Today’s Miles: 42.4
Total Miles: 2,181.3
Past Aalborg, Denmark – October 8, 2016
The sun caught the under edge of clouds and turned them orange as Aalborg stood in the distance. I checked my watch and wished for another hour that I didn’t have. A giant windmill spun next to the highway, its blades swooping in the twilight as cars roared past the bike path turned trail.
It was too late to stop.
The city’s outskirts stood around me. I was caught in the current of it as darkness fell and I’d have to ride it through the electricity bathed streets, over the bridge stretched through the city center, under the tall buildings crowding the blocks, until I came out on the far side, past the remnants of neighborhoods, beyond the last house, and back into the darkness of night so that I could disappear into some quiet wood and rest my tired legs again.
I tightened my pack, pulled my hat down over my eats to keep off the cold, and brushed my fingers through my beard as the city rose around me. I walked the sidewalks past glimpses of dinner tables and TVs flashing over living room sofas, past industrial areas with empty parking lots, and over a long bridge into the heart of Aalborg.
The center of the city was alive with people. It was dark, but not late and it was Saturday night. Voices filled the air. Music blared out from clubs and passing cars. Couples sat at restaurant windows on awkward first dates. Groups of friends spilled out of bars and off to the next party. Corner stores sold cigarettes and greasy snacks.
I walked through it all, catching glances that fled as I noticed them and drifting looks that seemed to stare past where I was like an unfocused lense missing a subject. The sidewalk cleared ahead of me, just a bit more than courtesy, a few extra inches that cut away at my humanity. But I understood. I was a ghost with my beard and backpack, only half part of their world, there and not there, a phantom to fear even as I didn’t exist.
So the ghost passed by, drifting block by block on legs worn thin by forty miles, limping just a touch where a real joint had ground down on the pavement, until the the city began to falter and the electric lights faded away.
Then I did disappear, this time for real, slipping into an unwatched patch of flat ground to curl under my down bag and sleep away the night where no one would find me.