I’ve been brewing over the past, the future and wrestling the present moment into a bear hug, desperate to stay grounded.
I have been thinking about what happened in Playa del Carmen after I discovered I was pregnant.
We all make choices, and then we live with those choices.
What I experienced in Playa del Carmen after discovering I am pregnant, was a rollercoaster of emotions.
I found myself reflecting on the series of choices that led me to the moment where I was sitting on the beach in the dark with Addison, listening to the waves and watching their white crests glint against the moonlight.
I had chosen to leave Addison, and to ride my bicycle to Brazil.
I chose to ride from Austin, leaving Brazil for last.
I didn’t just go straight to Brazil, because I wanted to follow the line I had started when I left Vermont on a bicycle 3 years ago.
If I had known I would only be gone for 3 months, yes, I would have gone straight to Brazil.
But I didn’t know that.
When you tell your life partner that you’re leaving them for 6-9 months and you don’t know when you’ll be back, naturally they must make adjustments of their own.
The trajectory of our lives had been splitting apart, and this child seemed to have appeared to make us reconsider everything.
In a way, it should have been relieving.
Being pregnant would mean I could go home. It could mean I wouldn’t lose Addison.
And it could mean many many other things.
Those many other things washed over me as I sat in the sand with Addison.
What about capoeira?
What about our music careers?
What about making it all the way to Brazil?
What about the book I was going to write once I finished my 9 month journey?
I imagine many new parents experience these kinds feelings.
New life bringing a sense of death to their old life.
But never once have I heard a parent tell me that they regretted having kids.
I am so fascinated by old people. People who have been through all of this and more. People whose children are already grown, and whose grandchildren have already been born.
When I see an old lady, I stare at her, study her, think about what she might be thinking about, how it might be to be her.
Her hands are wrinkled and covered with blue veins and dots, her face is sagging and her hair is thin. But her eyes are the same color as when she was 16.
She has lived–far longer than I have–with her choices.
She had dreams too. She hoped for things.
When she was young, she imagined her life to look a certain way, imagined the great things she would accomplish.
She fell in love, she broke hearts, she had her heart broken.
Maybe she tried to become a concert pianist, but it was too hard. Maybe her parents couldn’t afford the lessons. Maybe she lost interest when she got older because than she wanted to be the lead singer of a rock band.
Maybe she wanted to travel around the world.
Maybe she wanted to be a school teacher.
Most likely she wanted to be loved, respected, admired.
Maybe some of these things happened. Maybe none of them did. Maybe they happened in broken bits and pieces.
But by the time she is in her 70s or 80s, how much of it really matters to her anymore?
Or does it haunt her?
I hear Tom Waits’ voice drift through my head at this moment:
“What does it matter, a dream of love or a dream of lies?
We’re all gonna be in the same place when we die.
Your spirit don’t leave knowing
Your face or your name
The wind in your bones is all that remains.
And we’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground.”
Thanks for reading. Don’t want these posts to be too long, so I’m practicing keeping them a bit shorter. I have the next part mostly written and I’ll share it soon!
I am sitting in an air bnb apartment on Avenida 15 Nte. in Playa del Carmen. Outside our balcony window is Avenida 15, a busy street with tortillerias and cheap Mexican food. The ocean is a 10 minute walk away. Inside this one room apartment there are towels,clothing and musical instruments strewn around.
I am slathered in sunblock–a morning and afternoon ritual I have been adhering to since I arrived–and my skin is salty from swimming in the ocean today.
Addison is sitting on the couch trying to get his work done on the computer, though he’s really just fighting the urge to go take another nap.
I have ridden my bicycle across Mexico (and taken rides in a few buses and cars), and now I sit back to contemplate the last two weeks.
During these last 14 or so days, I’ve ridden my bicycle almost everyday, spent the majority of my hours alone, slept in random hotels or at couchsurfer/warmshowers hosts’ houses, and have eaten everything from cold tortillas stuffed with refried beans from a bag in my hotel room to huevos rancheros floating in red sauce at a fine restaurant in Champoton. I’ve consumed roadside coconuts, oranges that are peeled and sliced in half and sold for 10 pesos a bag, and the stray coca-cola when I’ve still got 30 km to my final destination and I feel like I just can’t take it anymore.
With my chapter of alone time coming to a close for this trip (at least for the moment), I feel truly grateful for this rite of passage, and also relieved that nothing ever stays the same.
My friend Watson (also former upright bass player for my band, The Love Sprockets) lives in Playa del Carmen and had been expecting me to show up any day. He had also mentioned if shit really hit the fan, he’d be open to borrowing a truck from the brewery he works at to come and save me.
Traveling from Villahermosa to Merida I had been heading due east along the Gulf Coast. Then from Merida (about 300 km from Playa–so basically 4-5 days of riding) I was turning due south for the last leg of my ride. While leaving Merida, I was hit with such an incredibly strong headwind, that it felt like my purpose in pedaling was mostly to avoid being blown backwards. It was also intensely hot all of a sudden.
In addition, my iPod had died, never to return to the land of the living, during the fateful rainstorm I wrote about in my last blog post. This meant long hours of lonely silence, only broken up by the passing of trucks and cars, and the occasional Mexican man who decided to yell or whistle at me.
I felt a wave of complete and utter discouragement, and suddenly didn’t care about finishing the final 321 km by bicycle. I wanted out. I wanted Watson to come and get me, and to just lay around Playa until Addison arrived on the 18th. I didn’t want to be fighting a headwind for the next 4-5 days, staying in hotels, eating shitty food from roadside restaurants, and being out in the full sun day in and day out, with no shade to speak of.
But when I tried to make the emergency rescue call, Watson was not available. He had work/the truck wasn’t available. Eventually, over the next couple of days, I tried to convince him to just ride his motorcycle out to see me, and I could take the day off, hang out with a friend and go swim at a cenote in good company.
However, his lady friend was visiting, and he didn’t want to drag her out on the motorcycle for a 4 hour ride to come and meet me.
So I found myself pushing through a wall that I had really hoped to just walk around and avoid altogether.
Yes, there was quite of bit of crying involved and a tad too much sun exposure, but nothing that was going to kill me. At the urging of Radha (my sister), I began to make my rides a bit shorter, tackling 60 km a day rather than 80-100 km as I had been doing for the first half of my trip. This certainly helped my moral.
This seems like a good time to talk about the wildlife I’ve seen, most of which has been roadkill, but some of which has been the real, living animals themselves.
Here is some of the Mexican roadkill I can recall (I’ve researched photos of the real thing online so you can get a visual of the magnificent, though sadly dead, creature):
Beautiful blue and green birds (maybe the blue-crowned motmot?)
Small, brown bats
Snakes of all sizes
Some of the live animals I’ve seen have been:
-a gray fox who crossed the road in front of me so close that I had to stop so I didn’t run into her
-lots of bats at the cenotes here in the Yucatan
-many varieties of birds including herons, orioles, parrots, doves, grackles, warblers, woodpeckers, hawks, eagles, pelicans and ones whose names I do not know.
-I was able to hang out with a bush-full of coatis one day, much to my (and their) surprise.
-I never pass up the chance to watch one of the enormous, cat-sized lizards sunbathing or doing it’s strange ‘push-up’ dance, where it bobs up and down and sometimes arches its head back rhythmically. Oddly, I feel no desire to try and catch one and hold it, like I used to with the little fence lizards in California. Dinosaurs are best observed at a small distance in my opinion. 🙂
Here in Playa del Carmen I saw a giant rodent like creature rummaging around the trash near the beach… an agouti seems to be what I saw:
I was able to camp one of the days I was on the road near a cenote, in a small Mayan village town called Yokdznot (please don’t ask me how to pronounce that). I was psyched to see an official campground in Mexico.
Yes, I was the only person camping, and the Mexicans who passed by my camp spot seemed to be highly perplexed as to what exactly I was doing…
I didn’t sleep all that well in my little tent–what with the village dogs raising the alarm every hour or so when a leaf rustled in the distance–but I was so happy to hear the wind in the trees and to be awoken by birdsong that it was fine.
Actually, in the middle of the night at that campground, I had to go to the bathroom, and had a cool little experience.
The bathroom was a good distance away, so I followed the path that led to it, stomping my feet every now and then to scare off snakes. I saw a strange, white beast off to the side under a tree. It seemed to stock still, gazing at me with mute concentration. I stopped, feeling a little uneasy, and had to look at it for a while before I could discern that it was a goat. And no, it wasn’t staring at me with it’s head erect–that was, in fact, it’s butthole and it’s little tail sticking up in the air. It’s back was turned to me and I suppose it was just sleeping standing up or something.
When I reached the bathrooms, I saw two men sleeping in hammocks hanging from the trees nearby.
There was something so fascinating about seeing them dangling there, like two overgrown babies, snoring softly. No blankets, sheets, pillows or mosquito netting. Just a hammock swaying beneath the trees in the breeze.
I was truly impressed by this scene.
I snuck by quietly so as not to awaken them.
All of this alone time has given me plenty of space for meditation and just ‘being’ with myself.
Sometimes I don’t really want to hang out with myself.
Sometimes I’d MUCH rather hang out with anyone else but me.
But that’s usually when I’m feeling some kind of pain–fear, loneliness, despair–and I don’t want to feel bad anymore.
So I’ve simply taken the time to hang out with these unpleasant feelings, and it’s amazing how much quicker they seem to dissipate when I give them all of my attention.
It gets tiresome when these unhappy feelings arise every morning, or every 5 minutes. Especially when I need to pack up all my gear and hit the road in a timely manner, and need to have the strength of mind to cycle 7-8 hours everyday and find a place to sleep at night before it gets dark.
But now I’m beginning to regard these painful feelings simply as little crying babies with poopy diapers. As long as I’m willing to hold them, let them cry, and even change their diapers occasionally, they can’t carry on forever. They finally seem to be satisfied at some point, and give me a break.
It’s during these respites that I regain my sense of humor, and actually want to talk to other people, even if it’s only in spanish. I feel a resurgence of inspiration around my trip. I feel space inside of me, and can take some easy breaths, maybe even smile.
What I like about being alone is that I get to decide exactly what I do when. I can leave the hotel in the morning as early (or as late) as I feel like, I can go to sleep when I decide it’s time to turn off the light, and I don’t have consult anyone about any decision I’m trying to make.
That being said, sometimes I choose to consult other people. Like Watson, for instance–when I’m getting ready to ride 100 km with a broken spoke and my wheel is rubbing the brakes off to one side even thought they’re released.
Or I’ll call Radha and Erik (my sister and her husband), when I’ve had a rough start to my morning and my insides feeling all junky and sad. I just chat with them for a few minutes to hear how their day went (they’re getting ready for bed when I’m waking up, because they’re in Thailand), and Radha will patiently remind me that feeling sad does not mean the end of the world.
I made it to the small town of Chemuyil (near Tulum) on Monday, and spent two nights at a friend of Rohn Baye’s (Rohn is one of my Patreon backers who I met in San Antonio on my way through to Brazil). His name is Pepe, and on Tuesday we spent some time walking around Tulum while he got his car repaired at the mechanics, and then he drove me to his friend’s place out in the jungle where I was taken through a series of underground caverns and swam in an underground cenote. Truly amazing.
On Wednesday I awoke at 5:30 am, so that I could rolling out to Playa del Carmen by 7 am, and be able to beat the heat. I arrived at Watson’s apartment complex around 10:45 am.
“Watson,” I said, after he’d stepped outside to meet me and was marveling at my loaded bicycle. “I rode my bicycle across Mexico. Now I never have to do it again, ever.”
A month before I left on my bicycle trip from Austin to Brazil, I decided to write to Mestre Acordeon.
According to wikipedia, ‘Mestre Acordeon is a native of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and a master of the Brazilian folk art known as Capoeira. His international reputation as a respected teacher, performer, musician, organizer, and author is built upon fifty years of active practice, as well as research into the origins, traditions, political connotations, and contemporary trends of Capoeira. Mestre Acordeon has travelled extensively promoting Capoeira outside Brazil.’