How Fear Can Overwhelm Us :: Day 7

BEARS!!!!

Due to lack of photos taken on the last day of our first week, I failed to mention the events of Day 7 in our last post, yet it exemplified the classic unpredictability that comes with long-distance cycle touring.  It also offered a lesson about fear and acceptance.

Ignorance is not always Blissful

After getting a very late start out of Queensbury, NY, we decided to be gentle on ourselves, heading back through Glens Falls and south toward campsites in Moreau Lake State Park, a mere 10 miles away.  We realized we didn’t have a clue what day it was, when we arrived at the park, just before sunset, to discover it was a Saturday, on the last big holiday weekend before cooler weather settled in, and that any and all campsites within a 100 mile radius of our location were full.  Although we would have normally felt giddy over our blissful disregard of the Gregorian calendar, we didn’t have time to dwell upon the significance of it, as night was falling and there was no camping allowed inside of the state park, except for designated (and already full) sites.

Suddenly our “easy day” plans were gone, and our legs were pumping up and down the hills of Old Saratoga Road, our eyes searching for a place to rest our heads for the evening.

My Irrational Fear of Bears & How Nice People Help Me Get Through It

At this point, I should share that Kai did find a couple of stealth campsites for us but my irrational yet strong fear of sharp-fanged animals, especially bears, kept me from giving them the stamp of approval.  I know this is something I will eventually get over but we’re just starting out, and I am still working into stealth camping, especially in forests, so I’m trying not to be so hard on myself (and Kai is trying too).  But, as it grew darker, I became more and more frantic and felt a strong desire to get out of the park and closer to civilization.

After rejecting Kai’s suggested sites, I unilaterally declared we were going to bike as quickly as possible toward the town of Wilton, NY, and that we would ask to camp in someone’s yard.  After some riding, we finally came upon a home within the park, with acres of nicely manicured lawns and plenty of room for a small tent.  As Kai held my bicycle upright, I knocked on the front door, standing with hope in my heart, but when the door opened, the woman living there was scared and would only yell at me through the locked glass door, informing me that the folks down the road might let us stay in their yard.  Disheartened, wondering what about me caused the woman to be fearful, and feeling even more frantic, I got back on my bicycle, and we raced on.

After climbing an insanely steep gravel drive to the next home, we found cars with keys in them, an RV fully open and obviously being worked on, garage doors open, and signs of life everywhere, but when we knocked on the doors no one answered, and when we yelled into the garage and the open air of the fields surrounding the home, no one called back.  Kai, realizing I could become hysterical at any moment, let me do what I needed to do to feel safe, as I continued to rush down Old Saratoga Road, pumping my legs as furiously as I could, until we finally broke out of the park.

There, in Wilton, NY, I pulled into a driveway and quite gracelessly asked a woman painting her house if we could set our tent up in her yard for the evening.  I explained what we were doing, that we were only looking for a safe place to sleep, and that we would be off early the next morning, fully expecting her to say “No. Please move on.”.  Instead, she smiled and said, “Sure, that would be fine, but I have two boys inside and they will be very curious and may want to check things out as you’re setting up.”

I almost cried with joy.  Yes, that response would do, now wouldn’t it?

After introductions, and before Molly could change her mind, we set up our tent in their backyard, and soon two boys were out showing us their Halloween costumes in between questions about our tent and bicycles.  Kyle, Molly’s husband, pulled into the drive and came over to introduce himself, welcoming us to their home and offering use of their bathroom.  After eating a quick dinner and getting everything settled into our tent, we visited with the family, offering them a loaf of bread we bought at the Rock Hill Bakehouse in Glens Falls earlier that day.  We shared life stories with them, their children showed us their artwork and talked about their pets, and they left the back door unlocked through the night, in case we would need to access the bathroom.

As we walked back to our tent, I recalled sharing my fear of bears with the family earlier that evening, and Molly’s response.

“Oh, you don’t need to worry.  There aren’t any bears around here.”

I silently laughed at myself, letting the fear that I had allowed to seep into my mind over the last few hours of our day slip away.  Funny, how particularly personal fears kick into high gear when you find yourself outside of your comfort zone.

Then it occurred to me that the woman who wouldn’t open her door to me earlier in the day was probably experiencing the same kind of exhaustion that I was at the moment, the exhaustion that comes from a day of holding fear close to your heart.  And I sent a silent wish out into the night, hoping that someone would help her work through her fears, as others had for me that day.

“Do you feel better now?” Kai asked as we were falling asleep.

“Yes.  Yes, I do.”  I whispered.

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10 comments to How Fear Can Overwhelm Us :: Day 7

  • Nice writing, love it, and ooh so recognisable.

    I have a love hate relationship with stealth camping and still sleep with 1 eye open(I just can’t get used to it). It’s strange that I have less problems with stealth camping in strange countries than at home, I guess its all down to rules and expectations.

    Cherish these wonderful moments of human kindness, they really are long distance cycling fuel, few and far between but worth the life savings and pension which you’re spending on this trip:)

    Good luck.

    Shane

  • Rob Bromee

    Hi Sheila and Kai

    I very much like getting notifications when you’ve added a new entry in your blog!

    Keep on truckin’

    Rob

    • Hi Rob!! Funny, we were just going through comments yesterday looking for a particular conversation we had with someone and we saw your email to us when you first found our site. You’ve been so supportive from the start – THANK YOU.

      Hope you and yours are enjoying the fall season in your new home – it must be beautiful there. Be Well!

  • Steve & dian Jahn

    We enjoy your postings and Sheila has a great style. Hope you enjoyed hiking in Watkins Glen. The day we were there, the falls/river were roaring!!. We are a few days from the end of our journey and just left Rochester on a rainy and cold day…45 miles on the Erie Canal and very wet and cold!!…so we feel what your experiencing, except your camping…were old softies and enjoyed Warm Showers stays and motels/B&B.

    We will enjoy whenever we get a post from you both, and keep the spirits up and enjoy your adventure.
    Steve & Di

    • Thanks Steve & Dian! We actually started utilizing warmshowers.org, most recently in Syracuse, NY. We’re softies too when it comes to low 40s and rain!! 😉

      We’d love to hear about your next adventure so please keep in touch and let us know what you’re up to.

  • Danny

    You guys, I love reading your updates! Sheila, regarding your bear fear, yes, it’s true that a situation could develop that is threatening, but hostile bear encounters are rare. Unless you have good reason to have imminent concern, don’t let the POSSIBILITY that a bear MAY show up deter you from setting down a tent in a nice spot. I would think riding a bicycle along a two lane highway with little or no shoulders is way more dangerous than the possibility of encountering a hostile bear. I’m sure you know the things that you can do to mitigate encounters. (keep food and other scented objects like toothpaste, etc. out of the tent and either in a bear proof container or hang it in a tree, thoroughly clean your camping area of dirty dishes, etc.) Getting your tent site up, preparing food, cleaning up, and putting things safely away all takes time, so make sure that you leave PLENTY of it when planning on ending your day’s ride. Here are some web sites that i found that can be helpful about dealing with bears.
    http://www.mountainnature.com/wildlife/bears/bearencounters.htm
    http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/backcountryhiking.htm (page down to SAFETY IN BEAR COUNTRY)

    Having a bottle of bear pepper spray will probably make you feel a lot more secure, though you are not likely to be in a situation that you will ever need to use it.

    I can bearly (sic) for the next update!

    Safe travels!

    Danny

    • Thanks for the great links and reminders Danny. I actually did some research of my own after that night, finding similar sites to review, and, as usual, educating myself helped ease a lot of my fears. I still might get some of that pepper spray though!

      Love the play on words. 😉

  • Picinisco

    I love what you are doing and I am sure there has been months if not years of preparation gone into this, but it surprises me greatly that you did not seem to address your fears ahead of time. I know as time goes by and you settle into a routine you will gain confidence and laugh at the past weeks “tantrums” and anxieties but you will have to really work at getting through these initial problems or your trip will be over before it has really started. I have every confidence that this will all work out but you are in this “2gether’ and as such when things come up you have to tackle them 2gether and not rely on the other 2fix it.

    All the best and I will be following along.

    • Hi Picinisco,

      Thanks for following our blog and saying hello.

      As with most fears you don’t really have a chance to deal with them till they are looking you squarely in the face and it is often hard to “address them ahead of time”. I remember the first time I rode my bicycle on the roads and how fearful I was, but then I acclimated to riding with traffic and now I’m cycling around the world. The same as been true for many things in life so I think you are correct, that I will indeed gain confidence and laugh at the past when months or years from now I reflect upon the present.

      We’ve had a handful of experienced long distance cyclists tell us that break-downs are a natural part of the process so we’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves to conform to a certain way of being while cycling nor to supress our natural reactions to what happens for each of us on the road, especially not in this beginning transitional phase. The good thing is that we’ve been together long enough to be able to read each other fairly well, and we help each other through times when one of us is struggling – we don’t consider it a sign of weakness or see it as one person fixing it necessarily, but as a healthy interdependence, and one of the main benefits of being in a relationship – when one needs help, the other, if they’re able, offers it, and then we’re both stronger on the other side of it all.

      Thanks so much for the vote of confidence. 🙂

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