Riding my bicycle across Vietnam
There was some talk early in the morning and the night before: do we push on all the way to D.C.? We both felt alright, although not as fresh as the day before. We decide to reach out to a few WarmShowers hosts in D.C. During the course of the day, two responded negatively, and we hadn’t heard back from one. The other option was a campsite 25 miles from the end of the trail. While neither of us were keen on spending another night camping in the sticky, humid, and buggy Maryland rainforest, we were slightly less keen on picking through AirBnB’s meager Friday night last minute bookings that would be in all likeliness overpriced and mediocre. The plan was decided to start riding, hope to hear back from this WarmShowers host, and to camp if all else failed.
The 35 miles into Harper’s Ferry were smooth, although. I quickly noticed that I was fatigued from the day before. I had surprisingly good fish fry at a touristy restaurant in Harper’s Ferry, running mad from the flocks of shook kids hovering outside. I was that same school kid a few years ago.
I’m keeping the details on this section of riding sparse because the excitement of the riding was fairly unexciting. Until Brunswick. We had been warned by other cyclists that a section of trail had washed out, but advised by others that there was a small stream crossing that the intrepid traveler hold opt for instead of a detour. Crossing it was. We got there and it was pretty fun. I gambled on hopping across dry stone, rolling my bike in the water next to me, and using it as a support of sorts. It worked brilliantly. Matt made it across too. I think I have video; I’ll attach it!
As of the afternoon I had not heard from any of the WarmShowers hosts. Matt and I got separated, but I intended to meet up with him at the final campground. Meanwhile, I mentally prepared for another sticky, humid night. I thought about the logistics of an early morning and the final 25 miles into D.C. I fantasized about brunch at Farmers Fishers Bakers, a restaurant that my other Matthew friend had recommended. As the last campground approached, Matt was nowhere to be seen. I was confused as I knew he knew there were no confirmed plans to stay in D.C. Additionally, I was knackered, mentally ready to be done for the day. I turned my phone on to see texts of “where are you” and “just passed the last campground”, timestamped at 30 minutes ago. Upset, I called him, and listened as he told me he didn’t want to camp another night. I hung up the phone and ate a muffin. I met up with him in a few more miles at which point he informed me that an AirBnB was booked. 5 miles through D.C. after the end of the trail.
I zoomed on, alone with my thoughts, quickly realizing the need to enjoy the end of the journey, but it was hard. I was dismayed, and tired. Nevertheless, I had time to think. Time to realize that I was being stubborn, but not enough time to forgive and move on. But another thought: I was in awe of the human body, my body.
I felt done at the 26 mile marker. Mentally done, fatigued from being atop a bicycle all day, looking at the same slice of gray trail cleaving through the Maryland woods. The constant cadence of my reciprocating legs that seemed to convert sheer willpower into mechanical energy. A cadence that only changed as I tired or as my finger found the gear shift on the handlebars. Reciprocal. I was physically tired too, acutely aware of the generalized aches that besieged joints, muscles, and mind.
But I didn’t stop, and the miles kept ticking down. I kept moving. I reflected on the trip, and reflected on the achievement of my two longest consecutive days in the saddle. And suddenly it was over. The lights of Georgetown appeared, and I was relieved. It seemed that as quickly as we had begun it had ended. Even though we had another five miles ride through the city, I wasn’t worried. I wanted to enjoy it. We snapped a quick picture on the water, and I put lights on my bike to get through the city.
Fortunately, the city riding was uneventful. The sidewalks were flush with bumbling tourists. I was roadside and weary at that point, and my sole focus was to get to the AirBnB and into bed. It was 9:30 by the time we made it to the house. Everything from there was smooth. Matt offered to buy me McDonald’s, to which I did not feel too bad declining as I ordered panang curry, fish cakes, and extra rice on UberEats. I hopped in the shower, cleaned up, met the Uber driver outside, ate leisurely, and quite literally collapsed in bed, thinking as I drifted off about the next day’s eating activities.