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I labored to stay close the next few miles as we turned inland through a pastoral valley, past grazing Angus and clear streams. A Grandpa McCoy type drove by in an old pickup, honking a salute. We returned to the coastline, the ocean breeze offering little relief from the unusually hot afternoon sun.
"My butt is getting sore," I yelled, shifting to get comfortable, sort of.
Bill slowed down to let me draw alongside. "Pain can be a state of mind," he said. "If you convince yourself it doesn't hurt, even if it does, you can keep going. Just let yourself relax, keep it smooth, keep a steady pace. You're working too hard. See, without even pedaling, I'm going faster than you."
"Want to trade bikes?" I asked.
He thanked me for the offer and then shifted gears and pulled away, the sun glistening on his tan shoulders. I was alone, just me and the white lines on the road and the gradual numbing in my legs. It was another 20 miles before I spotted Susan, cruising by in the Mercedes after an afternoon at the beach with Adam. Her comforting, earth-mother smile eased the pain a little. "Where's Bill?" she asked.
"I haven't seen your hubby in two hours," I said, motioning over the crest of the next hill.
At dusk I wearily rolled into Oceanside, a small coastal resort town. As I stumbled off my Schwinn, I fell exhausted right into the middle of Main Street. I wasn't trying to be dramatic for the film crew. I didn't have the energy for that. I truly felt as if I'd just pedaled over the Himalayas. "Count me out for tomorrow," I said, eyeing the passenger seat of the Mercedes. "The legs are gone."
"Twenty minutes of stretching exercises tonight and you'll be ready in the morning," Bill said. "You can't quit."
I wasn't so sure. At dinner that night, I could barely lift my fork. Bill had no such problem. He wolfed down two large salads, two bowls of clam chowder, a large crab cocktail, a bowl of cottage cheese, an order of prawns, a salmon steak and a baked potato. It was tiring just to watch him.