My parents have a rule that says: If you do something routine-altering for a few days, you get a day afterwards to recover and re-adjust to life at home. It's called "The 24-Hour Rule", but the longer you're away (or significantly routine-altered), the longer you get to recover—48, 72, or even more hours if needed.
What this basically does is acknowlege the fact that life has changed, and that one's pysche needs a chance catch up. During this period of time, moods shift, circumstances might feel weird or awkward, and it's best not to take yourself and your feelings too seriously. This rule, giving ourselves a break when getting back into the swing of cycle touring after a brief period off, helps a lot.
And so with this in mind, we didn't beat ourselves up when we left Miwa and Sergei's apartment much later than planned. As soon as we left, we began a slow climb that didn't stop for hours. All day we climbed and climbed and climbed, never steeply enough to make it feel as though I was doing something of importance, but just enough to make me feel like a weakling.
Tyler's note: if you look at our route leaving Athens you'll see that all of this work was due to a minor routing folly on my part. It could have been a flat day! Oh well.
As we climbed, it began to drizzle, and then the rain came a little harder. And the balmy weather we had experienced for the past few weeks all but disappeared as the temperature plummeted. The clothes we had just washed and dried were now totally splattered with mud and we'd only been on the road a few hours.
It was now cold and wet and climby (my favorite combination!) and I was questioning my sanity—why, why, why are we returning to a life like this when we could be living somewhere with a kitchen and electricity and hot, running water!? I didn't care about seeing the world, and I really didn't care if I never mounted a bike again in my entire life. Tyler gave me the space I needed, while reminding me once or twice one of our favorite phrases for sour moods: you are not your thoughts.
I was not a happy camper until we finally made it past civilization, and my mind's chatter was quieted by the misty rain falling on my helmet and the slow rhythm of my pedaling. Individual drops of water clinging to delicately-hanging withered fruits, the dark, gnarled shapes of leaf-less trees against a backdrop of gray, and the intensely green wooded hillsides captured my attention and wouldn't let go.
Suddenly after what felt like an eternity of mentally fighting against our way of life, waging war against the pain in my legs, arms, back, and heaving lungs, I had fallen into place again and everything was okay with the world. This is where I am at this moment, it dawned on me for the millionth time. This is all there is. This is my life right now, and if it isn't okay now, it never will be.
Once I found my groove, the rest of the day passed much more smoothly. There was the chilly 700-meter descent after all that climbing, but we stopped often blow furiously on our fingers in an effort to warm them. The cold also inspired singing. What started as uncontrollable shivers quickly morphed into:
(make fists with both hands and shake vigorously while doing this for the proper effect)
…and then lamaze-inspired breathing (HEE HOO HEE HOO)…
…and then gutteral, stocatto noises like "GUH AHH FUHH HUUHH"…
…and then came the stilted, mono-tone, shivery version of the first song that popped in my head:
Tyler and I graced the hillsides with our not-so-dulcet tones and finally made it to the bottom.
When it was time to look for a free-camp, we found one almost immediately: an olive grove between two industrial factories. Tyler set up camp, as usual, and I cooked dinner, as usual. We ate; we snuggled; we were home.