Then a ploughman said, "Speak to us of Work."
And he answered, saying:
You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
Work is love made visible.
-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Well, friends, this week has certainly not been what I thought it would be.
When I last checked in, I had been very recently hit by a bus - a sentence that still sounds crazy to me. It's been almost a week, and while most of the swelling has gone away and the scabs have started to peel, my bruises are still colorful and my hand is still in pain. It's incredibly frustrating to be limited by what feels like such a minor injury; my legs are strong and ready to cycle but my hand simply can't bear the weight and constant bumps provided by our routes this week. I'm hoping to take a symbolic final ride into D.C. tomorrow, and then celebrate the accomplishments of my friends at the Hazon celebration at the D.C. JCC on Wednesday night.
As I haven't ridden since last Wednesday, I've been given ample opportunity to experience an entirely different side of life on the Cross-USA Ride. One of the interesting things about this trip has been the sense that we are very much engaged in a learning process; though Hazon did this same ride in 2000, almost all institutional memory of how it was planned has been lost and so our ride started from scratch. This has resulted in some wonderful things, and has also resulted in some challenges. Figuring out the balance of things like nights spent camping vs. nights on various floors or which days are too short, too long, or somewhere in between all require an ability to adjust based on the group attempting the ride. Some pieces have been set in place for months, while others seem to be determined at a whim. It gives everything a bit of a "fly by the seat of our pants" thrill that is both exciting and exhausting.
Still, there's no doubt that whether or not things are running smoothly, our staff is doing a tremendous amount of work. The logistics of a trip like this are very complicated, and Garth, Adrienne, and Steven have been doing their best to make it run efficiently. I've spent the last several riding days in the U-Haul with Garth, accompanying him on grocery shopping trips, setting up temporary offices in coffee shops along the route, and getting to campsites early to start the process of making camp and cooking dinner. I've shifted into a murky territory between rider and staff member where I have more information than the rest of the riders but don't necessarily have the authority to make any decisions or act on that info. It's not always the easiest place to be, but it's giving me a lot to think about in terms of effective leadership, planning, and facilitating group dynamics.
Being in this in-between space has also given me a chance to give back to the group. So many people have assisted me over the past week - helping me carry my bags, set up my tent, wash my dishes - often before I can even ask. So I've done my best to repay that love and kindness with little acts of my own - making sure that everyone has all of the information that they need on their way into camp every night, making sure that there are snacks available for the riders, finding things like sunscreen and detergent on the U-Haul, etc. It's the tedious stuff that falls through the cracks towards the end of a big trip - but I'm happy to do it because I know it helps.
I have a lot of complex feelings heading into the last day of riding. I'm disappointed that things have ended this way, but also proud of myself for diving headfirst into this adventure. I trying not to let an accident ruin the months of enjoyment I've gotten in the planning and training (and shopping!) for this trip. I did things I never thought I could do, including bike 88 miles in one day. I've made some amazing friends, biked some beautiful stretches of the country, and taken a much needed vacation. Though my body is tired, I feel mentally refreshed and re-energized. As I transition from Hazon Cross-USA Rider to Wexner Fellow and then NYU graduate student, I hope I'm able to maintain that feeling of energy.