Our days on the bikes are numbered. The quantity left qualifies as “few.” It is always a bittersweet stage in our tour.
By this point we have settled into the touring mode, and the daily rhythm of our lives is a well honed routine. No longer do we readily recall the day of the week, much less the date. Current events are fuzzy. Our priorities are how far we will cycle, where will we stay, and what food options we have. Beyond that, we focus on the scenery we pass ever so quietly and slowly. We needn't think beyond the tour.
Until now. At some point, the miles between now and the end become finite. The route turns static. And we know how long it will take us to finish. The end is in sight.
My first emotion is always a sense of loss. Soon we will turn in our status as touring cyclists, and resume our normal lives. We will no longer be unique, with an automatic ticket for conversation starters. This year's cycling jersey will be retired from active duty to assume a new identity as a souvenir.
Despite wanting the tour to go on indefinitely, a few perks begin to weasel their way into my subconscious. A little math tells me I have enough clean clothes to last the final few days. I need no longer be a slave to the drudgery of washing out my attire in the sink each night. The declining storage on my iPad may not be as traumatic as I thought. I might just squeak by with enough space for the last remaining pictures I take. I can stop being so abstemious with my shampoo and toothpaste. I'm going to have enough.
There are also things to look forward to. I may finally get a good night's sleep successive nights in a row, once I get back in my own bed. That tingling in my hand and the cramp in my foot are almost certain to go away in short order. Soon I can decide exactly what I want to eat for meals, and make it myself. I can already taste the fresh fruit and hearty whole wheat bread I've been craving. And I can get a haircut, to tame the wild frizz I've been stuffing under my helmet.
Best of all, I get to see the rest of my family again. Keeping in touch through Facebook, texts and email can only go so far. I'm anxious to hear about our kids' new jobs. Find out how Ben likes kindergarten. Give those little ones a squeeze. And just spend time with them all.
I will miss the daily miles on my bike, and the challenge of repeating it day after day. But I can now log time with my running friends. I needn't be uber conscious of the weather. If it's raining when I wake up, I can revise my workout plans. And I can even use the car and stay dry. I have a closet full of clothes to deal with the increasingly cooler temperatures, and don't have to worry about whether they will fit in my panniers.
I love meeting new people each day. Trading stories about cycling, adventures and life is inspiration for for our travels and becoming a better person. But I long to reconnect with my friends, who enrich my life and are always there for me.
Winding down is hard to do. But I think I'm going to manage.