June 10, 2016
I have been home for almost 5 days. Already it feels like the ride was a dream. Settling back into a routine of mowing the lawn, walking dogs, and other home duties, it is hard to believe that the ride really happened.
There are things I don’t miss. I don’t miss doing my laundry every night in a hotel bathtub, trying to dry items with my bath towel and the hotel hair dryer. I don’t miss the “continental breakfast” or foraging for the night’s dinner or the next morning’s meal at a convenience store or grocery store deli. I don’t miss the nightly unpacking and morning repacking of the panniers. I don’t miss carrying the extra weight of the panniers on the bike. I certainly don’t miss the C&O Tow Path Trail or the winds of Kansas.
I do miss the sense of freedom, knowing that I am travelling under my own power, to my own schedule, on a course of my choosing. I miss the engagement and deep conversations with all my warm showers hosts. The next best thing to that was the night at Andrea’s Bed and Breakfast in London, OH. There, I met more than half a dozen other cyclists spending the night. I had some great evening and breakfast conversations about biking. More importantly, there were conversations about life, purpose, and how to bring the two together. Another night where I had some spontaneous, instant community was in Garnett, KS. There, I met Jeff and Jodi Colvin. They were preparing dinner on a BBQ grill outside the room of a cheap motel where we both were staying. His entire crew that worked on coating gas pipelines was also staying there. We shared a pitch in dinner of chicken, steak, bacon, stuffed jalapeño peppers, a few sides and beer. I definitely got tons more than I contributed that evening. Besides some awesome food, I got to meet some new friends. In fact, Jeff, Jodi, and I stayed at a hotel in Sedalia 2 days later and had dinner together. It was a night of deep conversations, good food, and a little beer.
I will never forget the random acts of kindness both big and small I encountered along the ride. It started on the first day with the young waitress in Ramona, CA. She was so impressed with the idea of my ride, she bought my lunch for me. A similar thing happened in Mexico, MO, when the owners of the café also bought my favorite meal of the day – second breakfast. The hotel clerk in Kingsman, KS shared some of the chicken he had made for his own dinner and brought it to my room. Sometimes it was little things. The grocery store workers in Yates Center, KS just had a helpful attitude. They were used to bikers coming through town. They gave me some directions and recommendations and made sure I had a spoon and napkins to eat the cup of yogurt I bought. A lady in Sedalia, MO offered to take me home for beans and ham just because I seemed a little tired while checking my directions. On the same day, a heavily tattooed young man in a very old car made it a point to let me know he was stopping and waiting for me to go first at an intersection out in the country where our roads had merged. He then assisted me with some directions, since my phone was starting to go dead.
I learned a lot about myself. I had to draw upon many life experiences when the riding got tough. In an earlier life, I had run more than a dozen 26.2 mile marathons. That experience helped me deal with fatigue and put off any urge to stop. Even my longest previous rides could not prepare me for the saddle sore I developed after the first week of continuous riding. It took a lot of vaseline, creme, ointment, bandages, and advice from friends and relatives to get over that pain. The mental jukebox was a constant source of rejuvenation, along with the prayers and encouraging words I got from so many people on a daily basis. I’m convinced that it was the prayers and support of so many people that protected me from attacking geese, dogs, uncaring and crazy drivers, rain, snow, winds, cold, heat, uneven roads, rumble strips, flying debris, narrow shoulders, and all manner of treacherous obstacles that threatened my safety or completion of the ride. I don’t think I’ll ever know or comprehend how many were there behind me all the way.
The Lone Rider