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PHOTOS: Brian Vernor
In the three years of Continental riding, this is the worst road ever. We’re lost and stopped at an intersection in the middle of nowhere.
Stopped collectively, unsure of where this odyssey ends, quiet, empty and bemused looks reflect a ride like no other. Nearly one-hundred-and-twenty-seven miles ago we were fresh and ready to fight the forces of weather that comes with riding along the Mississippi Delta.
Wind; we’ve faced wind before, we’ve echeloned and persevered, but somehow this has been different. Single lines, double lines, none of us have felt wind like that offered by the pancake-flat Delta before. Momentum-killing chip-seal roads we see 15mph when we’re lucky, but we’re drilling ourselves just to keep a pace of 12mph. Zigging and zagging through the cotton and rice fields we dance from one foot to the next. At times and at more acute angles we are as wide as a lane of traffic and overlapping nearly half the length of our bikes. All is ruffled, muffled and flapping. All communication; gasps, instructions and maledictions, are snuffed and carried off without register. We are streaming sweat and leaking. We are eroding.
Water; we’ve ridden through apocalyptic rain storms and crossed many a creek, but riding through these flooded plains is different. For two hours we push through the swollen waters of the Mississippi. Instead of holding one’s line, we’re working to stay in the wake of the captain ahead. The only relief for soaking feet comes at the very highest moment of each pedal stroke, everything else has the extra tension of trudging through the dark, deep waters of the Mighty Miss. As fish jump around, our bikes become as valuable for defense as transport—helping us ward off and outrun rabid beaver and feisty water moccasins (a gravely poisonous snake common around water in the South). Aimless, we stop periodically take respite underneath freeway over-pasess shouting into the underside just to hear the reassuring echo of our own voices. That, and to prod unidentifiable but assuredly dead animals with our frame pumps.