It’s 5:45AM and I can’t remember the exact time, but I’m turning 28 right around now. This was more or less my last night in a bed for the next three months– I’d planned to savour it, but I’m wide awake before dawn, like I usually am on my birthday, or before my entire life changes.
The bikes are almost packed with what we need, all the rest is in storage bins in the basement, and the subletter moves in today, so I guess it’s really happening; as of today, our home is these bicycles/the gear on them/the open road/each other.
Kini and I started talking about this trip about a month into dating each other, more than a year ago; some treeplanter friends of hers had just returned from doing a similar route, and their stories resonated with something that each of us had wanted to do for years. The Bicycle Trip has been this fantastical shared imagining between us for most of the time that we’ve known each other, and especially at the beginning we always prefaced talk of it with “If we still like each other in six months…”
A year later, the bicycles are packed and leaning on the walls of our shared home; we do still like each other, and I’m incredibly grateful at this time in my life to have a partner who’s drawn to this too– to leaving home, making our lives a lot more compact and a lot less comfortable, and travelling in a way that’s going to be arduous and challenging and sometimes scary.
A lot of people aren’t; that’s been clear from talking to friends and strangers about our plans. We wanted a silly bicycle pun for the title of this blog; the derailleur is the mechanism that shifts the gears of a bike, and leaving home to cycle every day and sleep in a tent is very definitely a major gear shift. I think, though, that the idea of derailment also resonates somewhat with both of our lives. There is a set route that you’re supposed to take through your twenties, and if you ride it successfully you’ll pass the milestones of starting a career, getting married, buying a home, having babies.
At 28, I’ve taken a winding, looping, searching road between cities and towns; I have been a curatorial intern, housekeeper, baker, chocolatemaker, and salad farmer, and I’ve just applied for illustration school in the fall. This trip feels timely for me; I’ve been in three wedding parties in the past two years, and they’ve been the reason for most of my recent travels. And I love and support my friends who are getting married– I’ve been happy to travel across most of Canada to be with them and wear pretty dresses and cry happy tears on them.
I also think it’s a crazy thing to do– to throw an expensive one-day party that takes a year of planning. I’m queer and I’m cynical around these institutions that seek to validate or invalidate the way people are living. And after a wedding-saturated couple of years I’m thrilled to so emphatically not be doing that. Our year of planning and saved money and last-minute stresses have been for a three-month experience that is going to strengthen and change the insides of both of us. It’s not for everyone, but it is for us.
Our starting point is our home of Victoria, BC; in a few hours we’ll be on the ferry to Port Angeles, WA. I can’t give enough love out to this city, its cherry blossom Februaries and the community I’m part of here. Looking at my loaded up bicycle, so much of what’s in front of me was gifted to me by other people who have been on long cycling trips (whose stories and advice have also been essential to making this actually feel like a possible thing to do); I like to think their gear carries the good luck of having seen all of this before, even if I haven’t. In the past few days we’ve been given tiny owl and horseshoe charms for our handlebars for protection and luck, a little packet of sage to burn before we leave, a cycling-specific yoga lesson in our living room, and many, many kind wishes and blessings; things to help feel protected and loved and healthy and safe.
The sun is up and it’s time to have a last hot shower and finish packing. To anyone reading this, I hope you’re doing well. Kini and I will both be writing in this space wherever and whenever we can; do check in on us, but don’t worry if we’re out of range for a while. We’re probably okay.