The alarm is going off, and yet I’m still fast asleep, rising from the depths of a dream to cancel the sound. It’s not like it was on tour where I would wake just prior to the clock going off. Now there is no need to hurry. I lie awake now blinking at the Florida sunlight filtering in through the window. Slowly my thoughts turn toward a final summary of the journey…
America, I have seen and touched your face. You are an enchanting country where beauty and resources abound. Through this bicycle quest I have come to know the land, the people, and most of all myself in a way I never could had I not taken the first important steps that ultimately led to our pushing off for the journey of a lifetime.
I was privileged to see this country from a unique perspective. I studied the land in an intimate way. Not through the bug splattered windows of a passing car, visiting roadside stops designed for gasoline and giant soda fountains with their yawning tubs awaiting a fill of ice and beverage. Not from 30,000 feet gazing down at irrigation circles dotting the landscape as so many scattered poker chips, or stopping at airports and conference centers with all the hasty meetings and empty handshakes.
I came to know the land, not from a cushioned hydraulic shock reinforced suspension, but from feeling my way across the face of this country, learning its punishing hills and thrilling valleys, living in the humid heat and numbing cold of its weather. I know of the wind and its fickle ways to frustrate and reward. I have been stung by the hard rains, refreshed by the soft, and worried by the destructive weather of the year. I refreshed myself in the lakes and was schooled on the rivers. The flooding of the lands was mine to behold, not only seeing the deluge, but smelling the resultant rot from the mix of mud and debris, the ruined crops. I witnessed the awesome power of tornadoes as described by the destruction of the innocent structures, towns, farmlands, and the broken hopes of man.
I’ve been warmed daily by the sun, cooled in the evening by its passing, and startled at night by the jeweled skies above. My tent has been both home and shelter, containing all that I need. I have chosen our sleeping places carefully and was educated by the unyielding ground upon which I lay.
Without hesitation I was invited to fish fries where people celebrated the bounty of their catch and openly discussed their secret places to go on their rivers. I spoke with proud farmers calmly explaining their sophisticated equipment and their spacious lands. I touched the lives of those wounded by life’s tragedies and losses when we met in the various corners of the country, and they told me of their aching hearts.
I caught the eyes of strangers with our bicycles and gear, striking up lively conversations and watched their jaws drop when I told them of our plans. As brother and sister undertaking such a journey, we saw the wistful eyes of those who knew their own family members were not close enough for such a venture. I came to know the tender hearts of those affected by our quest. I sent notes to everyone who donated to our ambitious goal thanking them for their generosity and admiring their loyalty to, and interest in our quest.
The responses we received from the people supporting us on this ride were surprisingly vibrant, generous, and loyal. The web site was constantly referred to by readers as something they looked forward to everyday. E-mails were pouring in. Donations were mounting. In many ways, all of us were on this ride and then some. The journal took on a life of its own, and the followers were legion.
Over the course of this journey, at times I pushed myself beyond limits I did not know I had. Limits measured more than in the miles of the road. I pushed beyond boundaries of health sustaining rest, hydration, food, and shelter. My emotions rose to a thin and fragile surface. I exceeded limits in patience in both myself and others that I will forever regret.
I used the time riding to explore the history of my life, sorting out priorities, and reviewing my achievements, my valued relationships, my restless wanderings, and I examined my many failures.
My life is a set of journeys, laced together by common threads and themes written in a script that I now know is not my own. To think otherwise is the foolishness of youth. There is a chapter that continues writ bold in the death of my daughter Carlie. The long road I have been on since that time has been at once, one of trial, pain, suffering, learning, and redemption. I have survived thus far. In this crucible, I have learned much.
This journey across the country is not unlike revisiting the days of my grief at its fullest. To exhaust myself in an effort, gain little rest, and then continue the next day when the will is weak, and the spirit dimmed, and be rewarded by the effort in some unforeseen way…this has been mirrored in my journey.
I first envisioned this epic ride across our country associated with my retirement from law enforcement. I did not know what my next steps would be, and I wanted to use the time to contemplate the rest of my life. As life often does, opportunities presented themselves in an alternative I did not expect, and I found myself in a second career working for MADD.
Despite the change in circumstance, the dream of a cross-country ride never died. Ultimately, I was graced with a leave to perform this journey and it is done, the trip is complete…it is more than that; it is achieved. It was both my privilege and honor to see it through. It will remain so always as a sacred moment in my heart. As I move forward now, I do so always knowing there is value in seeing the distance we have come.