Gainesvile, FL to Holton Creek Camp (June 2017)

The dream path for bikers.

Most routes that I took to Holton Creek were wide, stress-free, easy. But for those particular stretches, I could only think of impending death as a car approached from behind. 95% of the path of was paved, but 90% of that pavement was stuck on county roads with speeding trucks passing by. At times I would sit on the side of the road and mentally recharge — I can still recall how the force of an 18-wheeler would suck the surrounding air into some vacuum at its axles; only two feet away, the bike would waver and point for just a heart-stopping moment in the direction of those gigantic tires. I felt as if it was the pure will to continue that kept my path straight instead of veering left. A bad day of existentialism and I could have been splattered on the road.

To be trapped on 60-75 mile per hour roads, equipped with a three foot shoulder is to have a crash course in “Aerodynamics 101”: The wind became an oppositional force in several forms: first, the wind rushing through my ear canals were not only inconvenient for my only way to maintain sanity by listening to podcasts, I also felt that my ears have lost a few decibels of dynamic range since then; second, I might as well be scaling a mountain when wind is pressing up against me for miles on end — I can recall several steep hills to head down, yet I needed to pedal just to maintain minimal speed; third, those random bursts of air may arrive just as that pickup truck wanted to pass.

Near 1900 hours. I would soon realize this road was going to take me 12 miles off track.

The 105 mile trip to Holton Creek Camp was spread over 12 hours — there were brief moments of respite at gas stations and Dollar Generals, but the extended time to reach the century mark can mostly be attributed to repeated trial and errors: realizations that this 12 mile bend actually does not connect to the other side of the river; dogs own the streets in one neighborhood and require re-navigation; some paths are just plain scary, heading into the abyss that only Google Maps may light up.

My threshold for fear may be heightened by constant contact with mobile trains passing me by every few moments, but the irrational, the unseen can still turn me around and make me hide in my tent. The frightening feeling that I may experience when passing through a darkened part of the woods with sunlight running out — only deer may be watching, but my urbanized loneliness is seeking so much more. I arrived at the Holton Creek campground at 9pm and promptly switched on some downloaded television shows so I can have another human voice near me. It was raining that night; heavy drips on dead leaves rendered expectations of nightmarish consequences.

Alone, the weight of nature felt oppressive. I was surrounded by darkness, trapped in a Holton Creek hut due to rain — scarcity is a prime motivator of stress. To know your *in-*capabilities — your clothes will not dry by tomorrow, you will not be able to see into the distance, you have only so much mesh to defend against attacks — is a fearful notion, that must take weeks or months or years to finally accept and celebrate. Before then, every privilege you lose during a several day trek — this was the first segment of around 14 days — turns into indignation, exasperation.  Always seeing a way out — I am surrounded by abundance yet I have chosen this life for this short period of time — is the reason why the will can be so weak. So the challenge by pushing 100 miles out the first day: to reduce escape points, to trap myself in challenge.