Found My Home On An Open Road

by Shannon Shreibak

A leap into the unknown United States


I don't care how broken your heart is, how much blood and brawn has been wrung from your body-none of that matters when you're plunging down a jagged piece of coastline and the brakes melt away from your overpriced, overworked bike. I was careening somewhere between Mile 500 and the crimson lip of the Golden Gate Bridge, in the midst of a hastily planned bike tour traversing the undeniably idyllic, impossibly craggy West Coast of the U.S. I was hot off the heels of my resignation from a soul-sucking job and wading in the fallout of a breakup that left me with a myriad of emotional neuroses and my ex's cycling gear, which was now haunched on my rapidly decaying, two-wheeled steed. I had everything to pedal away from and nothing to return to. As the salt-pocked ocean breeze jabbed my sun scorched face, I clamped the bullhorn handlebars until my knuckles turned the color of fresh milk. Just a couple weeks ago, this journey was a mere delusion of grandeur, a last-ditch effort to steer my life in the direction of its supposed greatness. I had dreamt of thickets of redwoods and cerulean cliffs and the lullaby of coons and cicadas. The gulf between expectation and reality is dark and deep, though, and I was floundering in open water. Without my rose-colored glasses, it was impossible to ignore the fact that I was one hairpin turn away from becoming a white cross on an open road. I had never pitched a tent outside of my backyard and roadmaps read like ancient hieroglyphs through my wind-burnt eyes. I could barely change a flat tire without pleading to every saint my lapsed Catholic brain could muster. But there is an unexpected beauty that springs from the purgatory that lies between aim and execution. I had forged temporary homes in the bucolic boondocks of Oregon. I wheezed my way up and down the Douglas fir-sheathed roads of Washington. I traded stale jokes and fresh beers with fellow pedal-pushing nomads at campsites. I and I alone brought myself here-to the edge of the Earth that some call Highway 1, ready to become a casualty of my own ambition, to take a turn too sharp, to surrender to the same forces that brought me here. It was the first time I felt anything but broken, as if I tumbled down the road and back into myself.