Good morning friends, supporters, and hosts. It has been a week since I logged my final miles on the bike into St. Cloud, MN. Now back in MA, I am taking some time to ponder the journey. The most important thing to say is THANK YOU for all of your support and encouragement. Everyone on the team played a crucial role in making this ride a success whether by donating money, giving me a place to stay, or simply cheering me on in this project.
I have decided to write this concluding entry as I have all others, mainly dictating into my phone to see what kind of silliness comes out. Some days, like the Day 1 entry, ended up being more like Rothko then Vermeer, but I am not sure I should try to go back and fix things, or if I even can and as I might not remember what kind of homophonic expression I was trying to use. There is something fun and inscrutable about some of the descriptions. You need to leave some space for the mystery in your life.
I spent a few relaxing days with Mike in St. Cloud and environs. It is a pretty little Minnesota city with about 65,000 inhabitants with a sizable state university.It was great to catch up with a friend with whom I have shared so many adventures. He even took me to his family’s camp on the lake, one of the more than 10,000 in the state. It feels like a flat New Hampshire.Here is Rocinante about to be packed for shipment. One of the more common questions I got was around how I would return my bike. I thought about riding it back but decided to UPS it in the end.From the dark to the light.
The Ultreia Committee reunion tour begins. The Ultreia Committee Was a musical group that Mark, Mike, and I formed five years ago to follow the Camino de Santiago. Click on the name to see our documentary.
“Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino y nada más;
Caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace el camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino
sino estelas en la mar.”
-Antonio Machado, Spanish poet
Traveler, your footprints
are the road, there is no other.
Traveler, there is no road;
you make your own way as you walk.
As you walk, you make your own way,
and when you look back
you see the path
you will never again travel.
Traveler, there is no road;
only your wake upon the sea.
It’s not so easy to sum it all up in a nice, neat package but there certainly were some things that I learned out on the road by myself for nearly 7 hours a day. Although there were no come-to-Buddha-moments (at least none that I am at liberty to disclose…Buddha has a great lawyer), when enlightenment entered me like a lightning strike, it was a special time to learn more about myself and the country I was passing through.
1. Listen to the voice in your head with skeptical attitude.
If I had listened too much to that nagging, questioning, anxious voice, I would have never embarked on this adventure. At some point you just have to take the plunge and move toward your goals. You might not know how you are going to get there but the creative process of figuring it out is invigorating and helps to show you what you are capable of, which inevitably is more than you’re protective voice thinks is possible. Obviously there is a place for this worried mind, which evolved to help keep us safe over the millennia; however, in a sabertooth tiger-less age, that voice will identify all kinds of things as potential problems and threats which are not. At the end of nearly every day I was ready to get off the bike. There was always a point at which I was tired and didn’t want to continue… the idyl was tired. Instead of listening to that voice, I learned to have fun with it and play games to keep it occupied while I turned out the final, sometimes torturous miles of the day. There was a lesson in there about grit. Sometimes it was about nothing more than keeping the petals turning with good intentions.
2. Connect IRL
It’s hard to deny that we live in a time that amplifies negative news and which often resembles mass insanity, but disconnect and look for the goodness in people. Get off your phone and talk to people you don’t know already. You will be surprised. The Warmshowers experience was probably my favorite aspect of the trip. Night after night strangers who shared nothing more than an interest in cycling and a hospitable disposition, put me up in their homes and fed me like a king for nothing in return besides good karma. They took me out to see their slice of the world (twice in convertibles) And share their thoughts and feelings with me on a variety of subjects. Cyclist or not, you may want to look into becoming a host if this sounds at all interesting to you.
3. Sorry, that’s not on the diet
Consider taking a media diet. I have a times done this before and always felt a positive effect from it. On the road I would read a very occasional news item but in general I was out of the generalized anxiety that courses through the media. Unless you’re going to do something specifically with the bad news you were inundated with, think about turning down the volume and turning to things that you can control and which make an impact on peoples lives. Be like Barb, my great host in Waukesha, WI who did community service all down the Mississippi in the kayak she built. I am reading her book “Paddle with a purpose” now and can highly recommend it to all. It can be found on Amazon and other outlets.
4. Farms rule!
Although I grew up in Vermont and was quite acquainted with the experience of living in a place based on agriculture, it takes riding across the country to realize the true extent to which farming and fields is what dominates the landscape. Living in a city in a fairly urban part of the country it’s easy do you become disconnected from the reality of the situation. That’s why it’s so important what happens on farms and how the land is used. It affects us all, so should we all should care about it.
5. Boldly going nowhere
In these pages you have heard me complain, and various times, wind, rain, bugs, hills, etc. but by the end of the experience my perception was starting to change. I had seen for myself how focusing on pedal strokes and being present in the moment gave me tangible physical strength and mental perspective. Especially in the final days, I really tried my best to be where I was, doing what I was doing. At times I was able to leave a goal oriented mode of thinking with my sore bum and aching legs to make a little place in that very moment. The contra-temps I experienced were not obstacles but rather messages from the universe telling me to slow down; for this will soon be over.
A decision regarding a possible second leg of the journey to the Pacific coast will have to wait a little while. I was wondering if I would be more inclined to do the second half or less upon completion. I think the answer is clear that I am leaning towards it having had such a wonderful experience this summer.
Tailwinds and blue skies,