Near Mirepoix, France – February 12, 2017
The Pyrenees emerge through the grey sky. They appear as shadows in the mist, faint lines rising to points, fading in and out like ghosts.
The road stretches away underneath me. Cars flash past, some slowing, some moving to give me room, some flying by like I’m not even there.
Shades of bright white fill in along the distant horizon. Is that a slope of snow catching the sun or the edge of a cloud hanging in the sky? I stare. Some shift in the wind. Some do not.
Wind floods across the flat land like a river of air roaring over me, shoving me back, knocking me sideways. It rips at my clothes, at the straps of my bag, at the skin of my face. I relish the moments when I slip behind a patch of trees or an old building that block the flow, but mostly I lean into it, growling, pushing back with stubborn steps.
The Pyrenees emerge from the distant clouds, tired of hiding, proud, stretched across the horizon like jagged white teeth. They are mountains, tall, sure, free of any doubt. I stare at them with every step, willing them closer, watching them rise as the pavement beats up my feet.
I feel the steps when I collapse into my tent hours after sunset. Every little joint aches. The ligaments, tendons, and muscles hurt. The bones feel bruised. Even my calloused skin, thick like leather, feels punched up. But I soaked up as much of the quiet Sunday roads as I could, walking and walking and walking more. Now I’m almost there, almost in the shadow of the Pyrenees.