On the road, I am a spectacle. An anomaly in places that are very accustomed to normal. I draw looks, shouts, handshakes, barks, smiles, and sometimes awe. I answer the same questions all day: “Where are you from?”, “Where are you going?”, “How many hours have you ridden to get here?” (I like that one), “How old are you?”, “How much money do you have?”, and of course “Why are you doing this?”.
I have had some of the “best” times ever and the “worst” times ever traveling. I have also had some of the best-worst times on this journey. I have met many varied individuals, many of them itching to know what it’s like going from place to place in this manner. I spew ramblings of the road behind me and watch eyes light up, cardiac palpitations, hear exclamations of all sorts, and have heard every, always surprising, discouraging word. I tell of the hardest times as if they were the best and the easiest times as some of the most beautiful. I hear my words pass my lips and watch in the reflections of their eyes as they grow larger than life. The vagueness that is inherent in the telling of human experience, especially those understood as foreign, leaves gaps in the puzzle for the mind to fill in how it sees fit. A romance follows the stories for sure, but I don’t use hyperbole. How I tell the story largely influences how it’s interpreted, but part of the listener is added to the picture as well. Those with a disliking of discomfort, distrust of the fellow man, a propensity to seek financial security, or a lack of self confidence tell me: “I could never do that.”. Those with who have tasted adventure and hunger for it, those that hate the words “I can’t”, those that fancy themselves romantics, and even those with something to prove, often give exclamations of amazement and excitement. Brief conversational pauses pass and clouds form, precipitating dreams, collecting and emulsifying desire and wonder into one. Still, many of the latter who cling to the trappings of the so called “safe life” still dream to give it up, and those who often appear free are unwilling to give up the small gains or comforts they have to make a leap. Of course all of this is my perspective filling in those same missing puzzle pieces from my side of the fence.
Over time I have grown weary of toiling to present a convicting case to motivate those who are far from the edge. Maybe in time they will find other experiences which will help them see that if they truly “want” they can “do”, and if they take the time and effort to “do”, they can be free. There are no superheros, only those with time and motive. There is nothing about what I am doing that is any more complicated than a 1040EZ. The cyclists I’ve met on long hauls in their 70′s will laugh at any mention of age limitations. I have seen photos of whole families touring complete with babies in trailers. A simple search for “amputee” on crazygguyonabike.com will tell you others are empowered despite their current circumstances. Then there is the famous Lion Pushkar Shah who reportedly left Nepal on his bike ten years ago, with only five dollars in his pocket. Whatever the circumstance, I can only tell you that I know that there is almost no one out there that “could never do that”, almost no matter whatever that is.