Without fanfare, I glided down the last mile of US 80

When: April 19, 2022 | Where: Tybee Island, Georgia
Miles Cycled: 3,330 | Days on the Road: 120

I finished. On April 19th, I wheeled onto Tybee Island, just south of the mouth of the Savannah River. Without fanfare, I glided down the last mile of US 80, which had been my off-and-on path since I’d first laid wheels on it leaving El Centro California, a month into my “ramble.”

I felt calmly satisfied. I knew I had completed what I’d set out to do. That it had been hard. That I had exceeded the physical envelope in which I’d slowly sealed myself over the years prior. I’d rediscovered parts of myself… and uncovered… or maybe created new parts.

I had left home in the aftermath of much trauma. Trauma that haunted me through many hundreds of miles of solitary endurance. I didn’t bury the trauma, but I had managed to find a place for it in the patchwork of my experience that I could live with.

It was quiet on Tybee, a summer beach destination not yet emerged from hibernation. My thoughts and feelings were shared with no one as I pedaled the last mile and a half to the end of the highway.

Passing the end of US 80 — the Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway — a short trip through a residential neighborhood brought me to the final turn that led to a boardwalk.

Julie had passed me coming over the bridge, and was parked and waiting where the asphalt ended. We each filmed my approach from opposite perspectives.

I’d met Julie more than 3 months earlier, in Palmdale, California, and she had travelled to meet me at several places along the route. Most recently, we had met in Montgomery, Alabama, where we celebrated her birthday, and she had followed me for the final 300 miles. The trek had started in isolation, but had been a shared journey for most of the way. Seeing her there at the finish line, the completion of one journey was inextricably joined with the beginning of another.

We walked Juan Sebastian out over the sand together, and she filmed the ceremonial dipping of the tires in the waters of the Atlantic. We would spend the following week sightseeing and making our way back to Montgomery, where we had booked our flights home.

At some point during the course of the trip, wrestling with whether to post my exploits on social media… perpetually aware that I hadn’t maintained my story through “Lemuel’s Ramble” as I’d intended, I came to realize that I needed this to be a mostly private experience. At least in the short term… while it was happening, I needed to undergo the struggle for myself, without the implied external commitments inherent in sharing it.

Of course I shared it with Julie… and a handful of my closest friends and family tracked my progress. But it was my journey. The things I needed to prove were things I needed to prove to myself and nobody else. I’d lived my trauma alone, and whatever validation I needed was internal.

Nearly 2 months later, typing on my phone from a boat in the Seychelles, I’m beginning to feel like sharing. I’ll save the story of how I end up in the planet’s remote places for another time, but as I rest here, surrounded by beauty, I’m pondering the ways in which my journey might help shine a light for others.

I had a lot of time to think and feel on the road. I think some of those thoughts and feelings may have value for others. I’m going to set about slowly figuring out how best to do that now.

I picked you up every time you were broken

You’ve talked often about how your personal childhood trauma of abandonment has driven your worst instincts.

Ostracism is a very real and close cousin of abandonment. A childhood spent exiled to the periphery. That kid who walks alone out by the fence, and glances up carefully to see what the other kids are doing, but not long enough to be seen looking; terrified of the repercussions of being seen looking.

Years of therapy haven’t erased your abandonment issues. Years without therapy have certainly not erased my issues with being discarded. Thrown away. Cast aside. Unwanted. Unloved. Unacceptable.

I can never adequately convey what it’s like living inside a head with ADHD. What I can tell you is that the voice never shuts up. The thinking never stops. Every horrible thought is repeated over and over and over and over again, and I just want it to stop. All day. Every time I wake up at night.

There were a few times in school when someone pretended to want to be my friend. Those were the most painful. I would get sucked in. I’d believe in it. When the inevitable reveal, with its ridicule and derision, came… it was an abyss.

This feels like that (which isn’t to say anything about you or your intentions, but only about its effect on me). For two and a half years, I was told I belonged. I mattered. I was important. I was needed. I was loved.

And, this reveal is unfuckingbearable. I just want it all to stop, and my ADHD impulses push me to seemingly obvious answers…

anger… you’ve been wronged… lash out…

indifference… you don’t need her… show her… shut her out… see how SHE likes it…

stoicism… distraction… kindness…

But, it’s like solving Pi. My brain spins endlessly, and every decimal place is another empty hallway leading to more empty hallways, and none of them bring any peace; only more emptiness.

I’m going to come over and give you your pillow. I hope you’ll see me. Talk to me. Look me in the eyes. You asked the same of me many times, from similarly awful places. I don’t believe I ever said no, even though it meant driving long distances and deprioritizing myself. I’m almost positive I never said no.

Our relationship was broken. I thought our friendship was enduring. This shouldn’t be my trauma. I was a good friend. I was always there. I picked you up every time you were broken. This should be somebody else’s trauma. I’m in the wrong life. Someone else’s timeline. None of this is right.