Paying it Forward

Submitted by Ben on Fri, 06/26/2009 - 10:33

On Monday night, Jessie and I played host to four young bicycle tourists -- Kelly, Lucy, Remy, and Ann Caroline -- on their way from Colorado to Washington, DC as part of the Trek to Reenergize America.  You can read Kelly's take on their visit -- now it's my turn!

As Kelly points out, our meeting was synchronistic... I was working on my laptop at Java Cat-5 when I overheard her asking the barista about local churches, and thinking she and her bike-shorts-wearing friends might be having trouble locating the liberal congregation in town, I asked why they were looking for a church, and she said they were hoping to crash in a basement for the night.  I invited them to stay in our guest rooms instead, and explained that I'd done a lot of touring myself and had some hospitality to pay forward.  But here's the thing -- the only reason I was at Java Cat-5 was because Amanda's Bakery Cafe is closed on Mondays... otherwise I wouldn't have been there for them to cross paths with! 

I've since talked with the bike shop owners to suggest they might send more such tourists our way, but they said several groups of bike tourists pass through town every week, and many of them are not the sort they would recommend inviting home.  This particular group turned out to be very sweet and great conversation and practically perfect houseguests.  We didn't get any photos... just a few video shots that are not worth watching, so if you want to see what they look like, visit their site above.

I'm grateful to Jessie for indulging me in some spontaneous generosity... she knows that I've benefitted from far more hospitality than I can ever repay (particularly since most of the people I stayed with are unlikely to come visit Kansas), and that before we met I had planned to open a hostel for that reason.  Loaning Kelly the bike trailer was an impulsive gesture... she really needed a way to carry her gear, and her bike is not set up for panniers, and I had the trailer just sitting around.  A Bikes at Work trailer is not something that should be sitting around -- looking pretty is not its job!

I felt a little parental toward these "kids" -- the oldest is 10 years younger than me (which makes her 5 years younger than I was when I started my ride), and the youngest half my age!  Here's some of the sage advice I tried to pass on to them:

  • Be glad you're doing this while you're young.  Self-reliance, navigation, and the other lessons of bike touring are great to learn at any age, but I wish I'd had an earlier start.
  • Take care of yourselves.  When your body's under stress, it doesn't heal as quickly as usual.  Kelly had skinned the same knee three days in a row, and Remy is trying to maintain a vegetarian diet.  Granted, their trip will be only 6 weeks compared to my 10 months, so they're not nearly as stressed as I was, but still I gave Kelly some Emergen-C packets and lectured Remy about getting enough balanced protein and fat to maintain cartilage.
  • There's adventure to be found everywhere.  On the road, in a town, sitting in a coffee shop.  You just have to keep your eyes and ears open!

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