Posing in the Mark Twain State Park, Missouri
The Bike Trip
Missouri is beautiful this time of year. I’ve already bicycled from the Altantic Coast and through Virginia and Kentucky. The September heat has bronzed my skin; the Appalachians have toned my legs, expanded my lungs. In front of me is a road that stretches, long and tempting, until it disappears into a ferocious sky rushing headlong toward my riding partner, Jared, and I. The clouds are an invading force that quickly conquers the space around us; before we have time to react the black sponge of clouds wrings out a deluge of water, hail, thunder and lightning. Unable to retreat or move forward, we become aware of a disconcerting fact: we are in a lightning storm and we—atop our steel, lighting-friendly bicycles—are the highest points for miles around.
We search the distance for a place of refuge and spot a barn a mile away. Loaded with our bicycles and all our gear we sprint across a grassy field as all hell breaks loose around us. When we come upon the barn we see a house behind it—a family is in their living room calmly watching TV. They see us and begin waiving their hands and shout, “Get in the barn! Get in the barn!” We oblige. Not a minute after we take shelter, a lightning bolt strikes a tree nearby; it crashes to the ground, not far from where we just were.
After the storm abates the family brings us some food, water and towels: they think we are crazy! We are grateful to spend the night in the barn. As we prepare our dinner there is a blissful stillness; the sun sets behind an Earth that has been scrubbed clean. The morning dawns cool. We get on the road in the semi-darkness, ready to ride another 80 miles, our only job to use our legs to reach the day’s destination. The bliss of fitting into a couple of dry bags everything you need to live is thrilling.
2 months and 3,000 miles later I arrive in San Francisco. I look at a map of the United States and see the extent of the terrain I have covered. If I can traverse an entire nation with my legs, what can I do with my heart? What of my relentless ideas, my tireless passion? Looking back at the map I resolve to honor the beauty of the land and the people and the life that has allowed me to experience such depths of feeling.