Adventure, Bicycling, The Great Adventure, Travel

I Had Not Felt This Sorrow, This Uncertainty in Years

Friday’s ride.

Thursday and Friday were bad for my heart.

I’ve had difficulties before. I’ve had setbacks, broken gear. The sun beat down, the rain beat harder. This is my first experience of existential why-am-I-doing-this pain.

Originally I wanted to write a post called “Last of the Islands.” Since July 4 I’ve skipped from one refuge to another. Three were planned and two were spontaneous, but I’ve found way points with friends and family along the way.

Thursday morning I departed my parents’ house and, with it, the last known way point. That night I was rejected by a friar. You all know that story.

When I slept, it rained on my head. Dutifully I crossed my legs and shrouded them with plastic. I am so tired, I thought. I can sleep through anything.

Five naps till morning came. Cloudy and windy. I was exhausted. Weak. Trembling.

I made 55 miles to Prairie Du Chien. Arrived afternoon, hoped to find a kind face. Cafe after cafe was closed (so early?). The grocery store was two miles further on; I settled for a meal at a bar. Swooped by churches, none were open. All the usual suspects—spots I might find an offer of lodging—null.

Backup plan. Always have a backup plan.

Slow and sore I pedaled back the way I came. Outside of town is a bluff line with forest at the bottom. No houses there, no one will care if I camp on it. Getting the Giant to the woodline was herculean: he has weight, the roadside ditch rejects him. Threw him up the slope with all my might, dove through the vines, and—


I jerked back and saved the Giant from snaring his rubber toe on a barb-wire fence. Three lines of the stuff; nothing solid to climb; can’t get bike over; no snippers on me and anyway I’m no vandal.

Damn damn damn damn.

The sun winked her last light at me and put herself to bed; I, in the cold, had no such luxury.

I had a will, a fire not to sleep outside again. By gloaming and brow-sweat I returned the bike to the road, resumed my flight from town, looked for another spot.

20:30 I walked away from the hammock. It was set up and well hidden. I strolled the road in the dark, feeling. I sat by a church and felt. I looked at the sky and felt.


What, Drew, if I made a mistake?

I didn’t want to think it, I pushed it away. I’m not the crying type, my silence was my tears. I had not felt this sorrow, this uncertainty, since when. Since I first set a date to depart?

But the sorrow-of-alone has been my faithless companion. In college, I felt it. In my early career I felt it. I felt it in my home life even (especially?) when married. A deep sense, not of depression as it were, but of being completely alone from the world.

And if silence is my tears, this stony face at the Christian Assembly stoop was a jag to flood the world. My world, anyway, and that is all I have.

Today I push on. I don’t know the future. I only know that I lived, and this happened.


40 thoughts on “I Had Not Felt This Sorrow, This Uncertainty in Years

  1. lokisdattir says:

    Don’t give up hope! We’re all rooting for you. Maybe someday you’ll inspire younger people to set up a network of wayhouses like the Underground Railroad so kids like me can travel for free, adventuring across the Americas.

      • Come on Kira, no need to be sharp – I use CS all the time. I’m staying in a great place in Dubuque this very moment thanks to that site. But I find it has limited use on my trip for several reasons: (1) I can’t always be sure what town I will end up in, (2) if I do have a destination in mind it’s hard to say when I will arrive, (3) there are less CS hosts in small towns of 70-1000 people which is where I often end up, and (4) internet is a limited resource out here; I just went through a 150 mile stretch of no data signal on my phone.

        I continue to send requests when I know when/where (roughly) I will be, but many nights it is camping out or knocking on a door.

    • Dattir, that’s exactly what I envision! I would love it if there is a universal symbol people can hang on their houses to indicate: “I help travelers.” And of course, it would still be in their hands to what extent they help a *particular* traveler (if they don’t trust the person, etc.) but it would be a marvelous thing.

      That doesn’t exist yet, but till then – what Kira said. is the bomb.

    • Thank you all for your words. I guess there are two things I should say.

      First, I am so grateful for all of you following along. Maybe this is naive, but it feels like what I’m doing must really mean something. Sometimes – when there are no friendly faces, nowhere warm, no internet signal to see all of your words – sometimes it’s easy to forget that you are here. But I do remember. And thank you.


      I don’t intend to quit. I am far too early in my quest for any such thought. It’s natural to feel despair when you have bad days, and a trip like this will be full of them. I will continue on to New Orleans where I’ll spend the winter; by then I’ll have a better sense of my capabilities and plan how to move next. But I am not done and I have not surrendered.

      Again, thanks to all of you.

      • Your journey is important to us, your readers, because your honesty about your journey gives voice to all of us. And whether you give in, give up, move on, or start over, or any other combination, what is important is being fully present in the moment, right? If you were to decide to “give up,” I would call it “choosing another path.”
        You’ll be on this journey until you aren’t.

  2. You are not Alone, sweet friend. This is part of what you Journey to seek, is it not? Like your unseen grief, watch for that which has been Forgotten.

    (p.s.I am glad I was able to meet you in person finally. Oh, and a message: GrandFather says: Keep Going.)


  3. We travel different journeys, and yet, your words resonate within me. No one can tell you whether or not the journey is worth it, whether you should continue, or not. But I can tell you this. Iy doesn’t matter if you are in an ashram or on the road, or dependent upon one’s husband for every tiny task while recovering from foot surgery–we each face the specter of grief and loneliness in one shape or another.

  4. strongdem says:

    Oh Drew. This feels so familiar to me. I know exactly where I feel that sorrow in my body. The place that I carry it in the very center of my chest. It’s been with me most of my life, too, as you know. I wish I could make it go away for you, but I can’t.

    But I will say this: so many people have helped me to heal that place. Countless friends, family, advisers. Years of tears and desperate pleading prayers and words of counsel. And, at least for me, the overarching message has always been: don’t hide from this. It is showing you a place in your soul that needs healing. And if you are brave enough to look at it with gentleness and compassion, to allow yourself the feelings and to ask them what they have to teach you, you can be healed. These feelings visit me less frequently and with less intensity for every time I gather the courage to do this.

    Perhaps one of the fruits of this journey will be just that: a time of focus, without distraction, wherein you can see and heal what has injured you in the past.

  5. This was bound to happen. It means your on the right path. You’re standing at the crossroads, not sure what path to take. Go on, go back, stay and rest — they all have a lesson for you. Which one will you take?

    You are learning about yourself, my friend. There is no wrong answer.

  6. Beatriz says:

    Every hero, every myth man have a time like this. Please don’t give up Drew, please… if you can’t, the rest of us don’t have hope. You are our hope, our hero.
    Keep moving, find the gods. You CAN do it.

  7. Kate Jacob says:

    Your friends have said it all dear son. Every one of us ultimately is alone in this world, Being comfortable in your aloneness is certainly part of what you seek, Don’t be afraid to be alone, you have so much good company there..

  8. “What if I made a mistake?”

    Then It will be the mistake you have chosen, which is better than the mistake of choosing to listen to how others want you to live your life. You can always change your path, but it should be for your own reasons, and not anybody else’s.

  9. susanTblake says:

    The Real Work
    by Wendell Berry

    It may be that when we no longer know what to do
    we have come to our real work
    and that when we no longer know which way to go
    we have come to our real journey.
    The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
    The impeded stream is the one that sings.

  10. Lythe says:

    I really do admire your determination and honesty on this journey. I just wanted you to know that, like others here, you are in my thoughts daily.

  11. Pingback: The Heroic Faith: Can Adventure be a Religion? Guest Post by Drew Jacob | Project Conversion

  12. My brother and I had an interesting conversation last week. He imparted a hallucinogen-induced realization that we, every one of us, is ultimately very alone. He goes to bed with that knowing every night. I have a completely different experience. I believe we are interwoven no matter where we are, how we feel, or what we face. And while I wish I was in your path to give you a warm bed and whole food, I trust that wherever you are in any moment, you are exactly where you need to be, surrounded by whomever you need. Blessed be.

  13. Pingback: Adventure Log: Wisconsin Edition «   Rogue Priest

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