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On this day two years ago I was...

The only way is through.

By Oleksandr MatvyeyevPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 5 min read
Welcome to Cali

Do you ever get those messages on your phone about your memories of what happened today two years ago? Do you ever wonder what happens when you click on it? Do you ever do?

I clicked on the notification and saw it the next morning after I camped out in the desert plains of California. I was on my way cycling across the whole south of The United States, beginning in New York City, which I left after living through my first marriage, graduating from school, having friendships, and Covid. I felt like getting out was a necessity. Then I decided to go down to DC to see my friend before he left this country to go off to London and get his master's degree in acting. After that, I hit the road and went up to Pennsylvania's small town of Lewisburg and see my other close friend, who then moved to the Netherlands. After that my trip officially started in Jacksonville, Fl. By today, two years ago, I was days away from my goal. The journey's end was coming.

It was a nice day since I'd crossed a major milestone, the border between Arizona and California. I was excited to see what was coming. Just as most of the days before it required pedaling through deserts out the open road for six to eight hours every day. Sometimes ten. The place where I would camp out was only twelve miles away, but it was already getting dark after sunset. I was wondering if I could spend a night at the nearest fire station. I saw it from afar. It was big enough for a fire truck and the gates were open, but when I knocked on the door leading to the inside I heard nothing but an echo of my knock. It was almost strange to look at all the equipment being left unattended. I checked my Google maps to see if there was a hotel nearby but to no avail, I had to keep going forward. By that time I was experienced enough to know that riding my bicycle after dark was a questionable feat.

Last spark before the darkness

The road seemed simple and it was a little under an hour away. There shouldn't be any cars around the rural area. Oh, I knew nothing of what California had in store for me. First came the dibs. I can't even see the light of the car coming so I mostly had to prick up my ears and hear them coming from either way. Secondly, there was no shoulder and the road was narrowed by the stone ridges. Courtesy of our mother for the natural obstacle course. And if I heard a truck coming I had to get off the road immediately, because they had no time or room to go around me, as much as they tried. Every minute was accounted for, every momentum I used to gain speed back up the hill after going down. It was exhausting, a true gear-grinding experience, and a test of will, patience, and pain. There was a lot of pain. I can feel some of it even to this day, even two years later. But dying in the middle of nowhere wasn't something I wanted to achieve. Eventually, after sixty minutes I arrived at my destination. It was on the flat top of a hill next to the road. I picked up my two-hundred-and-fifty-pound bike and went past the tree line to find a more secluded from the road place. In the pitch-black desert, I was watching my every step and walked slowly. I was afraid of snakes. There were other animals too. I saw their feces and tracks as I was slowly rolling my bike to a place where I could feel safer.

two years ago.

I found a spot where I could set up my tent and be in a relatively open space. It was behind an old fallen tree. It was dry after years of waiting for passing by a stranger. I turned my flashlight on and set up the camp and my portable gas stove to cook a bit of oatmeal. I was worn out and hungry. Then I went to check the area around my camp to see where I can take care of the lavatory and where I shouldn't. I was still looking for the snakes. By that time it felt like the only snake I saw in the past two months of riding was all the way in Florida. it was dead too. Others were in my head. Fear is a terrible thing that needs to be let go. Otherwise, it will gnaw at your heart until you freeze and stop living. During my walk back I circled around for a bit and noticed a big pile of feces. They weren't human or even dog size. I wondered if there were any mountain lions in the area. Hearing at night is good. I heard like there was something behind me. I turned around and saw these eyes glowing in the dark and staring right at me. My heart stopped for a long beat as I stood still in front of it. "I picked up a buddy". White sharp ears stuck out from the darkness too. It was a desert fox.

He wanted to get my food. Later that night, I woke up to scare him off away from my food bag, which I carefully tied and put fifty feet away from the camp since there was no tall enough tree to hang it on. To be completely honest the fear during the trip never really left me. I was still freaking out that might get eaten, bitten, or cut in half. It became a part of me like it always has been. The only thing that has changed was my relationship with it. We became a bit more accepting of each other.

After I brushed my teeth I went to my tent and fell asleep right away.

The next morning I woke up at sunrise around 7.30 AM. Fresh air and wind caressed my face on that cold desert morning of December 8th. Warm orange sunlight poured down into the desert like warm water. Last night's effort was worth riding in the dark and this land's beauty touched the bottom of my heart. I was at peace.

Greeted by the touch of the morning sky and the fresh air

I got out of the tent and saw a little gift that the desert fox left for me in front of the tent to remind me that it is her territory. The little rascal.

My morning face

I had my breakfast tea, brushed my teeth, packed my tent, and got back on that simple narrow road. After that, it wasn't as hard as the night before.

This was a memory of me going on an adventure only because "I felt like I needed to get out". I never really knew what the destination was going to be like. It is the journey and the choices I've made that define me. It still does.

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About the Creator

Oleksandr Matvyeyev


I am an actor and a writer. I began to write since the pandemic began back in March of notorious 2020. I've crossed the South of the US on my bicycle and went home to Ukraine for 4 months. I have a lot to say, so let's begin.

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Comments (1)

  • PK Colleran about a year ago

    Yes, it is the journey and our choices that define us. Very well written. Astute observations on fear. Thank you for writing this. 🌄

Oleksandr MatvyeyevWritten by Oleksandr Matvyeyev

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