Thursday, August 20, 2009

The kindness of strangers

I've been composing variations on this post for some time now in my head -- with only Ollie and a limited number of woodland creatures to talk to much of the time, I do a lot of thinking on the road -- and I think it's about time I took a bit of space to mention how unbelievably lucky I have been to encounter the folks that I have along the way. I mean, seriously, there have been some cantankerous folks now and then, grumpsters who, unsolicited, tell me what I'm doing is ridiculous. There have been meanspirited drivers who have taken it upon themselves to ignore the (bright yellow) "share the road" or (eye-catching green) "bike route" signs and yell, "Get off the road!" as they swerve past. Clearly these people were not loved as children. But for the most part, I have been inspired again and again by the innate goodness of my fellow Americans.

I get lost. A lot. I've written a few times about the shortcomings of my [censored] GPS. I have less than perfect maps (or hair, but that's another story). I eventually get to where I'm going, but more often than not this is at least partially due to the kindness of a complete stranger. This display of generosity may be something as simple as giving me directions or letting me fill up my water bottles. It may be lending me maps, inviting me to stay in a spare room (I apparently look too pathetic on my as-yet-unweighed-but-nonetheless-blatantly-overloaded bike to be threatening, in spite of my training in both kickboxing and kung fu), or insisting on buying me a sandwich (when I come puffing into a diner on the aforementioned cycle with a crazed, hungry look in my eye). Some folks are just downright curious about what the heck I'm doing all loaded up, and once I tell them, the vast majority -- from phone company repairmen to postal workers to people I meet at the local pizza shop while waiting for a slice -- have given me great tips on local farms to check out, and a handful of times now I have been adopted by kind locals for an evening. (Which is good especially when the blasted GPS directs me to a nonexistent campsite, as it did just last week.)

I've been working with amazing farmers, gardeners, advocates, and educators who have welcomed me into their homes (and kitchens). I've also been taken in by various friends, family, friends of family, family of friends, and friends of friends. (Whew!) I mean it when I say I would not be able to do this without you guys. (I swear I've gotten to know more of my friends' parents on this trip than I had ever managed before -- and to you my parents send their thanks along with mine for keeping me well fed and cleaned up. Few things make me happier than clean laundry or a comfy mattress.)

And so, before this gets overly mushy, I'll stop. To those I haven't visited yet -- and you know who you are because you don't yet have a cookmark on your fridge or a lingering scent of garlic around the house -- I'll get there. With a little help from my friends (old and new).

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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