Currently I do not have this feeling but then again I’m sitting in a nicely air conditioned cafe. Outside thou is 35°C and considering the humidity and all it feels like more than 40°C. But luckily for me, today I have a day off and I’m not cycling.
Temperatures are on a sure and steady rise (same as humidity) ever since I have arrived in Washington DC about a month ago (uau, has it really been that long?). But the heat has really started to affect my daily routine in the past week or so.
Lately I’m getting up at 4h when it’s still dark outside. This way I can make my breakfast and start packing my tent and all the equipment before sunrise. Additional bonus is that I can see the birth of a new day every day (how romantic). Then I hit the road and cycle until about noon when I stop for a midday rest. It’s just too hot to cycle and it also is not smart to cycle in the main heat of the day. Besides I need to stop to dry out the tent and all the sweaty clothes of the previous day. Due to all the humidity in the air, the morning dew is really intense and so every morning I wake up in a wet tent with all the clothes that were drying outside being wetter than in the evening when I hung them (how unromantic). One day I might actually incorporate a short midday nap into these stops just to compensate for the early morning rises.
By about 4 I’m ready to hit the road again and then I can cycle up until 6, 6:30 when I should start making camp for the evening as the sunset is around 8. And I’m ready to hit the bed around 9 ready to call it another day on the road.
After leaving mountainous West Virginia and hilly Kentucky I have taken the Natchez Trace in Tennessee. It’s a trail several thousand years old that connects today’s Natchez on the banks of the Mississippi with Nashville Tennessee. Long before the arrival of white people the trace was used by the Indians on their migrations. The first white settlers learned about it from the Indians and shortly they took it as their own. It enabled a relatively good way of traveling back north for the traders that travelled south on the Mississippi on boats with all their merchandise all the way to Natchez or New Orleans where they were able to sell it all along with their boats (for lumber) and then headed back north by foot.
Well, I’m following the trace due south (always trying to be special) generally for two reasons. The main reason being that since I’m already in these parts of the world I could do a small detour and treat myself with a visit New Orleans. It is not on the most direct route from Halifax where I have started to Mexico where I’m currently headed if I want to continue to South America, but then again, who says that I have to follow a direct trail. A smaller detour of a few 100km seems completely justifiable in order to visit and above all taste New Orleans.
The second reason is of more practical nature. Today this ancient trace has been transformed into a national park through which winds a 444 miles (710km) long pawed road that is off limit to commercial traffic and where cyclists have the right of way. Not only that, there are rest areas and primitive campsites organized along the way where I can camp not having to bother myself with can I camp there or where can I pitch my tent.
But this trace also has two, you might say, drawbacks. One being that, since it is a national park, you are not really passing through populated areas. There are small towns nearby but not on your road. And so I skip them more often than not and in doing so I “deprive” myself of the experience of small towns of the American South.
Second »drawback« is very light traffic on the road (being a national park that does not go from town to town and all that). Consequently there is a lot of wild animals on the road from deers to wild turkeys to squrels and all sorts of birds.
And if you take all the above (the heat, the solitude, the animals) and you experience it through a cyclists (my) eyes, then sometime midday, when the heat is at is highest, interesting associations start to emerge. One day I saw a deer with a cub and a drawing from Walt Disney – Bambi appeared in front of my eyes. A see a butterfly and in my ears I start to hear – »Metuljček cekinček, ti potepinček,…« (Slovenian children song). By the roadside I see a cow and my first thought is – STEAK!
Well travelling cyclist have one preoccupation on our minds – food!