God of all ways, but only Death’s to me,
Once and again, O thou, Destroyer named,
Thou hast destroyed me, thou, my love of old!
– CASSANDRA, AGAMEMNON
October Brovets have always been subject to a severe dose of malevolent tampering. Each attempt to venture on some well-intentioned bicycle bound quest has faced unforeseen climatic events, unprecedented storms, Acts of God. Seaboard destroying hurricanes and record-breaking winds have previously confounded and plagued our attempts at satisfactory ride completion. Still we refuse to believe that October is off limits, that the entire month could have a hex on it, one that would forbid the planning of our aptly named friendship adventure. October, the month of scales and scorpions, known as the Yellow Month to our Slavic brothers and sisters, is on the schedule for a reason. Heavy shit goes down during this month, the world turns their fields and reaps the last of their bounty, rejoicing in their fertile harvest. This month is a time for celebration, a time to enjoy the fruits of our summer labor before easing into the cold of winter. This holds true for the men and woman of Brovet. We find ourselves liberated from the quixotic jamboree of a cyclist’s summer and plan annually to find adventure in the cool autumnal winds and auburn dappled country so common to the month of October. Here we can parley the ebbing but adequate fitness of our long summer trials into a jocular communal effort. Try as we might, we have yet to find this Frostian promise land of crisp windless mornings and blue bird days. Each year, despite our best efforts, we descend upon some pre-chosen destination planned according to the advice of some hayseed with an almanac, during a time that by all accounts should be one of temperance. Days later we leave reeling from whatever climatic surprise nature has dolled out. Is this coincidence, a series of unrelated missteps? Coincidence only goes so far and it is hard not to believe that something else is at play here, something insidious.
How much can one person know another? We may spend days, months, and years discovering each others secrets, learning tells, observing habits, building the advanced algorithms that we call intuition only to be constantly reminded that not only does the other person continue to surprise us with unexpected vagaries and variety of action, but that we ourselves are anything but steadfast. Societal pressures, aided in large part by shame, keep us consistent, we expect and are in turn expected to tow the line. These pressures are not always enough, and like a mighty volcano when they need to be released the results can be disastrous. Despite this potential for destruction, we depend on this perceived consistency to get through our lives. This is how driving, walking, grocery stores, sporting events, family gatherings, dates, etc all work. In a sense you already know everyone and at the same time you absolutely don’t know anyone. This, like everything else, is just as confusing today as it was when conscious awareness first tore the wrapping paper off the existential birthday gift that none of us ever had on our wish list.
What I am saying is that I don’t believe any of my fellow riders did anything to draw the ire of god, fate, or dark matter, but there is no way of denying that a maleficent force has been at play in trying to stop us from reaching our destination. Did one of our fateful adventurers stab a Cyclops in the eye? Was our rendezvous point built on an ancient native burial ground? Did we insult a Roma who cast the evil eye on our operation? All of these things and more are possible but my intuition tells me that it in no way was our cursed fate brought on by any intentional action.
Isn’t that just the way of curses though? Some malignant evil is slighted in the most innocuous way, say when in a moment of absent mindedness, our hero mistakenly forgets to hold the door open for some nefarious old warlock or he/she just so happens to cross the path of some occult leaders prized black cat. Though the cause of our misfortune may never be uncovered, the recognition that our October expeditions are cursed is with out a doubt. You see things just don’t go to plan and like the tale of brave Ulysses we would strive valiantly against man and nature to reach our final destination while being rebuked by misfortune at every turn.
Prior to our arrival in Austin, John had sent out a foreboding series of texts and emails, each more dire in their weather predictions than the lasts. After each message I would pack another layer of riding gear into my duffle bag. What had begun as a small bag packed with one pair of bibs, one jersey, one base layer, a bottle of sunscreen and some lightweight socks grew into an overstuffed duffle bag filled with garments made of smart wools, schoeller paneled jackets, and knock off polerfleece. Everything waterproof, supposedly warm, and functional went into the bag. It was undeniably October.