“Hey, we’re at Elk Prairie. Where are you guys?"
Steve's text hit my phone at 6:30 pm, as the sun dipped less lazily than I wanted it to toward the horizon. With that, my tenuous reception—our connection to the outside world—disappeared, and Mark, Mike, Yoshi, and I began the waiting game. Every time someone rolled into camp, we'd check the time and look expectantly at the entrance, willing them to arrive even as the dusk gave way to darkness. Over a truly unconventional supper combination—even for cyclists—of quesadillas, peanut butter and banana melts, rice-a-roni (the San Francisco treat!), apples, beer, and whatever else we happened to have in our panniers, we held out hope and staved off heartbreak.
The next morning, we arose and planned the remainder of our route, still hopeful that we’d find a way to regroup and ride together again. When we finally had service, we exchanged a flurry of text messages with the other group, trying to make plans that would bring us back together, but in vain. The mileage just wasn’t going to work out. Mike and Mark had a hard deadline for arriving in San Francisco to meet Mark’s girlfriend, so taking a rest day or riding a minimal distance to close the 25 mile gap was out of the question.
Team Narnia had been rent asunder.
I know what you’re thinking here. “Little Fish,” you’re thinking (or maybe not, since you may not have psychically intuited the road name I was given by Team Narnia), “Little Fish, let’s not be dramatic here. “Rent asunder”? Really? Heartbreak? Every fantasy fiction book ever phoned; they want their words back. Also, Team Narnia?”
Allow me to explain. The morning of that fateful day had begun gloriously. As we swept down the coast, we often stopped for photos, videos, and general revelry, proclaiming as we went that we must ride on.
“And The House of Stark!”
Because we were (obviously) hilarious and clever, this became our rallying cry. Mike would always round out The House of Stark majestically, and we would roll out. Just a typical day of glory with our friends. NBD.
So, naturally, we were kind of/totally devastated by our separation, and the phrase “rent asunder” is totally appropriate. There weren’t even enough people to name all the different factions; someone would have to double up (the horror!). Mark, Mike, and I spent the next few days looking at photos of our time together, wondering how they were doing, exchanging texts with them, and missing them acutely. Yoshi had joined our group a bit later, and we spoke longingly of them, borderline pathetic, regaling him with stories. As we talked and missed them, one of us—Mark, maybe—mentioned that we should leave messages or gifts for them along the way, perhaps food at camp or something equally unlikely (how on earth were we going to coordinate where they’d be camping without giving it away?). We moved on to other things, but lightning had struck for me.
Messages! I thought of all of the encouragement I’d seen on race courses and along the way, and realized that sidewalk chalk was possibly my new favourite invention. If we couldn’t be together, at least we could leave ridiculous and encouraging things along the way.
When Yoshi and I rolled into Fort Bragg, I picked up a box of coloured chalk. This is absolutely the kind of thing I love to do, and I could hardly contain myself. As we rode, I cackled and squirmed and thought of all the things I could say, my devastation somewhat ameliorated by the thought of their discovering our notes on the shoulder of the road. At the top of a medium-ish hill, I began:
“Do your ears hang low?"
“Do they wobble to and fro?"
“Can you tie them in a knot?"
“Can you tie them in a bow?"
The ride toward San Francisco had just regained its epic lilt.