So that was it. I rode my bicycle from Washington D.C. to the Pacific Ocean. Reflecting on my experience, I was reminded of a conversation I had in Sedalia, Missouri, an unremarkable town along the KATY trail. When I first rolled into town, hardly halfway through my journey, I struck up a conversation with a couple of local kids. They were skateboarding and biking around, just like I would have been when I was their age, which was around ten years old. When I told the kids that I had ridden to their town from the East Coast, their jaws hit the ground. They couldn't believe that a bike, much like the ones that they were cruising around on, could bring somebody so far. The inquisitive boy of the bunch asked me, "Where are you going?"
I responded, "To Portland, Oregon, over on the West Coast."
He followed-up with a puzzled look on his face, "Really? That's so far away! Why are you going all the way over there?"
I plainly responded, "I got a couple of friends who moved out there and I want to hang out with them."
He was so shocked that he couldn't help but to chuckle, "Geez! That's a long way to go just to hang out with your friends!"
The kid was totally right. That was a long way to go to hangout with my friends. But, you know what, that's all that really mattered to me at this point in my life. When people would ask me why I was doing this trip, I would plainly respond, "I want to see our country and reconnect with friends and family." Standing on the beach in Warrenton, accompanied by two of my best friends from my youth, Dave and Mallory, I felt a sense of accomplishment unlike any I had ever known. I rode 5,000 miles to hangout with Dave and Mal, and if I had to ride another 5,000 back to hangout with Sparky, then so be it.
Many readers may be thinking that riding a bike 5,000 miles is a rather complicated way of being reunited with friends and family, especially given the invent of air travel. In all honesty, I would have to disagree with you. There was no other way that I would have been able to reunite with my Uncle Mike and cousins Brion and Greg, meet my baby cousin Julius and feel connected to my deceased grandfather Julius, spend quality time with Manny, Ryan, Dave, Janelle, Samira, Elan, Mark, Leslie, Cobbie, Sam, Adam, (the other) Dave, Mal and Clara, and form unique connections with special people like Dan, the Mobleys, Wally, Matt, Celine, Michael, Austin, Erika, Adriel, Ed, Grace, (the other) Erika, Shmulie and so many others. I just couldn't have done it between air travel and automobiles. And you know why I wouldn't have been able to do it? Because those means would have demanded too much from me. They would have demanded that I move too fast and that I blow too much money. They would have shored up both my time and funds so quickly that I would have again been forced to return to the professional lifestyle where the bulk of my time would no longer be within my control. The only way I could've shared quality time with all of these special people was if I slowed down to about 12 miles per hour atop my bicycle.
Another dear friend of mine, who I will be paying a visit to in the upcoming weeks, made a very simple observation about me. He commented that I am a complex person. He meant no malice by what he said, he was just making a plain observation which I largely agreed with. So perhaps that is why I wanted to do something so simple as ride my bike across the country to hang out with my friends. Because in the grand scheme of things I just wanted a respite from my increasingly complicated lifestyle. DC burns people out. Adulthood is intense. Financial obligations never let up. Aspirations don't satisfy themselves. Perhaps I just wanted to do something simple and honest. I wanted to be a kid again. I wanted to pick up the phone, call Dave, and tell him that I was riding my bike over. So that's what I did. And, when I reflect on the last five months of my life, I am pleased to acknowledge that it truly was as simple as me, my bike and a camera.