I was asked to write a blog for Undriving about my undriving adventure across the continent. I felt like my conclusion would suffice that particular request. It is funny how so many people have been following, routing and encouraging me along. People I did not even know, still do not actually know. What seems like an epic feat to so many, feels like a common occurence to me. Not to minimize the trip, but to focus on how it feels to get up early every day and hop on your bike.
I have been doing that for so long it seems like just another day. The difference I will travel farther than I ever have and I will be in places I have never been. I will meet people who I would have never met and I will accomplish things I never thought possible. There will be failures and there will be accomplishments. There will be tears and there will be laughter. There will be a small group of people who understand those moments when you have self-doubt and you try anyway, even if you fail it is not a failure. There are those who understand that it was about the journey and those that will want it to be about the destination. Ultimately there is this growth inside your soul that you cannot explain to anyone who has never challenged themselves to be more than they are.
I never really wanted to share my story during the trip, because it was about the Fuller Center for Housing. It was not about me, and I did not want my story to outshine theirs. So today I will tell my story. My full story.
In March 2011 I was hit from behind at 40 mph by a truck. My bicycle likely saved my life. It took the full impact of the collision and I was launched from the saddle through the hood and windshield and landed on the ground. If I had not had a big burly heavy bike I would have taken so much more of the impact.
So for me this ride was about so much more than most people can imagine. It was about proving not only to myself, but to those that told me I would never be able to ride a bike like most people again. To hell with those doubters. It was never my dream to bike across the country. It was never my dream to climb a mountain on my bike. My dream was to just ride my bike wherever I wanted to go. I literally joined this ride on a whim. I was having issues with my partner, we had just separated over a stupid argument and my kids were both out of school. I had this moment of clarity where I realized that I had no strings attached. There was nothing keeping me at my dead-end job. No reason for me to feel stuck in Seattle. The world was wide open for me. On this off-chance a fleeting thought went through my head, I could bike across the country. And then, Fuller Center for housing popped in my Facebook ad feed, Bike across the country and help eliminate poverty housing. Wait what?!?!?!? I must pause here to mention that I had started my Peace Corps application earlier that week. So I was ready for complete change in my life.
I made a few emails to the ride leader and had thus decided to take off on an adventure. I had no intention of getting a new bike either. I was going to ride my Candie across the country. Oh let me introduce you to Candie Dahling.
You can see this is not an appropriate tool for the task, but I am stubborn. And up until March, I was determined to ride her. Then common sense took over and I ordered another Electra, but one that was lighter. It unfortunately was still not the appropriate tool for the task, but again I am stubborn so I rode her across the country. Meet Vixen.
Upon deciding that I was riding across the country and joining the Peace Corps, I dropped off my letter of resignation, 4 months in advance. It was the greatest feeling to know that I was going to be free.
So not only was I a survivor, now I am taking this bold step to give up my job. But I was not content with that. I also gave up my apartment and almost everything that I own. I could literally put my belongings, minus my bikes in the back seat of a car. I have a collection of books, shoes and vintage hats, my clothes, my computer and devices, and my clothes which lately are limited to bike gear and a few articles that are not bike related. Yep I am a trendsetter now!
Anyway, back to this adventure. So after getting rid of most everything, including some emotional baggage, I packed my bags and boarded a train. Not only did I bike across the continent I took the train to get to the start point. Seattle to Savannah Georgia, took 4 days. On the train I met so many wonderful people. I talked about my ride and inspired a few people to look at life a bit differently. I feel that is my one true gift in life. I will challenge your perceptions. I will make you question your beliefs. I will challenge you to be a better you. And I will do all of this in a simple conversation where I simply ask you why you believe the way you do, or see things the way you do. I will not judge you, I do not want to be judged so I would never put my beliefs upon others. Many see me with my tattoos, my mis colored hair, my funky clothes, my piercings and they immediately think I am stupid and shallow. I am not stupid nor am I shallow. But this opens up dialogue for those that think they know something about me by the package I present. Did you know I am a parent? Did you know that I have done more selfless acts than I can count? Did you know those selfless acts are not the things I want to focus on? Did you know that no matter what, I believe every single human is beautiful and has the right to express that beauty? Ok so sociopath and homicidal maniacs need a better form of expression, you get the idea. I have much more depth than my appearance.
One thing I did not realize when I started this trip was that I myself have prejudice. I was raised Pentecostal and have had many bad experiences with judgemental people. My expectation was that I would again be harshly judged and that I would be outcast. I was so very, very wrong. I was treated with dignity and respect and a bit of envy by some of those religious people. Maybe my free spirit won a few of them over.
So looking back on the last few weeks, I realize how much I have grown, how much others have grown and how close you can become to people who would not normally cross paths with you. I love each and every one of these people like a sibling. I care about them and things that happen in their lives. I hope that I left a bit of my mark on their lives as well.
Beyond riding a bike, this trip was about self discovery, reliance and group dynamics. There were days that were really hard and I had to give up and try again the next day. There were days that were truly awe-inspiring. There were days when you cried on stranger’s shoulders because they were there. There were days when you realized that no matter who told you, it cannot be done, it can and it will be done. To anyone who has ever poo pooed on your dream, tell them to go to hell. Those people who try to dissuade you from pursuit of dreams are just small individuals who have never had a dream to pursue. Those without vision are the ones who try to destroy visions of others. The bitter taste of success or failure is so worth every ounce of watch me try anyway. Knowing that every single day you got up and tried to do what was deemed impossible makes you feel alive and gives you a story to tell. Stories of failure are just as valuable as stories of success.
Failure is not the same as hitting a wall. We cannot always push through those walls. So deciding to stop for the day and ride again tomorrow is not failure. The only failure is to not get back on the bike. To completely let circumstances or individuals put your goal in the trash. It was never my dream to ride 3700 miles in 9 weeks. It was not my dream to have to get out of bed at 4 am everyday for 9 weeks. It was not my dream to sleep on floors and eat the food that was available. I am a food snob, this by far was my biggest challenge. It was never my dream to spend 9 weeks with religious people and work together on something greater than each of us individually.
No, these were not my dreams, but they became my reality. I would not trade these experiences for any amount of money in the World. I have learned to live a minimalistic life, and I loved it. I learned how to live in a commune and I loved it. I learned how to love people who were completely different from me and I loved it. I learned to love myself and to trust my own instincts and I survived it. I went across twelve states and one province. I biked across the continent and I have a story to tell. Not so much about the bike and the freedom it gives, I have told that story for years, but a story about community and relationships and about loving mankind in a new way. I have a story about life, there is nothing more to say.