Each afternoon, warm moist air comingles with colder air and thunderstorms are born. Towering cumulous clouds begin to build tens of thousands of feet into the sky. It’s a sight to behold and one I’ve seen time and time again. This dance plays out nearly every day during the late spring and summer in every corner of the country.
Greetings from Sumpter, Oregon. Yes, this is only my first blog entry since my journey started. It’s been a whirlwind the last few weeks in the run up to my departure. The last time I rode across the U.S. it was for only four months and really no big deal. This time however I had to prepare to be gone for the better part of a year. It’s interesting to unplug your life for a year. I sold my car, put everything into storage courtesy of West Coast Self Storage of Vancouver and vacated my apartment.
Shortly after joining the Share board a few years ago I was on a business trip up in Anchorage. One evening I decided to indulge in a little fast food so I headed to the local McDonald’s. When I was walking in I noticed a man in a wheelchair outside but didn’t give it much thought. After eating and reading the paper I walked outside to go back to my hotel. The man was still sitting there. I knew he was homeless and likely hungry so I asked him if he’d eaten. He hadn’t so I gave him a few dollars and told him to get something to eat. And then I asked him if he had a place to sleep that night. He told me he didn’t and I knew that a spring storm was coming in that evening. I walked inside and asked one of the counter people if she knew of a shelter in town and she told me about one near downtown. I got the address and directions and walked outside. “Let’s get you to the shelter, have you stayed there before?” He told me he had stayed there but that it was likely full given the approaching weather. I told him to not worry about that. I helped him into my rental car and loaded his wheelchair in the trunk. The drive to the shelter was about twenty five minutes and perhaps one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. I’d always kept my distance, never fully engaged with homelessness. Until then.
As a kid my step dad used to say this to me – “You cry because you have no shoes until you see the man who has no feet.” He said this so often that it became a phrase with no meaning. It wasn’t until I became a more traveled adult that it began to make sense. And over the last several years since becoming involved with Share it’s really resonated with me. This morning it echoed through my head as I was putting food into canvas bags as part of Share’s Backpack Program.
Things are picking up considerably over the last couple of weeks as I plan this next journey. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of support as we move from the “dream” phase to the “execution” phase. Jack Hardy did a press release last week and my website, Facebook page and Twitter feed went nuts. The Daily Insider and the Columbian both did articles which if you are curious to read are on my website under the News tab.
Well, I am now actively planning my next journey. I’ve decided to embark on a one year long bicycle adventure around the United States. Literally. It will total nearly 12,000 miles when all said and done. For those of you who followed last years trip you will recall that I was struck by how the economy had decimated the country, especially the heartland. On this journey I’ll be taking a video camera and conducting interviews with people with the goal of doing a documentary film about “the state of the nation.”
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…..” Henry V
Life has a funny way of revealing itself. I’ve been thinking about the next great adventure and what that might be and now I know. A couple of weeks ago my brother Mark called me and told me he wanted us to ride bicycles across the United States together. Needless to say, I said yes. We’ve been orbiting on different planes much of our lives and haven’t spent as much time together as we wanted. He retired from the army a few years ago, a veteran of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he’s turning 50 this year. My little brother is turning 50. It’s kind of hard to wrap my brain around that. His kids are grown as are mine and more importantly he got a hall pass from his wife, my sister-in-law so now is the time.
One year ago I celebrated July 4th in Yellowstone and was well into my journey. Today I am working with my friend Scott on a couple of projects related to internet marketing. I’ve joined the Vancouver Bicycle Club recently and am starting to do some of the club rides.
As I reflect back on that four months in my life I realize that it changed me. Today as I am out riding it feels different than before I left. As many of you know I wasn’t really a cyclist before my journey. The bicycle felt uncomfortable to me in a way. The action of turning the crank was strange. Now I am one with my bike. In the afternoons when I go out to my garage and see my old Surly it’s almost like visiting with an old friend. I climb on and it’s natural to turn the pedals. While I may not be as fit as when I was in the Rocky Mountains I’m still in good shape and ride between twenty and fifty miles several days a week.
I arrived home late Monday night after completing my journey in Wilmington, North Carolina on Sunday, October 10th. That last weekend I rode from my brother and sister-in-law’s in Hope Mills down to the coast without my trailer and was grateful the entire way. Grateful because in America we are afforded the opportunity to live our dreams. Grateful because I’m blessed with a lot of great friends and family. Grateful that I made it safely across without injury.
I’ve made my way to Bowling Green, Kentucky after taking a rather circuitous route since leaving Missouri. As you recall, I went off the TransAm Trail awhile ago and am now blazing my own path across the United States. A few days ago I crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois out of Cape Girardeau Missouri. It was an emotional experience for a number of reasons. The Mississippi River is huge for one and really impressive. Second, it does symbolically separate the east from the west. And crossing it meant that I had ‘officially’ crossed over and was in the eastern part of the country. At that time I’d done 3,000 miles and now my odometer reads 3,337.78 miles.