Just what I needed.

Watching the sun set over Lake Ontario
Watching the sun set over Lake Ontario

Part of the joy in bicycle touring is the complete disconnect from reality. The world’s events and personal worries go by the wayside when you’re a lunatic on a bike for 6+ hours every day. We’re most concerned about how and where we can get our hands on a decent cup of coffee at sunrise. Disregarding “the real world” and it’s problems is just a byproduct. If it can’t be delivered to me in the form of a podcast, chances are it’s not at the forefront of my mind.

I left Richmond with a handful of worries, most regarding my future, my career, personal relationships — you know, trivial stuff. Last year, I was gliding through Glacier when I got some truly dreadful news. Today, the pendulum swung back and I got some fantastic news: my dad is officially cancer-free!

His diagnosis came around the holidays, and we knew from the get-go that it wasn’t overly aggressive, though that didn’t keep me from stressing out. I had to wake up each day, and think to myself, “My dad has cancer.” My dad, the man who I’ve idolized and thought invincible for years, would have to go to battle. I think I can speak on both my and my sister’s behalf when I say I’m lucky to call Babs and Ricky Platania Mom and Dad.

I wasn’t so lucky in that I didn’t inherit my dad’s poise and level-headedness. It seemed like he embraced the challenge, and even the day after returning from surgery, I never heard him complain (if it were me, I’d air my grievances for years). He was stoic through the entire process, and I think that counts for something. My mother, the same woman who tells me to be careful everytime I hang up the phone with her, was as steady as ever. It felt almost like they said, “Okay, we’ll deal with all the tough parts. Mike will do well to take care of the panicking, so there’s no need to do that.” I’m so proud of you, Dad, and I couldn’t be happier for you.

A typical rest day in Osceola, NY
A typical rest stop in Osceola, NY

I’m writing this from a hostel in Buffalo, having just shoveled a mountain of food into my face. And, in the morning I get to wake up, and no matter which direction I walk, I’ll hit a Tim Horton’s in a block. Say what you want about Buffalo, but these people know how to eat proper.

In two days I’ll be 24, and I’ll celebrate it by riding 95 miles across three states. I’m ready to embrace the Midwest and it’s humid headwinds with open arms. Years of Virginia humidity have prepared me for this. Besides, everyone’s been a little too familiar with their rainjackets in the Northeast. I’m ready to harvest some absurd tanlines again.

Today, reality popped it’s head back into my life and gave me a little boost. Douglas Adams said, “There is an art, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents difficulites.” As a son, a route leader, a person, I’m trying to learn how to throw myself at the ground and trust my abilities to miss.

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