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Riding for hope

A road less taken

By Oleksandr MatvyeyevPublished about a year ago 7 min read
Couldn't find a better picture even if I tried

What would be the point of having an adventure if all you had were your expectations? Even if you had a plan? All I had was a direction, a feeling, and a bunch of dots connected on my map, that I knew nothing about.

A dot on my map.

I was riding alone. It was a fairly quiet day on the roads of Texas. I could hear my own thoughts very clearly: "Where is this road taking me and why is it so empty here? Is there a restaurant, cafe, or some sort of a store in this small town? This country is full of small towns like this one. This is just another dot on my map.” I rode all the way to the cafe, but it was closed permanently. A couple of guys were working on it. I asked them about the cafe I was looking for and they told me it was closed. They were the only people in the whole town I had come across to talk to that day. I turned around and went back, but then I stopped. It was a red wooden door that got my attention.

The church

It was a local church, the only building that stood out. It looked unusual, spotless, almost sterile. It still looked empty to me, nearly abandoned, but I knew that it wasn't. The whole town may go to hell but not the church, someone must have taken care of it. After all, it is a tax-free business. Nobody would miss an opportunity to skip one of the two absolutely unavoidable truths. Death is still certain, as always, but who am I to judge? I was hungry in a place where everything was closed if not falling apart or completely ruined, even left behind. At least the church still stood. At that moment I thought: “Why is it like this? Why does everything seem abandoned and closed? Is it too early in the afternoon, or is this town coming to its lawful end, building by building? Even its little shops and little souvenirs are full of memories of what it used to be like here. \" It was quite unusual how normal I felt about this trip at that moment, empty and bored as if a part of me already knew something but didn't know I was ready to move on. I was tired of learning, and I wasn't listening anymore, nor did I even want to.

You may lose hope if you choose to enter. But the light remains.

Even the chief's face looked like he knew it was time to keep on going. I called him "Eyes looking down."

The Chief

So the cries of my brain continued: "You wake up every day, put your gear on a bike, ride all day, maybe see something interesting enough to make you stop on the way to take a picture, maybe not. Then, after riding all day, you see a beautiful sunset, get to the place where you will camp, brush your teeth, and sleep."- That's the way it was sometimes. I was annoyed that things hardly changed if they ever changed at all. Patience is such a treacherous thing; you can run out at any moment if you are not careful enough like you can run out of water. I was probably tired and it was hard to ride in a desert area. I even remembered a woman I met in Florida who told me, "When you get to Texas, get a train ticket and skip the whole western part. There is nothing out there but sand and stones." Apparently, it's just nothing but desert for hundreds of miles. I disagreed with her statement then because I knew that it would be better to go all the way to the end, even if I wouldn't like it. I signed up for the whole experience. What I thought I could and couldn’t handle, all the challenges that I had to face. My break in this small and empty town was over. I was ready to continue my trip to another dot on the map. To my surprise there really was a gas station instead of a store. I saw a family pull over in their car to get some groceries. I smiled and continued pedaling. Some things really are a bit of a cliche.

After I was completely out of town I wasn't sure which road to take. I stopped at the rest area, where they had these yurts and there were tables. I opened my map. One of the roads was supposed to be the one from the tour route, which was separated from the main road, and I wasn't sure if it even existed or what it looked like. I started to look in that direction. I saw one car from afar taking that road. It made a lot of dust as it drove away. It was probably more of a trail than a paved road or anything I could bike on safely. I decided to take the main road.

I was almost out of water. There was a big truck standing on the side of the road next to me. The driver was checking if his navigation system was in tune with his route on a map. It was always nice to know that you were not alone in your troubles. I asked the driver if he had some water. He gladly gave me his whole gallon. "Here, take it," he said. I was genuinely grateful. I thanked him and got back on the road. There was a big mountain ahead and it was covered in a myriad of different colors. I had to go and see it.

The mountain. Many stones have been named after their many visitors

I stopped by to see what the mountain was like, and I had to be brief. It was my third stop so far and even though it was fairly bright at the moment, I knew the sun had a tendency to escape if I took it for granted. I left my mark on the bottom of the mountain and decided to get back on the road. The mountain seemed steady enough to wait. I did not expect to see such a symbolic milestone.

The mark I left at the bottom. That is as far as I could go.

The mark I left at the bottom. That is as far as I could go.

I was entering an intersection with a sign that said: "Esperanza".

A couple of days prior to that moment I met a man. He let me and two other travelers spend a night at his place. We met each other by chance. After our stay, I told him if I could have a third grandfather it would be him. There was a certain kind of fortitude in him that I liked and respected. We will hear more about meeting him later. He was the one who told me if I saw a sign that read "Esperanza" to make sure to take that turn. So, I took the turn, and I chose to follow his advice. I was curious about where it would take me.

The sign that altered my journey

After turning, that road took me above the main highway, which felt a bit unsettling. The path turned into what you call moon dust, a mixture of sand and dust a few inches deep. It promised me a good challenge, for the road looked more abandoned, less taken. I could see some animal tracks, probably of a cow. Suddenly, a small utility van passed me, and the driver waved at me with a friendly smile on his face. I hopped on my bike to see if I could handle cycling through this so-called moon dust. I hoped it would be ok. I started off slowly since there was a bit of a downhill slope ahead. Everything seemed to be fine and the dust was keeping the speed slow enough until my front wheel suddenly stopped and I rolled over the handlebars while eating dust. "Probably wasn't a good idea after all!" I thought to myself as I laughed, spitting out some dust. I had to try.

The road less taken

I didn't even care that I had fallen. I was tired and the landing was soft enough because of the moon dust, so I decided to get up slowly. As I was picking my bike up the sunlight hit my eyes. I couldn't see much ahead, only some flickering movement. Their manes were playing in the sun as they stood there staring at me. Things were about to change.

Riding in style

They were slowly approaching their uninvited guest; many shades of gray, white, brown, and black manes dancing in the golden light of the sunset. I was surrounded by them. One of them began to chew on my front tire, one was hesitant to trust me, and one looked me straight in the eye while I stood still, floating amongst them with gratitude and curiosity in each moment. I was very careful at first as we engaged each other. I was a part of their environment. I felt how peaceful they were, how they shared that with me, as the sun was hitting my face and theirs too. I wanted that moment to last forever. But I had to go on. I looked back at them where they spent most of their time and turned my wheel back onto the road. I was full of energy because I had hoped that my day would change for the better after taking an unexpected turn. The sun had set and the darkness became the host of time. I was coming up to the place where I needed to stop for the night.

I found out later that Esperanza means "hope".

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About the Creator

Oleksandr Matvyeyev

Hello

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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    Oleksandr MatvyeyevWritten by Oleksandr Matvyeyev

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