Posted by: twistsoffeet | May 17, 2011

Whip me, beat me, make me cry, and I’ll st…

I did not want to ride today.

My arthritis is barking ferociously at me and refuses to stop.

I woke up this morning early; it was cold, damp, and windy. Not a good way to start the day. The rheumatologists will say that arthritis is not affected by weather and that it is all in the patient’s head.  Well, I am hear to say that the one place it is not at is my head. Every joint in my body is screaming at me. The knuckles on my hands are swollen and red, my knees, elbows, ankles, and everything is stiff and painful. It was all I could do to hold onto my handlebars today.

Nonetheless, I got up anyway and packed and prepared for a day of riding. I left Hayneville at about 7:15a this morning. The first mile was flat and straight… into a headwind.  After that, the hills began again, nothing impressive at first; just gentle long hills into a headwind that, besides causing the obvious difficulty of riding directly into it, was also chilling me to the bone.

It never warmed up.  It never stopped being cold even when the sun was shining; and the wind never stopped.  If it was not a full on headwind, then it was a nasty crosswind that was trying to take me off of my saddle.  I did, however, get about 10 miles of perfectly flat and straight road between Fort Valley and Roberta in Peach and Crawford counties.  Oh, but this was just a tease to lull me into a state of calm in the face of the adversity of the full on headwind that refused to give me an inch without a battle.

Then came the longest, steepest, nastiest hills I have yet traveled on this tour.  Hills that pummeled my legs and lungs, beating me incessantly, mocking my futile efforts to continue in the face of adversity. I was becoming somewhat insane in my pain.  Pushing up one long steep hill after another, then pedaling as hard as I could downhill at speeds up to 35 MPH with the crosswind buffeting me mercilessly.  Basically, I nearly scared the poop out of myself, but I needed the advantage of speed to get up the next hill regardless of how minimal that advantage was.

I thought that I would stop in Roberta and try to find a place to camp, but I was not that lucky today. I was unable to find anyone to speak to except for the mean looking and drunk acting guy, wearing a confederate flag for a shirt that was just glaring at me as I rode past.  I decided not to ask him for advice on a camping spot.

Instead, I rode another five miles, always looking for someplace that looked like a good spot for stealth camping. Someplace without buildings or fences, or any signs of ownership that would be accessible on my bike and suitable for pitching my tent.

I never found such a place.  Finally, I saw a man walking in the yard of the Hilltop Auction Barn.  He was elderly and looked friendly enough, and I was desperate enough, so I rode up his driveway and asked if he could possibly direct me to someplace where I could camp.  He pointed to a corner of his lot and said it would be fine if I camped there.  He then offered me water.

I introduced myself and he said he was E.T. Presley, “no relation,” with a smile.  Then he showed me some tomato plants he was planting in his garden and again pointed me to the corner of his lot and said it would be just fine if I camped down there.

I met one other woman and her children today, although I did not get her name. I was exhausted and had stopped at a crossroads when she drove up and asked if I needed help.  I advised I was just resting.  She asked what direction I was going and I told her; she then suggested that I stop at a place in Roberta for some peach ice cream.  She said if I back tracked a little I could get the 2nd best peach ice cream in the world, but if I continued the direction I was going, I could get the best in the world and her kids all agreed.  I wish I could have found the place, but I couldn’t afford it anyway so best not to tease myself.

I ended up riding 43 miles today, even though I did not want to, and it was difficult beyond my ability to express. And so I say to the road I am on, “Whip me, Beat me, make me cry,” and I will still say, “please, sir, may I have another?” because I am determined to see this through and I will not let the road defeat me.

Mr. E.T. (Ephram Thomas) Presley just stopped by and gave me a bag of peaches, and chatted for a while.  He used to be in the Navy in WWII, and has been married since 1955.  He goes to work at 05:00 AM every morning, helping farmers or peach farmers, and apparently everyone around here is kinfolk to him. He actually lives in Roberta, but it is too crowded for him and so he stays out here in the country, where there is more elbow room.  The variety of peach he gave me is Calrey– a new hybrid.  He said the old peaches are gone now, just like most of the old folk.  His secret to a long marriage is when he leaves home for the day, or whatever, he never looks back because it is best not to know what is happening.

The peaches are delicious. I am glad I kept riding.


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