November 15, 2016 – Sunny, 75 degrees
Miles Today: 76
Miles to Date: 18,912
States to Date: 46
One year on the road. A full 365 days of bicycling and meeting strangers and asking people ‘How will we live tomorrow?’ I still have six weeks or so left to complete my 48-state objective, but I am in the red zone of my journey. Despite my desire to have the experience and then decide what to do with it, conclusions are beginning to coalesce, patterns are beginning to emerge.
What have I learned over the past year?
I have learned that no matter how much a body does something, we can always get better. A year older and several broken bones later, I am a better cyclist: stronger, faster, more patient, more observant. Seven hundred plus blog posts later, I am also a better writer: clearer, quicker, more economical, more observant.
I have learned how to be a professional guest. I communicate with my hosts. I arrive on time, I don’t ask for anything yet accept what is offered. I clean up after myself. I leave on time. I leave a token of appreciation. I write a thank you. But mostly I listen. People everywhere are starving to be heard.
I have learned to be grateful for the benign majority and the generous minority. I don’t let the twenty or thirty motorists who’ve heckled or hit me detract from the million or more vehicles that have passed me with respectful distance. So many more have slowed down than have revved past. Similarly, I pass thousands of souls hunkered behind garages and security systems. I believe they yearn for fellowship but fear has paralyzed them into isolation. So I appreciate all the more the tiny number of trusting folks who invite this stranger into their home for conversation and connection.
I’ve learned how to ask for people’s time, be appreciative when it’s offered and not upset when I’m ignored.
A year on the road is more than a list of lessons learned; it’s a litany of new fellowship. I count friends in every port, and they have a safe haven should they ever come to Boston. I’ve celebrated births and birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, and, I’ve also shared tragedy
I detoured my route to stay with Juanita Campbell in Pecan Island Louisiana because her warmshowers profile highlighted ‘smokers and drinkers here’. Juanita fired up a giant crab boil. I helped feed her chickens and load a sofa on her pick-up. I slept on a too-short futon with a half dozen dogs underfoot. Afterwards, I sent her a note every time Southern Louisiana flooded, which made us regular correspondents. Juanita died last week. I don’t know if she died of high water or charred lungs, the cause doesn’t matter. What matters is that I was privileged to meet this feisty lady of the bayou. She will long rest easy on my mind as an integral piece of our nation’s mosaic.
And so I mark a year on the road with the bittersweet reality of life’s wondrous gift, a gift we embrace in our joys and savor in death.