Today was the day of our planned wedding celebration. We crossed into Kansas (officially), raced another storm that never came, saw some beautiful clouds, and wrestled with the contradictions of our journey.
Sara's been posting our journey on Instagram as well, and one thing's for sure: the Instagram square does no justice to the skies of Kansas. They're infinite. And the clouds defy all similes. This is panorama country, and even then, no image can fully capture the dizzying, massive, shifting watercolor painting that's constantly above you.
We set out pre-sun on the morning of Day 38 and did a tiny bit of doubling back for the mandatory pose with another state sign...
The forecast called for thunderstorms in the afternoon, and so we were riding against time, trying to make it to our hotel in Chanute, KS, before the rains came. And we decided to spring for a hotel tonight not just because of the weather, but because today was supposed to be our wedding day. Back in another world, we would have been at a beautiful farm in Virginia today, surrounded by folks we love, doing the thing for real.
Well, ya'll know by now what happened instead. Sara's dress is hanging in a closet back in Charlottesville, to be worn someday. And here we are — pedaling through Kansas.
Plenty of places out here aren't so much a town as a collection of strip malls, a Walmart, a Dollar General, and a high school. Chanute is one of these. Sara took her bike through the drive-through at "Taco John's" (basically Taco Bell, just a smaller, more western-based chain) and Beau went to a liquor store (NOT "Dick Liquor"; we just couldn't) and bought basically the only two bottles of anything champagne-adjacent that they were selling. Then we high-tailed it to the nearby Holiday Inn Express (which is so new that Google Maps still shows a massive empty field in its location) and holed up to toast to our togetherness, and to wait out the rain.
For the third time on this trip, the rain never really came. But it got chilly outside, with a thick, drippy mist, so we drank our bubbly and ordered a pizza and were grateful for the indoors room and for each other.
And we talked about the hard strangeness of these places we've been riding through.
The truth is, for many, many miles now, we've been aware that we're not simply biking past Trump signs — we are daily interacting with people whose worldview saddens and enrages us on the deepest level. We're shopping and eating (small and local, whenever possible) at gas stations and diners owned by these folks. We're conversing with them in parking lots when they call out from their pick-up trucks, "Where y'all from?" or "Where you headed?" We've even accepted hospitality from some of them — without knowing their politics beforehand and, upon discovering them, feeling a huge, complicated weight of frustration, uncertainty, and shame.
It's not that—if asked, back in the bubble of New York that we used to live in—either of us would have said that we wanted to go through life surrounded only by people who think like us. I think we both would have said that attempts to reach out, to remind one another of our shared humanity, to be curious and generous, to have real conversations across boundaries — that these things can only help. But out here, we're finding out how difficult that task really is, how compromised and even cowardly you feel on the home terrain of someone whose ideology seems, to you, so hateful, so deluded, so fearful, so dangerous.
And so contradictory! Because these people are, for the most part, welcoming and kind. Some even participate in Warm Showers, which, when you think about it, is a small socialist network for cyclists and their friends: a system based on generosity and mutual aid. You need a place to stay; come on in. Now, I need a place to stay, and you have one for me. We don't charge each other money. We take care of each other because that's what humans should do. That's not Capitalism! That's not Conservativism! Somehow, folks seem to understand and strive for a certain set of generous, essentially liberal values on the micro-level, and then turn around and vote against those very values.
We can't very well ride through America starting claws-out ideological arguments with everyone we meet — it's not safe, and what real good would it do? But saying nothing seems cowardly and wrong. We're navigating this heaviness daily, trying to represent ourselves accurately and with courage, and trying not to give in to the darker feelings. We don't have answers, but we're trying to hold these things as we continue to ride. And we're excited and grateful to be raising some money now for the things we do believe in. We spent part of our storm-less afternoon continuing to work on our fundraiser, and are amazed and moved by the amount of support that's already coming in.
More soon, friends. Wishing you some kindness to yourselves and the ability to keep carrying all you're carrying. Ride on.
Day 38: Pittsburg to Chanute, KS, 68.7 miles, 1550 feet of climbing (so flat!), a little self love, a little campaigning, a lot of thinking, no rain.