The Things I Carry - This Time Tomorrow - CycleBlaze

October 24, 2016

The Things I Carry

The Things I Carry

On our first bike trip two years ago I frankly didn't know what to expect. On my previous trips in Asia I spent a lot of time on public transportation which provided me time to sit, observe the culture and think. I wondered what it would be like sitting on a bike for hours every day. I would be observing from a different standpoint and have even more time to think. I wondered what I'd think about as we rode.

It turned out we had a great deal to think about such as avoiding running into massive water buffalo pies in the road or constantly scanning the shoulder for darting snakes and, of course, aiming to hit huge dry teak tree leaves lying on the pavement. Andrea and I smashed many a teak leaf under our tires in efforts to see who could make the loudest crackle. It wasn't competition, just fun.

There is an element of riding a bike that brings back the joy and freedom I felt as a child. I've always thought of my childhood when traveling in remote places but on the bike trip my thoughts drifted back to my childhood home often.

Ernst Haas, famous pioneer in color photography, once said, "The best way to yourself is a trip around the world."

So, I guess it was natural I would have thoughts of my childhood. But I was a bit surprised by how often I thought of my father. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised since he had recently passed away. I had spent many a Minnesota winter living with him as he grew incredibly old. It was a golden time for us both and bicycling after his death gave me a second gift of time; time to reflect.

Memories are easy to carry.

My father passed away six weeks after his 100th birthday. Later, while repeatedly opening and shutting his filing cabinets in a rather despondent manner and overwhelmed by the length, breadth and organization of his life, I noticed one file labeled, "Keepers". I was curious as to what it meant. The file was rather thin; a couple of notes my mother had written to him 70+ years earlier, a few sayings that spoke to him, a card or two. But at the front was the note I had written to him on the morning of his 100th birthday.

For some reason, right now, I want to share with you what I wrote to him.

"Dad, I remember one particular night with you a long time ago. We were in the car returning to Minnesota from one of our family vacations in Florida in the 1950's. I was so young I wasn't yet reading but I loved maps so much that I understood numbered roads.

Mom was usually the navigator using AAA's Trip Tiks but she was sleeping.

On this particular night everyone else was asleep except you and I - the two night owls. We were wide awake, attention focused on the road. I loved traveling at night partly to see all the colorful neon lights, which were in their heyday in the 1950's, and to watch the headlights illuminating the way - high beam, low beam, high beam. It was before freeways and there were a lot of trees reaching out and over the road and rather dangerous curves into darkness. The instrument lights on the dashboard bathed us in a warm glow. We were alone, together, through the night.

I remember an approaching crossroads where you had to make a decision which way to go. There was no time to wake the navigator. It was up to me for the first time ever.

You called out the numbers of the two roads and I looked at the Trip Tik. I had only a few seconds to tell you which way to go. I was nervous. You hated getting lost. I flipped open the glove compartment to have more light. Then I saw that 72 was the highlighted road and 24 was not.

"To the left Dad, take the left one."

Never slowing down, never doubting me, you sped left. I looked up at you in the glow and you seemed confident we were on the right path.

It was as if it was just the two of us on our late night journey. We took the correct route and were wide awake wondering what our headlights would reveal around each new curve.

It has been quite an adventure through life with you and still we discover new things around each new curve. Thank you for the adventure."

The driveway at my childhood home.
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And the adventure continues.

This trip comes after the deaths of two family members who were dear to me: My aunt Verlaine - the last of that generation in my family - and my brother-in-law Howard. My aunt was my initial inspiration for world travel as well as photography. My brother-in-law loved adventure more than anyone I know. Their spirits will be with me and I'm sure I will think of them often. If the last trip was in honor of my father this trip is in honor of Verlaine and Howard.

I feel lucky to even be thinking about taking another trip to the Far East. And again by bicycle! I didn't think this stupid Lyme disease would allow me the energy. (I call it "stupid" whenever I can in an effort to demoralize it.) I don't actually know if I will be able to ride. The Lyme bacteria love to attack joints most of all but I have loads of other aches and pains it has caused as well. I often think it is folly to think I can ride thousands of miles on a bike in possibly adverse weather, eating questionable food, staying in ramshackle guest houses, carrying too much stuff, struggling with communication and constantly experiencing unfamiliar things that will tax my mind and body.

But I know that there will be a whole lot of discoveries around every curve. I always return home carrying a great deal more knowledge about our amazing world and about myself. Travel is an education and education is easy to carry.

lovebruce

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