Virginia: From Forests to the Concrete Jungle

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Virgina was the transition from something forgotten and wild to something grossly and over developed.  Quiet back roads piloted by antiquated flatbeds quickly became furious six lane rivers of gleaming monsters, screaming with impatience as they ate up the road with their annular electric eyes.

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After riding through the strip malls of Eastern Virginia I must admit I have to stop myself from scribbling everything I feel is wrong with this place.  I guess I feel like if there was a brain or an engine behind the destruction of the environment, the recruitment of native populations into the pyramid scheme of capitalism and worship of this imagining called “the economy” it would reside somewhere here on the east coast.  There is something so eerily detached from nature here that, like a child stolen from birth, I fear that if I grew up here I may not even be able to recognize the fulfillment that comes with living within the patterns of nature, where I came from.  The wiser side of me, reminds us that I need to stop imagining the way i want the world to be and then getting angry when it doesn’t appear the way I want it.  The wiser side of me recognizes that this is what is, that change only comes from within individuals.

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But back to the road: I would like to say that when a human being enters a car, the two become a new being entirely, kind of like the fusion between beings portrayed in Avatar.  The human’s life and intelligence are now manifest in a new form, and the car, now cradling the spirit of life, allows the little demon inside every human to rise to the surface and wreak havoc unabashed without having to look anyone else in the eye or for that matter, probably ever see anyone else again.  In this sea on anonymity called traffic, which, by the way, may be a manifestation of the very same principle of anonymity that allows people to invest and consume immorally in the global economy, its difficult for people to conceal the true degree of their ethical sensibilities.  How much patience, generosity and compassion for ignorance does one really have?  Well, how does one drive?  Using this yard stick it appears that big cities sort of squeeze ethical sensibility out of people simply because there isn’t enough time for it.   Anyways….

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In some ways this feels like our first big accomplishment as touring cyclists.  We actually made it across the continent.  A country that isn’t know for easy cycling, a terrain that boasts large mountains, vast plains and sweltering temperatures, long distances between facilities, autocintric roads and a multitude of cultures and personalities.

Us with Rick and Cindy outside their home in Mountain Valley, VA

Us with Rick and Cindy outside their home in Mountain Valley, VA

It was really good for me to pass through the interior of the USA.  As I’ve traveled I’ve observed a consistent theme.  People always warn you about the people in the next town, in the next region, in the next state, but really and truly, as one approaches the next place with trepidation, with unwavering consistency no people have proven to be any more cold-hearted or untrustworthy than anywhere else.

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We left off the last post with Rick, a complete stranger becoming friend, driving us over the border into Virginia.  His home was in a small unincorporated town called Mountain Valley.  As we dried our stuff out in the front yard, Rick readied their RV for us to sleep in.  It was like having our own little house.  Later Rick drove us to see a town called Warm Springs to show us a magnificent old hotel and then took us to the local newspaper where we were interviewed by a reporter about our journey.

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Rick had cycled across the country with his son a year earlier at the age of 65 and was planning to do it again the coming year.  Consequently he was very aware of what we desired as cyclists and allowed us to throw our clothes in the laundry as we ate a sumptuous dinner of 3 bean salad, pasta and lettuce.  Later he arranged two more nights for us down the road, in one of his mobile homes in Craigsville and with the owner of a bicycle shop in Harrisonburg.  Before we left, we got some play time in with their golden retriever, Molly, who loved to chase the upset water from thrown rocks up and down a nearby creek.

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Riding out of Mountain Valley was essentially our last day of lazy roads of changing leaves.

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In Craigsville, not the most gentrified of places, we stayed in a mobile home park that Clyde and Cindy own and were happy to be behind a locked door.

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The next day in Harrisonburg we met the owner of the local bicycle shop named Thomas and he graciously invited us into his home.  It was here that Thomas hooked me up with some free bar tape, tightened my headset and made me aware that my drive train was so worn out that replacing any part of it individually was a lost cause due to how stretched out the chain was.

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The next day a dairy farmer bought us a couple bottles of his own chocolate milk from the grocery store.

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After Harrisonburg we mounted some more hills and passed over the regionally infamous “Skyline Drive”.

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At morn the mist glides, before sunlight it lies

in the cold sweat of the valleys, in the sweet hue of the leaves

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The blue swell over the range

Now tepid in color

Wrought with cold threats

That the night would soon smother

Across the streets float the leaves so brittle by cold

Yet so fragile and brown, and so young to look old

How they dance like the random walk of the clouds

Only to melt into dirt and be spread all around,

or collect over something in a flimsy brown shroud

Or to be random, and benighted, and flimsily brown.

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This tree reminds me of myself before I left and met Rasham.

“There is something I have to do, and I will do it soon.  I will leave on my bike and explore the word.  I will write all that I see along the way.  My journey is grounded in solitude, my spirituality is found in the thoughtfulness of being by one’s self.  These are things I know.  These are the tangible lines of my life.  The straight lines of truth, and uncompromising meaning.”Trenton’s Journal, 2008

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Something is wrong with my brake pads.  An emergency roadside fix.

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Downtown Arlington, VA

Downtown Arlington, VA

In Arlington a wonderful couple hosted us in home crafted with intention and stocked with home-made foods in season.  And in a small kitchen near the back of the house, these beautiful windows glistened softly under warm lights.

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Anne and Carl work for the EPA and travel every other year on a tandem that Carl steers between log cabins and nutritious meals.  Their self-confessed introversion could not help but allay pretension that so easily arrises between strangers and in some way this made their words as wholesome as the home-made strawberry jam and quinoa salad we ate around their table.

Carl’s face was long and captivating, often drawn in serious lines, but when humor ran over his mouth it would twist in such an appealing way that one could not help becoming entranced.  They told of a far off Warmshowers host who gave shelter to a chicken with an unusually high social position in the family order.  This chicken, after receiving personal greetings from all guests, donned  the chair at the head of the table, and oversaw the preceding meal.

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This window, which took Anne about 350 hours to make, seemed to have nuances that could only be explored over many years.  I could only imagine that the clear and colored glass, spotted and dim, lit by the grey clouds, stagnant and heavy in the sky; that the shadow they give could enclose a world of its own.  Raining down brown and yellow drops of  fulfillment, symbols of comfort and letting down.  That call me to relinquish built up prospects, to forget the dreams, to deflate and evaporate the pretentious world.  I would feel sheltered by their comfort.  Lifted by the wind, crumpled and reduced to earth, to substance, they are the unreal phantoms of my expectations being reduced to dirt.  To something real that will give life in a new season.

            This would be my method, the curved lines on the clean pane, lucent trails, tears of the autumn storm.  How fertile is the ground beneath us?  Its fingers grasp the roots of trees, it is cold but warm in spirit.  It can give birth to all our aspirations, it does not even need to be asked.  Like my ambitions it helps to tuck away, it will hold everything now.  It will chill you with a cool breeze, and I will wait.  Grow and wait, and become full of love from a solace never forgotten.  The hibernation of my soul.

Dashed against the window, the tears of the storm bleed the long lines of my every method.  I am corrected by the chill, straitened by wind’s illuminating discipline.   As the sun climbs from this boreal mid-region, I will feel alive this winter.

The enclosure of space, the warm garments of necessity.  I am bundled and out, alive in the leaves and snow.  Let them cover the world this autumn, I want to feel it all over me and my lawn.  I want the street to change, and great piles of snow to block the road.  I want life to slow, forced by the cold, by things moving slower.  This is a time to think.  To be grateful.  I am grateful.  Grateful for the fertility of the earth and the fertility of mind.  For the break.

There will be so much to consider this winter, so much time to watch the rain come, to lie in bed and see it splash and be soaked up by the earth.  To enjoy a fire here and there and read of the world.  Now, I have no interest in things that will not involve me.  I have removed everything I cannot count on.  My method has become straight.  It will lead me forward in leaps of passion and happiness and effort.  It is me, using what I know.  It is me, knowing what I can use.  It is me understanding the differences between the illusion and the clear world.

There is no knowledge in this of what will be.  There is no guarantee.  There is only a straight or a curved line.  A line forward.  It speaks of accomplishment and satisfaction, of living within means emotionally and realistically.  It takes what is tangible and does not recognize the rest.  The rest is out of focus, fuzzy and unclear, unrealized they will fall away.

I do not care anymore.  The winter has made me something beautiful.  A gift of inspiration.  I do not expect you to think of me.  I do not expect anything of you.  You will be a beautiful memory, and that is all, for now.  Or so I imagine I could ponder under such a window.  Such is the inspiration that this kind of light may bring.

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We said goodbye to Anne and Carl in the crisp air, air that had a wonderful thinness, room to breath, room for slanted pillars of sunshine.  Riding a block to a trail.  A pedestrian back road, appreciated, wandered by the trembling legs of old men, pounded by the firm and smooth legs of young women, briefly cloaked by annular rubber lain by bicycles such as mine.  Riding along these concrete walls draped in ivy, enlivened by sinuous flora, inculcating that amorous disorder that only nature can so easily demonstrate as perfection.

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We stop in front of a red hand and I glance back at my wife.  A rare moment of clarity between glasses, her eyes deep and lucid.  Those eyes could swallow me in their amorous darkness.  Up ahead the bridge, a spate of golden bellies swollen with sunlight.  The freedom of my chilled legs, and we ride on into the capital undaunted by the pale blue sky in another day of inexorable passion for the life we call ours.

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5 responses to “Virginia: From Forests to the Concrete Jungle

  1. Everywhere you go reminds me how small we are. Trent and Resham, I have a great deal of respect for you. Keep up the good work showing others there are good people everywhere and America is a free and beautiful place to look around at our scenery. Be safe, I love you both.

  2. I used to live in Highland County, VA, which you passed through recently. I just read the article in the local paper which I still get, even though I now live in New England. Your writing and photos of that beautiful region brought tears to my eyes. I don’t know what your plans are now, but if you are headed north to New England, we will gladly offer you a place to stay. My wife and I are avid cyclists and we live on a maple syrup farm in western Massachusetts.

    • Tom,

      Thank you for reading. It moves me deeply to hear that you really connected with the post. Not everyone actually reads so I really appreciate what you wrote. It really is a beautiful area of the country. Rasham and I are on our way to New York where we will fly to Spain and start riding in Europe. I must admit that we are both vexed to be missing a maple syrup farm in Massachusetts! Thank you so much for the kind offer. We appreciate nothing more than to stop by places we are invited. If we do pass through Massachusetts one day, we will be sure to contact you at the email you left below. Until then, happy riding and I hope you will continue to check out our blog from time to time!

      Sincerely,

      Trent and Rasham http://www.freelifebybike.com

      >

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