Austral Diaries II: Cold Sunshine
I_was_expecting something different on the Austral; not from the road itself, but from my own state of mind as we close to within 1,000 miles of Ushuaia. Every single day since the beginning of August has been leading towards where we are today, and every day hereafter continues that line bound for the end of the world in Tierra del Fuego. I thought that by this point that we would feel swept up in the inertia of the thousands of miles behind us, as if the tantalizing closeness of our journey’s conclusion would alter our mental states and captivate our daily thoughts.
We are close to Ushuaia, yet there isn’t anything about that state of affairs that makes our oatmeal taste different in the morning, or the mountains less steep, or the harsh stones of the Austral any less sharp. Nathan dented his rear rim yesterday after plowing through a rock garden. Time and distance for us are not inextricably related. We could have ridden 40,000 miles before this point and still the bicycles don’t pedal themselves or heal their wear and tear. To make our miles here we have no choice but to go to bed early, rise early, ride hard, and try to find a kind sheep rancher with a barn before the sun sets. It’s still a little surreal when we feel the chill and the sunshine on our backs as it traces an ever shallower path across the northern sky. It wasn’t very long ago that we were chasing the sun in the southern sky every day that winter crept closer in Canada. It’s a beautiful way to live these last days, and it’s fitting that it isn’t all that different from those that came before it.
There has never been a project like Bound South in any of our lives before. A school semester requires half the time and effort of this Pan-American bicycle expedition, and every day is continuously apportioned to our goal. For eight months we have eschewed holidays and weekends and all of the normal conventions of the lives we knew, sacrificing them to a single goal. It hasn’t felt like a vacation or project, either; though it is temporary it has become a compelling mainstay of our lives. We have changed since leaving home and will continue to do so when we return. The simple, familiar work on our family farm will be no less extraordinary than these last days on bicycle. To be sure, one is more conventional than the other; but both are good things worth doing. We are fortunate that the road ends in Ushuaia, as Mother Nature provides us with a helpful nudge and wink saying, “That’s enough boys.” Until then, we’ll keep bouncing along the stones of the Austral, freezing in our tent, and marveling at what great works have been done in these granite cliffs and spires that rise up so majestically in this part of the world. Tomorrow is simply another good day worth the riding to get there.