So it was pretty evident yesterday that the “stretch goal” of 750 miles total was erroneous. Would have been cool, but all I really needed to do is finish the “minimum” miles and I would be good to complete the rest on the next stage.
Eastern Louisiana was pretty uneventful, but the road goes past rural homes where it is pretty evident that there are rarely cyclists. Dogs are often chasing me – usually barking. Which is fine – often they will back off when I yell back or speed up. However, in one very flat area I heard a low growl over my earbuds (I never have them very loud so I can hear things going on around me), and looked toward the house to my right. There was the stockiest “blue” (that grey shade that’s almost – well, blue!) pit bull I’ve ever seen bee-lining it for me. So I kicked into high gear and went faster, where usually I am conserving my energy for the remaining ride, especially early in the day. I was nearly double my average speed at 18.7 miles per hour, and I hadn’t heard the dog again, so I looked behind me and the dog was keeping pace with me, roughly a foot behind me. He let out a low growl again and I kept pedaling as hard and fast as I could, and would look back every 15-20 seconds to see when I could back off on effort, but that dog was angry. He chased for a full mile at 18.7 MPH. Which is honestly SO FAST for that sustained effort! It was terrifying, to be sure, but I half wished I had a GoPro taking video of it to be able to remember just how powerful and strong that dog was.
Vidalia, LA is the border town across the Mississippi from Natchez, MS, and the bridge across the Mississippi that connects the two towns is the highest bridge in Mississippi.
A couple of things about bridges: I don’t love them. They are high, often narrower than typical roads, and I often feel more vulnerable on them. Motorists often are not expecting a cyclist to be there. This bridge was a little bit different, in that the shoulder was nearly a full car-width wide, and where some of the bridges will have a significant amount of debris on the shoulder, the shoulder was quite clean. Still, the roughly 7 minutes it takes to cross a bridge that is more than a mile long can be nerve-wracking, and the Mississippi had been hanging out in the back of my mind since I crossed the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon 20 months ago. I can’t believe I didn’t blog about that! I’d better go back and update that post…
Anyway, once I got across the bridge and into Natchez, MS I rode through town and saw some more kindness of strangers.
When I ride through actual towns I only have one earbud in to be sure I am hearing traffic and other things along the way and don’t have to pay as much attention to seeing the map directions, I can just hear the instructions. I also ride slower. So the directions were taking me on some side streets through Natchez, and on two separate occasions passing homes about a mile and a half apart, elderly gentlemen came walking up their walks when they saw me coming. To high-five me and cheer me on. Several other people were doing something close to the street and we had brief interactions of greetings, but always there was something said that was encouraging and uplifting. I say “good morning” to everyone I see, and one woman responded, “Yes, indeed, and God gave it to you to ride through Natchez today. Have a blessed ride.”
You gotta know that on the long days, strangers cheering, high-fiving, giving praise and acknowledging that they see me can keep me going. I remember the smiles on their faces when it gets hard. Someone making an additional effort to walk the 25 feet from their chair to come high-five a stranger? What a difference that made in my day!
So. What are you going to do today that will make someone feel loved? What can you do today that will make a difference – THE difference – to a stranger?