Nearly there. It’s been a long time of waiting for that part in myths where the character steps off into the scary unknown for adventures. There’s a guy called Joseph Campbell who wrote trends or similarities across different culture’s myths, especially hero myths and he made something he called the monomyth.
There’s a graph (below) he designed which is both brilliant at showing the pattern of hero myths and also strangely apt for getting up to this part of our story. It starts with the ordinary world, Nova Scotia for me, then the call to adventure, which must have been me and my friend Ryan deciding to leave for London, then the refusal of the call, which I suppose was settling down and living a boring life there, then meeting the mentor, which I like to imagine is coming across Jorja, taking us right up to crossing the threshold, which must be the part of the story we’re approaching, leaving to ride around the world for a few years. It’s a bit like finding out you’re a scorpio and they’re meant to be outgoing and you are too, especially because it’s a hugely confusing and exciting thing we’re looking ahead at. It’s easy to find the pseudo evidence of any bullshit you may believe if you make it loose enough and you need the reassurance bad enough.
I should say, I have no interest in becoming a hero, I cringe under attention and compliments so I find this all confusing but maybe it’s just as simple as wanting the hero path without the glory. I want to be the hero of a story who forgets the allegorical checkpoint and stuffs the whole thing up but has a good time along the way. Whatever. It’s a weird and great time right now, sad and exciting and confusing.
I started writing this with exactly a week to go and now it’s down to 2 days. I haven’t been this aware of my calendar and what is happening each day ever. I gave my work bike away to PK to use for work last weekend, it hit me harder than I expected. I remember the frame sitting on top of the piano in our studio in Cable St in London waiting for the cash to buy the rest of it’s parts, Morné building the wheels, and then it arriving in a box from London in Sydney a few weeks after we got here. And now considering everything that’s changed since that bike came along and everything that will have changed when I ride it next, it’s turned into a kind of Pensieve and if you don’t know Harry Potter or click hyperlinks that means it’s contains thoughts and feelings from the past like a reservoir. I wrote out the whole history of the bike but nobody needs that, just know it’s been around for a significant 3 years of my life and that I’ve handed it on.
This is Paul riding away with my bike
The days of work flipped back and forth for me of being this sweetly surreal perspective of my time here and being mundane. Aaron and I still started each day talking about our runs the day before, I didn’t get any special treatment with jobs, routine held on, everything was feigning normal until I’d say goodbye to someone or a song would come on as I rode down one of my favourite streets and then it would come through that new crack and in one of those moments I realised that I never fully believed we’d leave, that’d we’d save enough or some spanner wouldn’t happen. But nothing has stopped us and we’ve saved our money and there’s nothing in our way. And then I’d hear my Imtermec bleating and see a job back from where I’d just come from and turn around and the song would end and change to the 9th chapter of an audiobook I keep forgetting to delete and then it would seem like we weren’t leaving again.
I wrote a month or so ago about riding with Jorj on a group ride out at Wisemans Ferry and never made anything of it but it seems relevant now that we’re about to leave and we’ll be riding together every day for years to come. It was a Saturday ride with Harry, some of his mates, and a few couriers.
We started this ride early in the morning after leaving Sydney in darkness, waking up with the sun crackling through the gumtrees along the ridges, driving through the towns of Jorja’s childhood, Dural, Glenorie, Maroota, all these places with family stories. We mostly decided to go because it was a reason to get up on the weekend before sunrise, which lately has seemed like a better idea than staying up late. Early mornings are my new late nights. I still stay up all night but rarely, and only if I’m having an incredibly good or bad time, I stay up for parties or arguments, not because I just want to be awake at that time. Mornings have more substance now than the dull worn late nights. I used to think about this quote when Jorj and I would drive to Bondi in the dark on a Saturday morning to watch the sunrise from the very start, ‘the world doesn’t have to be beautiful to work, but it is and what does that mean?’. Seeing the part of the world I’m on have light gradually come to it makes me feel like it’s being offered to me, like it was not available through the night or even the day and there I am, on the beach or trail, and the light comes up on everything like it’s being handed to my imagination. I haven’t given up on the late night but it’s changed from the magic it had when I was first owning those hours that hadn’t seemed to exist. My friends and I grew up drinking around camp fires in the woods, not idyllic kids in nature, we were wasted, but also fitting it in with getting back to our parents rural-suburb homes without getting in trouble, rusted cars with frosted windows on freshly paved driveways, sleeping parents and quiet doors, and neighbour blue TV light glowing onto the empty subdivision streets. Streets that weren’t designed for that time, not ever considered for 15 year olds to walk home on while the frost started, or for kids to lay down on and whisper at 3am on a decade long Friday night. That’s when the night really felt like it was mine and we’d put life into sleep and unused time. But there was less competition, less people making their own nights in rural Nova Scotia than the cities since.
We’d been riding gravel and dirt fire roads along the banks of the Hawkesbury and up into the hills for a couple hours when a young Samoyed, those mega fluffy white dogs, appeared out of the trees, he was a bounding happy cloud. I gave him a pat and he bounced alongside us, beside different people in the pack of riders, spreading his cloud happiness. After a few impressive minutes of keeping up he was taking little pee on tree stops that proved to be like out of shape kids tying their shoes during PE. He dropped off to sniff something in a yard and forgot all about us. We stripped layers and continued into the hills, the group stretching out on every climb with the faster riders waiting at the top for the slowpokes to catch up. It is a terrible way to ride as a group. It’s considerate, because people aren’t left completely alone all day having started with the intention to ride as a group, but it’s totally impractical. The riders who are struggling to get to the top of a climb get less time to rest than those who find it much easier. Over the course of a hilly day of cycling that adds up for the slow having a much harder day, not just because they’re slow but because they’ve had less rest. The only solution is to ride at the pace of the slowest rider, like bike touring, or have two groups, one fast and one slow and both ride at the pace of the slowest person. Or, just not care at all but ride with someone who happens to be matching your pace. I’m not a natural group rider, after more than 2 years I’m just getting my head around riding with Jorja and not dropping her on a hill or in traffic without a thought and then wondering what she’s angry about when she catches up.
At the top of a climb Jorja and I made eye contact and we both knew what was going to happen. Most of the climbing was over anyway but the idea of a shorter ride, without people waiting for us at the top of climbs, being able to stop and take photos whenever we wanted, was too good to resist. We freewheeled down hills we’d slowly climbed minutes earlier and were taking photos of banksia’s and brushing our hair with them within 10 minutes. That’s what happens when I ride with Jorj, on my own I try hard and enjoy my mind and don’t notice as much along the way. Each time we’re riding and stop the first few seconds my only thoughts are, ‘COME ON! WE JUUUUUST STOPPED’ then I relax and watch her taking pictures of something I didn’t see. I remember the feeling of being a kid walking home from school through the woods, climbing trees and taking two hours to walk a kilometre.
After backtracking what we’d already ridden we took a car ferry and started to loop back to town from the other side of the river. Jorja was making up songs with bad lyrics and cracking lame jokes, we stopped at rock formations and unusual plants, we’d just stand there and stare for a minute and then ride on to the next thing. We stopped under a big overhang of rock that looked as if it’d been scooped out like ice cream from underneath and tried to take a decent picture of it, ending up laying down on the road laughing and not even getting it.
It’s Sunday morning as I finish writing this, we have less than 48 hours till we’re on a plane out of Australia. Our bags are semi-organised and our bedroom is empty, there’s a bright blue sky, a shortening check list, I’m laying on the sofa looking up exchange rates and waiting for some gaffa tape to arrive. If there’s nerves and anxiety I can’t feel them, I’m just ready to go.