I’m back in La Canada now after a couple of celebratory days in Charleston. I’m trying to tie up loose ends and it sure is easier working on my iMac rather than my iPad. I’ve updated the donor/contributor information and we’re up to 151 individual donors (the list of donors has been updated, too) and total donations/pledges are up to $66,618. I never could have imagined how many people would be following my journey or want to make a contribution to make this world a better place. I’m really humbled by your generosity and caring.
Sitting here in my “man-cave” and looking out on our back yard under sunny, warm, skies helps me put the journey into perspective. You see, I believe I had a notion of riding across the country as a romantic adventure, seeing the country via backroads, embracing middle America, and that the primary challenge would be a physical one. Let’s face it – it was a Trek Travel fully supported trip with excellent accommodations, all meals provided, a masseuse along, and guides that would lead the peleton and break the wind! So if I trained properly and lost sufficient weight and had the right gear (and gears), I would emerge the conquering hero. Yes, I was 65 years old but I was strong and mentally tougher than the kids in their 40′s and 50′s. I’m sure that’s how most of you saw it, too.
But reality, ah yes, reality, grabs you by the throat, stares you in the eye, kicks you in the groin, and, in essence, says “Okay, sucker, try this on for size. You think you have what it takes? We’ll see what you’re made of!” Doesn’t that sound like life itself? It should, because the journey I’ve just experienced is analogous to life; albeit a safe challenge because I could just get in the van if it got too tough for me (as others on the trip did) but in life you can’t escape the challenges.
So back to my journey. Reality reared its head and threw at me extreme weather conditions, hail and freezing rain as a surprise at 10,500 ft without proper clothing, bone-chilling cold, debilitating head winds, rain, terrible roads, no shoulders, busy highways, semis flying by you within a foot or two of you, angry commuters, vicious dogs, day after day after day of 100 mile rides with major climbing, riding by myself because no one else’s pace really suited me, and guides who weren’t there to pull you along (in fact, didn’t really ride that much). “How you doing now, sucker?” said reality.
So the trip became far more a mental struggle and it was a spiritual journey as I found out what I was made of and realized that many people were being influenced and inspired by my efforts (I drew attention to myself and my cause and there was a price to be paid for that attention and focus).
So I’m sitting here trying to articulate what the trip meant to me and I’d tell you that it was life changing because reality took that romantic adventure notion and stomped on it. Good. Life isn’t a romantic adventure nor is life always fun or fair and life definitely isn’t a vacation. Adding “meaning” to our life requires experiencing sadness to know happiness, experiencing despair to know enlightenment, overcoming obstacles to know accomplishment, to love ourselves before we can allow others to love us and the greatest learning of all is that we can’t do it alone! We need the love, caring , compassion, and support of others and we need to love, care, be compassionate, and support others, in turn. That’s it! That’s what the reality of this trip has reinforced for me. And I was awed by America – its beauty, diversity, people, and opportunity – and dismayed by the urbanization of America evidenced by the boarded up towns, the abandoned homes, poor infrastructure. And I was taken with the contrasts of the deserts, the mountains, the plains, the rolling hills, and the lakes and rivers. Tennessee was, to me, the most beautiful state. There was no least favorite, just different. I’ll never forget Kelsey Harrison, who was running across the country east to west.
And I’ll never forget the price Brett paid for taking on the challenge of a cross country ride. He was never out of our minds for a second as we realized “it can happen to any of us.” It’s dangerous out there on a bike on roads and in conditions that we normally wouldn’t venture out on.
In closing, I’d like to borrow from “The Hollow Men” by T. S. Elliot:
Between the idea and the reality; Between the motion and the act; Falls the Shadow
Between the conception and the creation; Between the emotion and the response; Falls the Shadow
The “Shadow” Elliot is referring to is the purgatory we face by our unwillingness to act, our unwillingness to make a decision. In all of our lives with all of our struggles, we want to avoid the “Shadow.” One of the other riders offered a quote from Dr. Seuss which many be more suitable as a final message -
“don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”