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Day 57, Aug 25, Goodlettsville, TN

Another day riding in a steam room. I’m hard-pressed to remember when I have sweat so much. Yesterday I kept track and found I drank a gallon and a half of water and gatorade by the end of the ride, like from a river, then drank through the late afternoon and evening and still didn’t pee much. Yes, I know. And I did it again today. I felt weak and off the start of the day, but somehow, for some reason, felt better as the day went on. At the 2:00 break and peak heat, while refueling I was sweating a river but still felt OK to continue. By the end of the ride, clouds covered the sun’s radiant heat and I was moving strong singing along with Dan Fogelberg tunes. I did talk to my new friend Jay that I wrote about a week ago. He was near Indianapolis when he fainted while riding due to the heat. A dislocated shoulder and concussion have derailed his finish in Pittsburgh, so I am sobered.

A river ran through me, I drank and sweat it back out running down me in rivulets. We all drink from the river of the prevailing opinions and perspectives we live amongst and choose, and then sweat them back out as we echo back what we constantly consume. It feels right. But is it? Need it be that way? Can we not choose to step back and evaluate what we are consuming, what river it is coming from and where it is heading. We sweat out, we become, what we regularly consume. Judgement for judgement, compassion for compassion, hope for hope.

The river we swim in, in turn runs through us, through our hearts. I want to choose well.

A river runs through it.

Addiction is a brain disease.

It disables sound decision-making.

It is treatable.

Community is a river.

The One Thing

Day 56, Aug 24, Near Hopkinsville, KY.

We crossed the Ohio on a ferry and got off in Kentucky, our 8th state. I was greeted by narrow roads, chasing dogs, more hills, and a sweltering heat index. We got the miles in, but it doesn’t feel very good in that heat. And how is it dogs know they scare you more when they come at you quietly from behind? A rider a few weeks ahead of me was hospitalized from a dog attack in western KY so it is not something to ignore.

Another landmark occurred today as well: we are going rogue, off-map. So far we have mostly followed the Western Express and Trans America routes from Adventure Cycling, but in Marion, KY we veered southeast toward TN. This comes at the recommendation of two friends, #HeangUy and #TerryFoxworth, Trans Am cyclists who also wanted to come through Asheville, NC which is not on the standard route to Norfolk, VA. So I need to veer south sometime, and since so many cyclists (5 so far), and the map itself(!), have warned about KY, we’re doing it now.

I’ve reflected recently that this project is all-consuming. I mean that everything during the day is connected to the crossing. From the riding itself, to preparation for the next day, planning, repairs and maintanence of Elliptigo and rv, communications, campsite chores, transportation, etc., it is all InJoelSteps. It is for now the main thing, the one thing. In fighting substance addiction, each person needs to reach the point where they adopt the attitude that recovery is the one thing. Unsuccessful recovery and the rest will not matter. The coast to coast journey I am making is to represent the long and difficult journey faced by those recovering from substance use disorder. My journey is the easier one. But in both, the journey needs for a time to be “the one thing”.

Addiction is a treatable brain disease that disables decision-making.

Day 54, Aug 22, Carbondale, IL.

Late to get to this update today as I lie in bed now. I’m wearing down and today felt harder than I think it should have. I’ll see what happens tomorrow, but we should take a day off sometime soon as it’s been 15 straight days of riding since leaving Salida, CO. This was balanced out today by TWO landmarks: crossing into Illinois, our 7th state, and riding over the Mississippi River. That felt really big. Bigger emotionally than crossing the Rockies for me, which was the previous big transition juncture.

The Mississippi represents a major geographical dividing line for our country historically. Somehow passing over it I felt like I had the journey before the Mississippi and I now have the after. Going forward I may refer to today as “since”, as in “since the Mississippi”.

Grief and the loss of a loved one is like that. It’s a Mississippi, dividing life before and life after. It’s a “Since” event, a point in time from which everything that follows is measured. Our family’s losing Joel is like that for Ian, Reid, Layne, Beth, and me, not to mention grandparents, and extended family and spouses. “Since” for us is April 18, 2019.

Last year, 93,000 families had the same “since” moment due to substances overdoses of their loved one.

Addiction is a brain disease.

It disables sound decision-making.

It is treatable.

Community compassion and connection matter.

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