Total Miles: 2,308.6
Near Ravning, Denmark – October 12, 2016
Today’s Miles: 33.3
Total Miles: 2,341.9
Past Jels, Denmark – October 13, 2016
Today’s Miles: 31.4
Total Miles: 2,373.3
Past Hjordkær, Denmark – October 14, 2016
Today’s Miles: 22.2
Total Miles: 2,395.5
Flensburg, Germany – October 15, 2016
Denmark’s last hundred miles slipped away in chunks of walking and sleep. The small towns, the old bridges, the churches, they smeared together in my memory and left me unable to decipher yesterday from the day before. I only know that moments existed, untethered and floating, lost somewhere in the miles and days as my footprints stretched south.
I remember standing on Harold Bluetooth’s burial mound late one afternoon. I remember the flicker of excitement as I climbed the steps to imagine the Viking king leading armies across the land, but the excitement was all in my imagination, in the idea of it all. The reality was a mound of dirt amid miles of pavement and hard packed dirt roads that all seemed like ones I’d walked before. It was one of hundreds of mounds of dirt heaped over dead Vikings along the Hærvejen that I would have passed without a thought if my imagination wasn’t there to bring them to life and tell me that they were interesting.
I remember the post office in a grocery store and the kind woman behind the counter who helped me send pounds of equipment to wait for me at the end of the trail in Spain. A solar panel that is all but useless under the grey skies of the shrinking days. A cook stove that no longer makes sense when I pass a town with fresh food every day. A jacket I long ago replaced with one that is still waterproof. Things that needed to go, weight that needed to be trimmed, speed that I need to gain.
I remember the French couple, their bikes weighed down with loaded pannier bags, and the few moments we shared talking by the road. How their words felt like life flowing back into me, how their eyes reflected the glimpse of distance, of understanding I needed, how they disappeared down the road and I wondered how long it would be until I stared in eyes like that again, eyes that knew.
Then the border came, the end of Denmark, the beginning of Germany. No guards, no fence, only an old steel gate spliting the land, left to commemorate a different era, a time when men with guns once guarded a line in the sand to sort people into us and them.
I stopped there for a moment, looking at the steel gate and the land on each side. I wanted to see a difference. I wanted to believe that crossing that line would change something, would stop the feeling of days sliding into days, would halt the treadmill of farms, roads, and villages, but I knew it wouldn’t.
The border is just a man-made line that shifted back and forth for centuries until it ended there with the steel gate. I stepped around it and walked south, my feet on German soil, Denmark behind me, needing something else, something different to split one day from the next, to blow oxygen over embers, to carry me south.