I am sitting in the viewing car of a Portland-bound train, sipping beer and staring out at slow-rolling Montana. My journal is in my lap, open to an empty page. It's been there for about an hour. I haven't touched it. Don't get me wrong -- I want to write. I want to compose something big and wise and expansive about this thing I've just finished, this Book Tour by Bike.
But I haven't a clue where to begin.
I mean, should I just start with my final week on the road? I certainly could do that. I could tell you that despite the 100-degree heat and vast armies of mosquitoes, I had a blast on the ride from Madison to Milwaukee, partly because of the downright luxurious Glacial Drumlin Trail, mostly because of the fine company. I could coo about how, after getting overheated and lost on my ride to Boswell Book Company, I walked in to find a 50-person crowd, including a couple I'd met weeks earlier on a Washburn sidewalk. I could recount how I got blasted by headwinds on my final push to Chicago; how my goofball friends pretended to be fanboys and live-blogged my City Lit reading; how, in a single day, I did a TV interview, wrote a blogpost, biked 15 miles, gave a reading, biked 15 more, then somehow found myself unable to sleep.
But, well, no. None of that would be big, or wise, or expansive. I'd just be detailing a bunch of moments. And while that's worked well enough thus far, now, in this post, I need more than moments. I need to resolve tension. I need to braid narrative threads. I need an ending. Right?
Maybe what I do is start from the beginning. Maybe I reread that first post, the one in which I said I'd chosen to bike my book tour because I wanted to be challenged and surprised, because I wanted to show up to each reading feeling "attentive, grounded and grateful." And then I move through the trip, using expertly chosen details to show how my expectations were challenged, then challenged again, then shattered, leaving me to pick up the pieces and put them back together, redemptively.
But no, that doesn't work, either. Because my book/bike tour did meet my expectations. Thanks to this blog and my Instagram feed, I was forever attentive, noticing and documenting far more than I have on any other trip. Thanks to the winds and the roller coaster hills and my own overly ambitious plans, I was very much grounded, often quite literally. And thanks to so many generous strangers and beautiful landscapes and readings full of good people asking good questions, I ended pretty much every day feeling weapons-grade gratitude.
Come to think of it, my expectations were like the best kind of outline. They gave me just enough structure to know where I was going, and just enough wiggle room to be surprised by how, and when, and with whom I was going there.
Maybe that's the point of this whole thing: If you expect the unexpected, you won't be disappointed.
Really, I don't know. Not yet, at least. Right now, all I know is that I'm sitting on this train, and I'm trying to find my wise, expansive ending, but I can't, because I'm working with too many moments, and not enough perspective, and not even close to enough sleep.
I look back at the journal. Underneath it is a tattered copy of Going Somewhere, the one I've read from throughout this tour. I pull it out, page through the chapters based in Montana, remember how it took me and Rachel three full weeks to ride through the state.
And now it dawns on me: This book tour by bike has taken three weeks, too.
Before I even know why, I start flipping pages, moving toward the end of the last Montanan chapter, toward some words I wrote a long time ago:
As we rode west, I replayed memories, still casting about for a Montanan moral, a neatly packaged story I could tell for years to come. But I only saw a messy collage of moments. And all I could think was that this was something like saying goodbye to an old friend. The kind you've known through sunshine and shit. The kind you know you'll see again.
I put the book down. I look back out the window. I let my mind wander over those old Montanan moments, and these new Midwestern ones, and I stop worrying over wise and expansive, morals and endings. I just sit, and I let the memories mix, and I think, "It's good to see you again. And again."
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