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A SOLO SPIN through the SOUTH

Immediately upon announcing my plan to ride my bicycle from Nashville to Durham, I was hit with a slew of questions—“Where will you sleep?” (Campgrounds, mostly.) “Have you trained?” (Duh.) “How are you going to ride that far, for that long?” (Um, by doing it.) “Do you know how to change a flat tire?” (I’m not an idiot, meaning, yes, of course I do, and if I didn’t, I would sure as hell learn before riding across 600 miles.) The most frequent question, however, was a seemingly simple one—

“Why?”

Seeming strikes me as a necessary adjective, as a surfeit of questions and assumptions lie behind the word, especially considering the context… The question was often accompanied by some combination of skepticism and incredulity, at least by those who are a) less than avid endurance athletes, b) less than avid campers, c) cautious, or d) some combination of the above. Normal people. Most people. The motives behind said question also vary: intrigue, amusement, fear, skepticism, etcetera…

When asked this question, my initial response is also quite simple but freighted—

“Why not?”

The answer doesn’t usually register.

“Are you trying to raise money for some charity or something?” Nope, I didn’t even think of that. Apparently I’m not that thoughtful or generous.

“Did you loose a bet?” Amusing, but nope.

“Are you trying to impress someone?” Negative. I was on a date last week, and when I told my date of my plans, I’m pretty convinced I scared them off, so….

“Do you have something to prove?” Not really, though I will admit the intervention attempt from some of my friends made me more determined to make the trip than ever, but that’s my normal stubbornness, and the trip was set in place well before said attempt was made. Also, it’s worth noting that all said trip proves is that I’m some blend of crazy, organized, and stubborn as hell.

So, as to why… Really, I did it simply to get from point A (my home, Nashville, Tennessee) to point B (my summer employment, Duke Youth Academy, Durham, North Carolina), and then, when the job ended, to get back to point A.

It’s funny, I’m writing this as I am on an airplane, a much more accepted form of transportation. I’m travelling back to North Carolina right now from Southern California, where I was the maid of honor in my amazing best friend’s beautiful wedding.

I worried that it would be a little tense when I got to California, cause let’s just say that Katie, like many of my other friends, wasn’t a huge fan of my plans—she was, perhaps fairly, worried that something would happen to me, that would threaten my presence at her big day. Luckily, for the both of us, I made it.

When Katie presented her reservations about my travel arrangements, I was ironically reminded of a dear gift that she gave me way back in 2006, when I left California for the first time, in that other life, long ago, to move across the country to start a doctorate in psychology. The gift was an annotated scrapbook, filled with pictures and memories of our long friendship that began our freshman year of high school.

The first page of the otherwise colorful and adorned scrapbook, however, was a simple, austere white page, with a long epigraph, from Donald Miller’s Through Painted Deserts. It read:

Everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing, and I want to change …. Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons….

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone… would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn’t it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you:

Leave.

Roll the word around on our tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.

Reflecting on this memory and this book, I’m struck with a sense of irony and a sense of I’m not sure what—destiny? Fate? Prophecy? Fulfillment?—vested in the simple epigraph, especially as this adventure happened to occur right as Katie has embarked on an adventure of her own, continuing her journey by beginning a life and a family with Shawn. At this time in our lives, her journey has brought her to learning to love, and my journey has taken the route of moving around water, around mountains, and around friends, quite literally.

And oh what an adventure it has been, and it will assuredly continue to be…

–By Brandy Daniels, 28, Nashville TN

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Swift Industries’ Tough & Tender Project is an annual LITERARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC PROJECT TO CELEBRATE WOMEN’S EXPERIENCE OF THE BICYCLE because Women’s experience of cycling is not celebrated enough in bicycle communities. Cycling is a male dominated activity and industry, and it’s our experience as women and female-bodied individuals that cycling empowers and inspires us in ways which are not portrayed by mainstream bicycle culture. It’s time for something different!