Sunday, 6/17/01 - Saturday, 6/23/01 - Settling into Cheyenne
On Sunday, the morning was hot and sunny from the start. Early that day, I met a guy named Tony at the campground who, upon seeing my mountain bike strapped to the front grill of the RV, invited me to go for a bike ride into town. I had to warn him that I had barely ridden three miles (only once) and that the bike was turning into more of a hood ornament than getting used.
Still, I followed his bike onto the street, making our way into town and to Lions Park. We stopped at a lake and cooled off in the freezing water, so cold that when I attempted to swim, my lungs and heart started siezing, and I was afraid I would drown, so I waded but didn't swim.
After drying off in the scorching hot sun along the shore for a little bit, we continued our ride, to the Frontier Mall and along an extensive bike path throughout Cheyenne. Too many times I wanted to stop and call it quits or cry or hyperventilate, but I kept peddling, more out of pride than anything like physical endurance.
At the very last stretch, a steep hill rose before me, and I felt tears catching in my throat. Tony had offered numerous times to ride ahead, get his truck and come back for me, but I had refused stoically. Now, I had to take him up on his offer.
"You better go on ahead," I gasped, still peddling but at a slow, laboring pace. He took off up the hill and disappeared from sight.
I was now alone, on the bike, on a hill, after hours of riding, trying not to give up, trying not to look like I was straining with all my might. How did I get to be so stubborn? Normally, physical discomfort, like that caused by physical exertion, is something I try to avoid, but here I was, somehow simultaneously exhausted and excited at the same time. I was really, truly riding my bike.
When I turned up the road to the campground, I couldn't see Tony's truck, so I kept peddling, at this point, making up a chant in my head that I thought would get me back to the RV and to the chihuahuas who had been cooped up for several hours now and surely had to go outside. I chanted: "Ernie, Ernie, Bert, Bert, Mama's Coming Home, Home" over and over again. Now, it sounds silly to me, but at the time, it was the most compelling chant I could come up with. They needed me to get back to them, and I wasn't about to stop peddling.
Then I saw Tony's truck and I immediately stopped peddling. Nothing in the world would get me to peddle again that evening, and I stood astride my bicycle, wobbly and smiling and trying to breathe. Tony took the bike from me, slung it on top of his truck, strapped it on and drove me back to the campground.
On Monday, I woke up early to get to Jolley Rogers RV service station by 8:00am to have the steps on the RV fixed. I had called weeks earlier, while still in Bozeman, to make sure they had the right steps and could schedule me in for the repair.
Two hours later, the old steps were out and the new steps were installed. Sweet!
Then I drove around town, stopping at the mall in search of a runner rug for the RV to replace the original one which was a little worse for wear after the last 9 months of foot traffic. I finally found something suitable at a carpet store, then drove around some more, spending way too much money at Wal-Mart on things I didn't really need but suddenly felt compelled to have. Like a tiny food processor. And a small blender. What was I thinking?
That evening, I had my book signing at the Barnes & Noble. I come to find out that Monday's are their slowest nights, but I convinced them to let me sit at a table at the front door instead of halfway back into the store. I waved and smiled at people as they walked in, but other than a man asking me where the computer books section was, no one stopped to talk with me, always averting their eyes, afraid I was trying to sell them something (which I was, of course).
On Wednesday, I spent the early part of the day doing all the domestic things - laundry, vaccuuming, emptying the tanks, washing dishes. Then I spent the afternoon reading and writing. I was feeling productive being in one place for a while. Even though I enjoyed traveling, sometimes the constant moving from town to town every other day created a rift in the rhythm of my creativity. I was finally getting some work done. I had already extended my stay from Monday to Wednesday and decided to extend it to the weekend, hoping to tap into some more creative flow.
That evening, Tony stopped by and offered up another bike ride to a different park, and I gave it a go. Were my legs getting a little stronger, or was it my imagination. I even made it up a steep and long hill without too many thoughts of giving up. Not bad!
On Thursday, I was feeling outdoorsy and athletically ambitious, so I drove the Apache to the park, and the Berts and I sat out on the grass for a while, then I put them into the RV to sleep while I unhooked my bike and took a ride. I probably only rode less than two miles, but was proud of myself for taking the initiative to ride again. I'm a regular sporto!
On Friday, I did some reading, some work, some more laundry, feeling restless with a strange energy coursing through me. Within a few hours, a thunderstorm rumbled into town, covering the clear sky and hot sun with dense, dark clouds.
I've been reading several books at once lately. I am trying to finish a collection of travel essays by women called "A Woman's Passion for Travel," and am reading "The Milagro Beanfield War" as part of a pre-assignment for the travel writing course I'll be taking in mid-July at a writer's conference in Taos, New Mexico. And I just picked up "The Celestine Prophecy" because several people recommended it to me recently, but I can't remember who or why.
Cheyenne, as a town, has been comforting to me somehow. When I think of my criteria for where I'd like to move, I have things on my list such as population around 50,000 or less, a college where I can teach and take classes and outdoorsy things to do. While Cheyenne doesn't fit all of it to a tee, Population: 55,000, no major university and no big mountains to climb or rivers to raft, there is something soothing and easy about it.
I'm not getting the same vibe I got when I pulled into Bozeman or hung out in Santa Cruz, but there is still something about this place that isn't too difficult to be in.
Sometimes, I'm not quite sure what I'm looking for. A home. Rootedness. Settling into a place and belonging. Yeah, that's it. Where will that place be? Or is it with me, wherever I go, as I live the RVing life, my home on wheels?
Saturday was my last day in Cheyenne and I spent most of it at "Super Days" at Lions Park, looking at booths, bike riding, getting a lot of sun. My time in Cheyenne has been productive and relaxing. But now it is time to hit the road again. Destination: Jackson, Wyoming.
Sunday, 6/24/01 - Leaving Cheyenne
I left Cheyenne reluctantly, but finally was on the road, the sun strong and penetrating, the wind beating against the Apache. I wanted to make it as far as Rock Springs which was about 258 miles from Cheyenne, west on I-80.
What would normally be about a 4 hour drive by car was about a 6 hour drive by RV, which included several gas station and rest area stops. The terrain kept shifting from plains to rocks to hills with prairie dogs taking their chances across the highway.
After being in one place for a while, returning to the road felt a little strange, and I tried to settle into it once again. My life has been in constant motion, a slower pace than ever before, but barely still for long. I went on the road, in a small part, to get away from the pace of the city, where I felt compelled to constantly do things, and then when I decided not to do all of those things anymore, the city seemed to swallow me whole.
Now, in a way, the road was swallowing me up, drawing me in, away, out. I hope a road will someday lead me to my home, but until then, I'm in constant motion, moving through this country, from city to city, town to town, highway to highway. The road is my home right now.
Am I lonely? People ask me that all the time when they find out I've been traveling alone for over 9 months. Am I lonely? I am alone, and I realize that being alone doesn't have to mean being lonely. But I am alone.