Musings from Tom

September 24, 2022

It has been three weeks since I cycled up the Morse Road, thereby completing the physical act of crossing the USA along a northern thin line. As I mentioned in my last entry (9/14), I had hoped to re-enter slowly, giving myself the time to process, internally, the magnitude of this accomplishment. Unfortunately, my re-entry has been anything but slow. In the three weeks since my return, I have had to bury a ewe and a lamb. The first group of returning sheep escaped, eating all of the garden’s chard, thus exposing the weakness in the existing fences and requiring me to spend some days reinforcing them. In addition, my old 1965 David Brown tractor, which I’m depending on to make hay in the next weeks, has developed a problem that is requiring my attention and my time. My eldest sister has, in the last week, become seriously ill with cancer, and even though we have not been close for a good many years, her illness and possible death weigh on my soul. These are only a few of life’s demands that I am confronted with upon returning from my two-wheel journey.

Still, there have been quiet times in which I have had the mental space to contemplate the accomplishment of riding a bicycle across the country. One of my recurring thoughts runs as follows: It cannot be denied that my legs and my legs only carried me across the country. It was “my” body that pedaled every one of the 3,000+ miles across 12 states from coast to coast. BUT (and this is a big BUT), I cannot claim to have done this journey alone. As I have recounted throughout these entries, there were many individuals who helped me along the way. “Angels” I have called them. These are angels who made themselves visible through this or that “person.” In this entry, I wish to recognize some other people (angels), some whom I can name and others who remain anonymous, who have partnered with me on this journey.

The first group of individuals who were essential to my being able to do this ride, were those angels who held down the fort here in Maine. These are people who took on the responsibilities that I left them with in order to be away for two and a half months. Deb, my partner, was left with the care of the home we share (which at one point required her to address a potentially dangerous situation with regards to our solar batteries, calling in other angels – Vern and Cory – for their expertise). Rachel and Jason, who took on the vegetable growing operation without perhaps realizing what they had actually taken on. Dave (Rachel’s husband), Brien, and Bobby, who showed up to keep the fields mowed in my absence, often confronted with faulty equipment. Magnolia, Rachel and Dave’s 9-year-old daughter, who all too often had to entertain herself while her parents were busy doing farm work. 

In addition, there were those “angels” who took on the responsibilities of tending sheep. At the Bok farm – Gideon Bok and Bridget, Chris and their two young children (city folks introduced to the hardscrabble life of caring for a flock of young lambs and ewes who paid no attention to the fences we had set up), who had to bottle feed and provide veterinary care for ill lambs and who had to deal with the death of three lambs and a ewe – a hard introduction to farm life (death). The older flock of ewes were cared for by Peter, Graziella, and, primarily, their daughter Suneva, rotationally grazing these older “ladies” in a droughty year when green grass was at a premium. 

There were those who followed me on Strava from afar, giving me “kudos” along the way. Too many people to mention, but if you’re reading this, you know who you are.  None of the individuals I have mentioned here pedaled even one turn of my bicycle’s crank, but I would not have been able to pedal even one turn of that crank without them. Every one of these individuals rode with me.

Similarly, there were faceless nameless people who were also accompanying me across the miles. These included the farmers and fishers who provided the food/fuel that powered my body, the truckers who delivered that food to the stores where I purchased it, the store keepers and check-out clerks, the campground attendants, the road maintenance attendants, the road maintenance crews, and on and on.

There were also the non-incarnated angels constantly at my shoulder protecting me from harm and guiding me home safely. The larger point I’m trying to make here is that an accomplishment like riding a bicycle 3,000 miles across a continent cannot be done alone. Looking at your own life’s accomplishments, you will come to the same conclusion. We are dependent on others to accomplish even the smallest of life’s tasks. Nothing that we do is done alone. We have others to thank for every aspect of our life. We owe a debt to other beings, some of whom we know, some whom we will never know, some who are incarnate, some who are not. We owe a debt to the Earth herself – the “mother” who daily sacrifices herself so that we may live.

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.