Six more days, and it will be the anniversary of our arrival at
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from Astoria, Oregon. 3,629 miles by
bicycle. I think that was one of the lightest, happiest days of my
life. The weather that day was the best ever, even if some less
sentimental corner of my memory thinks that it was really hot and
humid, less than ideal.
Did I get what I was hoping to get out of it? I don’t know. Probably
not. I’m still not the equivalent of someone who did cross-country in
high school. I have more defined leg muscles, but I still get passed
on the road. I have some old enemies in the hills of Portola Valley
and Woodside, and sadly, I increased my time on them by only a couple
minutes. And I didn’t figure anything out about what I want to do with
my life, nothing about how to slay those demons peculiar to the
chambers of my heart. I thought I would learn something about this
country I’m in, but the sagebrush of Wisconsin and the soybean and
corn fields of Michigan were strangely silent.
It doesn’t matter.
I met another fellow trans-American cyclist, Martin, by a grocery
store the other day. He caught my eye because he was riding a
ludicrous bicycle–the front wheel was perhaps five feet in diameter,
and the rear wheel maybe two feet in diameter. The whole thing looked
like it deserved a rusty retirement in some colonial museum, but he
had pressed it into active service nonetheless. He was planning
what–his fifth or sixth trek across?–on that old bigwheel. He had
been older than I was when he made his first journey across, and he
told me something that I haven’t forgotten, and will never forget:
“You’ll find that this is an experience which shapes your perception
of everything else, and you’re lucky to have done this so young.
You’ll have many more years than I will to be guided by that
And he’s right. Going across was a gift that I’ll be unwrapping for
years to come.