Friday, May 9, 2014
The spaces in between
I hadn't given a lot of thought to the 'layover' days, our rest days off from riding. This surprised me a bit when I realized that today, because I've given a whole lot of thought to just about every aspect of this trip, from the spare tubes, to what bike shorts fit, to bringing just enough laundry detergent. But I hadn't really considered what we'd do with our days off. They were sort of null time that existed in my mind as just 'rest.' Like comercials during your tv show, they're something that occupied space between the actual content of what you were really there for.
Today was our first layover day, a rest day in Charlottesville, Va, home of Thomas Jefferson and University of Virginia. A nice college town with a fair bit of american history behind it.
This weekend is the end of the school term for the year, so parents were in town picking up their kids. As a result, all the hotels in the area were booked up, and we were relegated to a campsite 11 miles out of town. This was not ideal, and made getting in and out of town a pain in the ass (not to mention that the last 8 miles to camp was just awful with traffic and hills.)
I hadn't intended to write a blog post for the layover day. I figure people want to read about the adventure of riding, not what I do when I lounge around. But I had such a good day, with ups and downs, that I wanted to share it.
Yesterday some of us decided we wanted to visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. I wasn't really itching to do this, but it seemed like a missed opportunity if I didn't - I don't know when I'll ever be through here again. On the ride in yesterday we stopped at visitor's center and bought tour tickets for Friday at a predetermined time.
The original plan was to ride out bikes back out in the morning, but come morning, I balked at that idea. Partly because I wanted to give my legs a real rest, and party because I had to go to the post office later in the day and didn't want to ride all the way the heck out there (and back) as well. Ultimately I think that was a very good decision.
Monticello was interesting, and pretty, and a nice way to spend a few hours. It didn't blow me away, but I'm very glad I went. (I was a little annoyed that there was a 'no photographs' policy, which just bugs me in general.) It was especially nice to spend a little bit of down time with some of the riders and get to know them a little better. Despite only being 6 days into the tour, we all get along really well and seem to have a good rhythm. I think part of that might be people still being extra nice, and that might chip away after time. But still, we got along well and had a good time.
From there, we were going to go into town to see Music After Five (or something like that) a free concert series every friday in the summer. We took another taxi there, and then I had to go on further to pick up a package my parents mailed me. Round trip to the post office and back to town was really more than I wanted to spend, and the whole inconvenience of it soured my mood a bit.
I hung out at the concert, but had lost track of my companions, and with my phone battery fading I was getting frustrated. Even a delicious ice cream cone didn't do much to turn my spirits.
The music was nice, and I liked the venue and the energy of so many people and their families coming out to a concert on a warm May day.
What turned my mood around was that a fellow rider was meeting up with some old friends who lived in Charlottesville, and I got to tag along. These friends were super nice, and friendly, and welcoming. I started to feel like it was just a normal friday night in a town. I was able to relax. Having some delicious dinner helped too.
Then, after my belly was full and I'd had some laughs with new friends, we were walking down an outdoor mall/thoroughfare, a few of them stopped for gelato, but I wasn't in the mood. Instead I hung out outside and listened to some buskers playing a southern bluegrass folksy kind of music that was uptempo and very good. I shot a short video of them, tipped them, and then stood by and listened for 5 or 8 more minutes. I think maybe me standing there in the middle of the walk invited others to stop and listen, and in the space of 5 min they went from no fans to a crowd of about a dozen (almost all tipping.)
I realized as I was standing there that this was one of the little moments I was looking forward to as part of this trip, enjoying the local culture. After several minutes they finished their song, the crowd aplauded and a few more people tipped. I went over and told them that I was riding cross country, and they were the types of things I'd hoped to see and experience along the way. They seemed to like this sentiment (as I'd hoped they would.)
Afterwards, my new friends offered to drive my tour companion (and me) back to camp, saving us a few bucks in cab fair, a long wait for a cab, and we had pleasant company for the ride.
Back at camp I still needed to do a load of laundry. In the laundry room, some of my group were sitting around playing instruments. One had bought a ukulele in town, one had a harmonica, and there was singing. This was just endearing and up-lifting.
Earlier in the evening there was a big stage and a 'real' band, and it had very little impact on me. But these two small and short endeavors had a much bigger effect on me. So here I sit, its late and I'm waiting for my laundry to dry, my ipad battery dying, and there freakin spiders everywhere! But I'm going to go to bed in a good mood, having lots of little moments from this layover day to cherish.
Sometimes the spaces in between everything else have as much, or more, substance than the thing you're striving for. I look forward to many more days like this.