(A somewhat lengthy post, but the thoughts are now charging fast…)
It’s hard to accept we’re now more than halfway across America and halfway through this epic journey. The speed and scope of what we’ve seen and done hasn’t settled in yet; it’s a bit of sensory overload, actually. But I’d imagine a little later, say, when I’m in my 90s, I’ll comprehend the magnitude of this ride.
Due to the nature of my role as a rider/writer, my workday lasts a little longer and the side effect is that I don’t always have the luxury of time to stop when the ride is done and hang out with the other riders and talk about motorcycles or life or families or shared interests. In fact, when the riding day is done, I punch in for the second shift and work with the industrious Brian Hardyman to create the video recap and sift through photos and scenes and my memory to capture the day’s highlights.
But that’s not to say I haven’t met some people I truly enjoy. In pre-ride emails, Pete Pfeifer impressed me as someone I’d like to know. Not only did he help plan the Arizona routes, prior to the ride he prayed for the safety of each and every rider and was quote amazed when his pastor delivered his sermon in a shirt emblazoned with a large cannonball…
Pete was also thoughtful enough to let us know that when we left Mesa, we would be riding through the land of the Apache. Considerate of their pride and our mission, he offered this Apache blessing which Don shared:
May the sun bring you new energy by day.
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries.
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk gently through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.
Steve Read is as personable and kind as anyone could be. I met Steve and his wife in San Diego and thought it was charming that she would be there at the pre-ride banquet to see him off. In our all-too-brief conversations, Steve’s shared with me that as one of the riders who took to the dirt, he reached some destinations I hadn’t. Then he was kind enough to send me pictures of monuments and statues so I could experience what I had missed.
It’s a level of kindness I detect in Bill Cooper. Last night in Dodge City he told me about Siam I Am, a cat that literally wandered into his home about 15 years ago, walked straight to a dish of food, and claimed Bill’s home as its own. Siam I Am is gone now, but Bill told me a new feline has found a place in his heart and in his home. To paraphrase Gandhi, you can tell a lot about a someone by the way that person treats an animal. With a similar fondness for pets, my hunch is that Bill Cooper is a good man.
En route from Dodge City today, at a gas stop I was fumbling for my wallet while waiting for an open pump. I was next to Ron Niemeyer when he finished filling up — but he didn’t complete the transaction. Instead, he pushed his bike aside and set the nozzle on top of the pump so I could fill up. “Just shut it off, I’ll swipe my card,” I protested. Ron waved me off. “Go ahead. It won’t be much.”
In a random act of kindness, ten bucks of premium gas was worth thousands to me.
Should I continue? I believe a few other vignettes of kindness merit that.
In Trinidad, Colorado, Robert Pandya stopped when he saw me fretting over the tumbler that had fallen from the lock on my saddlebag. He looked it over, went to his room, and minutes later returned with a tool that fit into the slots to trigger the mechanism and open the saddlebag. Thanks to Robert being willing to help, I was able to concentrate on the pleasures of the ride, and not the nagging thought of a broken lock.
And with our early afternoon arrival in Kansas City, there was finally time to address that lock. I handed the tumbler to Ryan Rose who consulted with his dad and this lock – this insignificant lump of metal – became their sole focus. After puzzling over a series of solutions, Ryan and Roland agreed on the best one and performed the procedure.
Asking if I should just leave it alone to avoid breaking it again, Ryan said simply, “Why should you? It’s better than new.”
The ride is only part of this total experience, I realize. A large part is being among people like this.