I’m home…

15 04 2010

Well, I find myself a bit unsure of what to post this morning. After all, this blog was supposed to be about the ride to Denver–and here I am–at home. Maybe some thoughts on returning to Denver and the ride will be appropriate…

Denver has always felt like home to me; since we first moved here in 1983, when I visited after moving to Phoenix in 2001, and now, returning in an effort to restart my career, and life. Being here with Andi and Darryl, two of the best friends a person could hope to have, is so comfortable, and comforting. Hearing the delight and pride in my daughter’s voice last evening when I called and told her I’d made it brought me a sense of real joy. Seeing some of the old familiar places I remember from living here before gave me a wonderful sense of having returned to the place I am supposed to be. It is all so familiar and I am happy to be back.

Yesterday, as I began my ride from Salida, I was so eager to get here that I began pushing very hard from the first crank of the pedals. This was, of course, a mistake. I blew up my legs very quickly. I stopped a couple of times for food and Rockstar to reenergize them but, even so, I knew I had created problems for myself by going out so aggressively. As a result, I had to begin hitching after about 30 miles. With a couple of tough climbs behind me, and a few more ahead of me, I decided I’d better hitch if I wanted to reach my goal for the day of reaching the town of Fairplay, about 60 miles from Salida. As it turned out, I received a ride from a lady named Mary Lou who has done more bike touring than I could ever hope to do. She drove me up the mountains and then out of the mountains into Denver, about 100 miles. She saved me at least three days of riding–perhaps four. She also saved me from getting stuck in the mountains when another storm came in tomorrow. For this, I’m very grateful.

I also learned some things from her about bicycle touring that I wished I had known before I began this journey. In fact, the whole trip, all 15 days, was an amazing learning experience. Some of the lessons I learned are internal, things I discovered about myself of which I’m proud, as well as things I’d forgotten about myself. Some of these lessons are things I’ll share with all of you later, some will remain my own. However, one of the most surprising and unexpected lessons I learned is something I’ve mentioned before; it is just how kind and generous people can be toward strangers.

I had about half-a-dozen “pay it forward” type experiences during the 15 days I spent on the road. People offered encouragement, rides, and cash, expecting nothing in return and receiving only the satisfaction of helping another human being. I even had one completely anonymous contribution of cash at the hostel in Salida. Someone, I’m not sure who, hid a $20 bill in my riding gloves which I only discovered when checking my gear one morning. I have an idea who it might have been but, since they obviously wanted the contribution to be anonymous, I will honor their wish and simply say, “Thank you for being so generous. It came in very handy.” I have sworn, to myself and my daughter, that I will be just as kind and generous to others in the future.

I realize now that I made many mistakes, in both the planning and execution, for this ride. I really thought I knew what I was doing after spending hours doing research online. Like most things though, it just isn’t the same until you’re out there, actually doing it. I mean, I spent years travelling alone as a salesman driving hither and yon but, living on the road on a bicycle creates a sense of exposure and vulnerability unlike any other mode of travel I can imagine. While I found a great deal of enjoyment in the experience, I also had days when I worked incredibly hard. Yet I did find bits of that joy and freedom about which I spoke before leaving. This ride was, without doubt, the most difficult thing I have ever done, yet I am proud and pleased to have done it.

Many of the things I experienced and learned during this trek will take some processing to evaluate and understand before I am able to share them. Let me just say this, if there is anything in your life with which you might like to challenge yourself, something you might wish to do for you–and only you–please give it a try. While I was not able to pedal every mile of the way during my ride, this old man was able to do about two-thirds of the distance, nearly 500 miles; much farther than I could have imagined a mere year ago.

So, whatever it may be that you have dreamed, make it real.

Later

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