Greetings from Tom in Hope, ME!

September 14, 2022

After two and a half months and over 3,000 miles, this cross country bicycle journey has come to an end. A week ago today I pedaled down Morse Road to cheers and applause from over a dozen folks gathered to welcome me HOME. I had tears upon realizing what I had accomplished.

Now, I am confronted with reentering my “old,” “normal,” “usual” life. My wish is to reenter slowly, in a way that is not overwhelming. I may have stopped pedaling for now, but I still have much to process. I am told that what I’ve done is enormous. I think that I have not fully comprehended the magnitude of the journey and it’s effect on me – physically, emotionally, psychically. This journey has changed me in some indiscernible way that I, at this early stage, am unable to verbalize. Thus, you can expect more blogs, post-pedaling.

The last two blogs in which I addressed “patriotism” and “industrial agriculture” have a critical quality to them. A view of “America” in a negative light. In this entry, I wish to address a softer side of the America I experienced on the “highway” that my legs and my two wheel vehicle traversed.

The qualities I’d like to address here are the random acts of kindness extended my way, the thoughtful gestures, the words and acts of encouragement, the offers of assistance, even when no assistance was needed. In earlier entries, I have already referenced some of the people who extended themselves in my direction, but there have been many others whose seemingly small gestures did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Some examples include: the numerous people who saw me taking a break on the side of the road and stopped to ask if I was okay, who offered me water (who insisted that I take a bottle of water, even when I didn’t need it), who asked if I needed help in changing one of those many flat tires. There was a woman in North Dakota on the Turtle Island band of Chippewa reservation. I was sitting in front of the food store there when she approached to offer me money, thinking maybe that I was homeless and in need of assistance. There were the motel/hotel receptionists who were willing to give me a 10% discount on the half dozen times I needed to shelter inside. There was the supermarket worker who was so impressed with what I was doing that she contacted a journalist friend to come interview me. (It didn’t happen, but I was touched by her gesture.) There were the many drivers who honked and gave me thumbs up and all those drivers on the busier highways who would slow down and move into the other lane in order to offer me safe clearance.

I could offer so many examples, but the takeaway I wish to make is that we are, as a nation, essentially kind. In this time when we tend to emphasize our differences and our divisions, it often is forgotten that we also have the capacity to be kind, generous, and considerate. Of course, this isn’t a unique quality of America, but these are human qualities that can be found wherever one chooses to bicycle (or otherwise travel). While some of my takeaways from this journey undermine my faith in humanity’s future, I am encouraged by these random acts of kindness, generosity, and consideration. We can rise above our petty squabbles to recognize in the other a shared humanity.