw in the towel up in northern Peru, but that was a different situation. Now, I really don’t know. I know I want to reach Ushuaia – but I want to get there, like…tomorrow. I don’t feel like spending another 50 or 60 nights camped by the side of the road. I don’t feel like battling winds straight from the depths of hell for another couple months. I don’t feel like being bitten by tabanos for another 75 days. I don’t feel like foraging and gathering food from poorly stocked stores. I don’t feel like stuffing my sleeping bag and rolling up the tent. I don’t feel like pedaling my heavy bike up 30-kilometer climbs.
So we come back to the beginning – to the decision part of doing this big thing. Is reaching Ushuaia on two wheels important enough to me to continue on? Is accomplishing this goal that I’ve dedicated so many years of my life to worth the inconveniences and pain it’ll take to get there? Do I really want to do this?
At this point, I suppose my answer is yes. Yes, it’s worth it – for now. Yes, I’ll push on. Yes, I’m tired and my spirits are low and there’s a huge part of me saying quit now. But there’s another side saying it’ll be worth it in the end.
My mom always said, “It’s only for a little while. You can do anything for a while.”
I keep telling myself it’s only a couple of months. I can do anything for a couple months. Yep – anything. Even the Patagonian winds.