I made a note in the margins of my notebook, “Matt is my kindred father.” In truth, he’s only a few years older than me, which makes him my kindred older brother. Either way, his story is my story, a few years further along. I am still in the midst of my bicycle adventure. He has completed his, which gives him the perspective of hindsight.
Matt divorced in 1991, a few years before I did. He diverted his career while his two children were growing up. Ditto. Once they were established he embarked on a bicycle odyssey. He travelled for three years, over 30,000 miles throughout the United States. “The bike is like a magic wand. It brings out the best in people. It opens doors to people’s houses and their minds.” I started with a route defined by social and economic hotspots. He began with an itinerary of landscapes. “I set out with expectations, but what I didn’t expect was the amazing vignettes. It’s really about the people. Everyone has their own story. Every morning I couldn’t wait to get going. I knew something remarkable would happen.”
Matt’s trip was longer than mine, and didn’t have the 48-state structure. “I never went to New Jersey. Nothing drew me there.” Toward the end of his journey his sister Michelle asked him to move to San Diego and help her run the medical practice she’d bought. Matt returned to full-time work; he lives in her big house. “I felt so transformed by my trip, I wanted to know if I could ever reintegrate into mainstream life. Eventually I did. I forgot the feeling of a warm shower after a long day and just how good cold water can feel on my face. Now I get bent out of shape when my Starbucks is late. Everything fades.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“It depends on where you want to focus your thoughts, on social, environmental, political, or economic issues. We have so many ills. Consider economic misallocations; they are getting worse Consider the environment. If you choose the rosy outlook, people are depending on tech to work our way out of this. But we are ruining the oceans, depleting the forests and poisoning our land.
“I think it is tough to be an optimist. I am an advocate for gun control. Look at Sandy Hook. That should be an event to create change. But it didn’t. That’s what makes me think the future will be bleaker. We keep putting things off. There is no political system or legal system. Money runs everything.
“When you’re touring you don’t see the news everyday. You’re focused on your ride, your climb. That’s your world. But in reality, the world sucks.
“It’s going to take some Messiah to come along and get people’s attention. Who can do it? Gandhi couldn’t; presidents can’t. It has to be a religious person that changes people’s minds. But I haven’t given up hope.”