What We Learned On The Road - Headlong Into The Petri Dish - CycleBlaze

September 19, 2020

What We Learned On The Road

This is the time when journals reach for an insightful, "Meta," unified theory of their experiences on the road ... "What I learned about humanity while on my cycling vacation." But, trying to find a metaphysical connection between pedaling your bicycle and understanding the state of humanity seems more of a fool's errand than trying to outsmart the weather. Does the Apple App Store have an App for divining insightful observations? Probably ...

Here Goes ...

1. There is no better way to understand the world than on a bicycle. It unfolds in a slow, steady fashion instead of buzzing past at 65 mph in a car. A sense of what the lives of people look like and feel like slowly unspools before you. Eighty miles is a fairly quick jaunt in a car, but on a bike it is a day-long revelation. You are exposed to the sights and sounds, the wind and rain, you see the beautiful details and the ugly garbage along the roadside. You honestly get a sense of "The World" out there.

2. There is no better way to understand people than on a bicycle. People are interested in a cycling tourist, and they are amazed, interested, curious, stunned, and envious that people go out in the world and travel this way. We had so many lovely interactions on this trip, and on every other touring trip we've taken. From the grocery store check-out clerk who would have gotten her truck and driven us "to some place warm" on that rainy day, to the couple from North Caroline we chatted with at the roadside pull-out, the one-on-one interactions we had with people were almost always heart-warming and sustaining.

3. There is no better way to understand yourself than on a bike. It's easy to feel like you're an amazing human being when the weather is beautiful, Lake Michigan is on your right hand, and you have a 8 mph tailwind. You learn about your true fiber when it is 60 degrees and steadily raining while riding along a four lane state highway. That is when you understand your strengths and weaknesses and start learning how to be a better person.

4. There is no better way to understand your partner than on a bike. If you are very, very lucky, you have a friend, or a partner, or a spouse who loves to travel this way as much as you do. Or, perhaps, even more than you do. If you've read this journal, and perhaps others I have written, you understand that Margaret (my wife) was like catching lightning in a bottle. She loves this kind of travel more than I do, she loves adventure and loathes routine. She is steady and kind and endlessly interesting, and after nearly 34 years of marriage will absolutely not put up with any bullshit I might be throwing out there. I'm so lucky to have met this woman.

5. I won't be terribly specific on this last note, but it was really something to see see the US (specifically Michigan) less than two months before the presidential election. We are a divided country right now, and the level of "Win At All Costs" is bonkers. The focus on "winning" has erased any understanding about the needs actual people have. And let me tell you, riding through the rural areas and the small towns in Michigan ... people have needs beyond who "wins" the next election. The US is a mess right now, and I think it will take more than a decade for it to rebalance, if it can at all.

I must share a single political sign we saw way out in the Boondocks on this ride. It was in a very rural section of Northern Michigan and there was a very large, homemade sign erected near the road. Easily five feet by five feet. I was tempted to take a picture but it seemed a bit chancy because I was worried the person who put it up would either think I was an "ally" or was taking the picture for reasons he wouldn't like and might challenge me, so we rode by .... But it said something like this: "Vote Republican: Your Lives Depends On It. Democrats Wants Socialism and Socialism is Slavery. Democrats are like Mao's Red Guard and Hitler's Brown Shirt Brigade! Vote Republican!!

The sign was gigantic. I commented to Margaret that the guy (had to be a guy, right?) seems to be accidentally mashing up Socialism, Communism and Fascism in one big manifesto, but kudos to even knowing about the Red Guard and the Brown Shirts. But, oh boy. America.

Thanks for reading this journal, friends. What's the old Chinese curse? "May you live in interesting times."? Perhaps an apocryphal notion, but it couldn't be more true these days if it tried.

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