December 13, 2010

It has been over three months since I reached Yorktown. “Normal life” has re-prioritized my time, and distance has dampened the urgency to write. But, being a ponderer, I have been comfortable letting the mash of this summer’s experiences go through some thought distillation. Past TransAm riders have said their journeys changed their lives. What had mine done for me?

The fact that I have had a hard time answering that question suggests there has been no grand life-altering effect. Getting married changed my life. Becoming a parent changed my life. Day-to-day, my life now is still very similar to life before the TransAm.

What this journey has done is deepen some personal wells. Not the ones used every day, but those emotional and physical wells in reserve on the back acre. “Going to the well” conjures up raising something from down deep. I now have new reference points from which to contrast future situations. Is this as bad as feeling homeless in Hindman? Is this as much of a struggle as climbing the Kentucky Appalachians? As importantly, I have annealed one of life’s anchors—perseverance. The TransAm is often simply viewed as a physical challenge, but it was my mind that got my body across the country. Other riders told of companions, younger than me, who gave up and went home.

I cannot truly say I came to fully understand the persona of America, or even the West, the Great Plains or Appalachia. I traveled too quickly to get immersed in the lives of locals. I had snapshot encounters with people across the country; not frequent enough to stitch into a panoramic view of American life, but detailed enough to appreciate the richness wrought by a micro view. Being a traveler, and sometimes importantly a bicycle traveler, gave me an entree, or an approachability that led to these encounters. Talking to the opportunistic cook in Baker City, the vagabond National Park Service employee in Eminence and the mischievous Mangus House owners in Vesuvius sometimes gave me a sense of life in that region, but always offered perspective on how lives can play out.

In writing this blog I wanted to absorb, then relate as much of this experience as seemed informative and evocative. That desire prompted me to not just skim over the land, but eagerly wade through it, primed to discover what was present above, below and around me. This heightened awareness was energizing and rewarding and instructive. I looked more and found more. Some days I just knew the itinerary would create an interesting day to write about. On others, even after hours had gone by, nothing had materialized. Yet more often than not, the days were memorable ones, birthing a good story and headline.

The blog was not only to be descriptive but also reflective. I usually process thoughts and experiences in my head, but here I was broadcasting and analyzing them out in public, often hearing my introvertedness bark out a pull-back signal like a Montana prairie dog. But again, contrary to how you might typically categorize bicycle travel, this was an emotional trip (with a lower case e). Leaving out that dimension would have been akin to turning off one channel of a stereo. I wanted a high fidelity recording.

Certainly I did this trip for myself, but it was also a trip for and with others. I wanted the kids I work for in my youth development programs to believe they could make their own grand plans some day. One I know already has. I wanted my own kids to have a bicycle touring experience. I had three weeks of travel with a good friend. And there were all of you readers. I had you in mind each day as I wrote, feeling as subscribers to this blog you were due a reporter’s best effort.

Multiple times during the trip people asked me why I was doing it. I often responded with some variation of “to get to the other side.” At those times that seemed like a simplistic answer. Now I realize I had to reach the other side of many things, not all physical. Looking back at where I came from, it was all worth the effort.


3 Responses to “Epilogue”

  1. Kevin Ott Says:

    Excellent blog journey, thank you.

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