Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sweet & Slow

Farm stand strawberries in North Carolina
Three days and counting into 15-20 mph head-winds on the coast of North Carolina. Lets just say I'm starting to get a little irritated.
The temperature is a high of 65. The skies are gray - threatening to rain - and so is the world. Its almost as if all the colors hitched a ride in Tuula's checked baggage back to the west coast. I now duck my head to the winds and stare at a white line while occasionally griping at the drivers as they blow past my left shoulder for being in such a god damn hurry.

"I'll miss the kick-off"
"I said it'll only take an hour"
"I was supposed to be home 40 minutes ago"
"I'm behind schedule."
"I'm running late."
"I've gotta get this done today."

I guess I too am in a hurry and have been ever since my other half flew home three days ago. This bike tour feels so dull without her. I think too much now. I talk too much to myself and the conversations are predictable and go in circles. With my head down I grab tightly to the lower portion of the drop bars. This position allows me at least two to three mph faster than sitting upright.
North Carolina farmland
"I don't care about what I miss staring at a white line. I just want to get to Boston," I grumbled to myself. At this point I realize I'm no different from the drivers except I'm a minority to the roads, powered by two legs vs. a 4 cylinder engine. Flustered by my lack of speed and distance with the wind, I let off my legs and sit up in my saddle to take a breather. Just as I am giving myself a break a sign catches the corner of my right eye. I turn my head slowly to grab the only word I make out in time of passing it. Strawberry. I look around and realize I'm surrounded by farm land. Little acres here and there with patches of forest and trees surrounding.

One of the last things Tuula said to me before she got on her flight was, "If you see a u-pick strawberry patch, you better stop. I don't care if you're in a hurry. Stop, pick some berries and chill out."
Torn between my pull to keep pressing forward and her words resonating in my head, I thought to myself, she would want to stop and so would I.
In the mist of my hesitation my hands slowly reached up toward the brake levers and I began to slowly squeeze and slow to a stop. I stood gazing down the long road ahead thinking to myself, "Why am I in such a god damn hurry?" I've patiently waited 7 years to do this bike tour across America and now I'm in a hurry to finish? I stood silently, feeling the air. The breeze smelt amazingly sweet. To the left was the 4-acre field of strawberries happily nesting themselves in this perfect berry weather. I whipped a "U-ee" and headed back to the little farm stand selling strawberries by the pint. An older gentleman behind the counter smiled and said hello.
"Are these from across the way?" I asked
"Yes ma'm they are," he responded.
"Do you spray pesticides?" I asked.
"No mam. We have children out in the fields pickin' berries sometimes and we don't want those chemicals on the children."
His response made me smile. Another wonderful example why farming on a smaller scale is healthy. Because there's a community surrounding you. They're homes and children out playing. I thought back to riding through California and seeing the "sea of strawberries and plastic". There were no neighborhoods, or children, or community of folks in the area. Just one giant cash crop eating away a piece of what could be a beautiful small community by the ocean.
I gladly purchased myself a $3 pint of freshly picked strawberries from the gentleman.
"Are you open every day?" I asked.
"Until the berries are unfit to sell" he responded.
Who would have thought a strawberry stand would bring back some of my hope for your future of food, and our children's future, and our grandchildren's future.
I hopped back on Edith with my head lifted looking forward and riding easily. Not just a block ahead on my right I came across a small acreage of grape vines and what looked to be a small-scale vineyard. Riding on to my left was a field of peanuts. Then past that was a field of soybeans with several giant gardens of greens in front of peoples homes. The wind still blew hard, but then again, I thought to myself - this is the perfect weather to be out in the field farming.
By slowing down, we appreciate what the universe is handing us. We can see the color in the world even on a cloudy day.
Tuula always said that a slow simmer is the best way to cook a pot of chili - and brew a strong relationship. I took my time the rest of the afternoon and shall keep that in mind the rest of this tour. 

North Carolina vineyard


  1. I'm glad someone besides me has adapted this attitude. I used to be an impatient one, got a fast carbon bike to match my impatience. Was still uptight about everything. Then I got a touring bike, I couldn't make it go fast, and because of it, I started to enjoy cycling, and with it, life, much more. The finish line is there for everyone, I'm in no hurry to get there.

  2. Hello Hannah,

    Thanks for your heartfelt writing, and for sharing the feelings of loneliness and isolation. I've felt that too while touring, and then the discovery of connection and belonging just a few miles further. I love the thoughts about the slow simmer, the way to brew a strong relationship. And I've learned that headwinds are a gift, making for stronger legs and and even stronger spirit. Can't have tailwinds all the time, and if we did we would be so weak and lazy! Keep spinning and go organic!

    Love, Ocean

    (My friend Bassima and I met you way back in December on your first rainy touring day, at the coffee shop in Florence Oregon)