Tuesday, August 5, 2008

So This is How a Trip Begins to Reach the End

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."
~ Henry Miller

With still two weeks left in the trip and many adventures still ahead, I am already thinking about the end of the trip. I don't mean that I am thinking about work, or wondering about the house work that will need to be done. I picture in my mind sitting on the front porch drinking a cup of coffee on a quiet, fall Sunday morning, wondering what is happening on a road or trail that we have ridden down. I see myself having a hard day and remembering riding up a killer hill. I can picture myself going into the kids' rooms after they have fallen asleep and thinking about the big and small discoveries we made as a family on this trip. Most of all, I see myself wanting to relive the moments, good and bad, and start planning for the next adventure.

I guess this is how a trip comes to an end. Car and plane trips just end. You get to where you are going and that is it. The end of this trip, however, is a process. We are slowly but surely moving toward our destination (maybe this is what a migrating butterfly feels -- a need to get to a specific place). I am starting to think about Lake Ontario, the mountains of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. I can almost taste the lobster dinner fresh from a fish shack on the Maine coast. And I am starting to think about how I will ever make the transition back to my regular life in Walla Walla. Gus said something quite profound the other day (yes, OUR Gus!): how are we going to go back to the real world? Indeed.

It is probably a bit presumptuous to begin the assessment of the trip before it is over. I guess it would be like predicting the outcome of a complicated surgery while the patient is still being operated on. But I have some things I can say:
  • We have met so many wonderful people, from all walks of life, all ethnic backgrounds, all ages. Just today, and when we most needed it, we ran into a "Night Out Against Crime" party in a park in Rochester. We were welcomed like we were neighbors. And we had free food, drinks, and music from the community band.
  • Most people are interested in what we are doing. Even more so, they are amazed that the kids are doing it. I am not bragging on Sonia and Gus. I think all kids have the capacity to do amazing things if we encourage and support them, and then get out of their way!
  • The beauty of this country is often in the subtle and sublime. Yes, Niagara Falls is amazing; it is almost too much for the senses. But just as astounding is the butterfly that crisscrosses our path as we ride; the blue heron that slowly lifts off from the bank of the Erie Canal (as one did today) and glides away; the glow of the nearly-set sun that illuminates the treeless prairie of the upper Midwest.
  • We get some great looks from people as we ride through towns, especially small towns. Our bikes are so big and unusual looking that people point, wave, and laugh. Most people laugh (as Alison pointed out) like they are in on the fun -- this was especially true as we rode through Ontario. Sometimes it is as though we are in a parade, and we are the only floats!
  • The kindness shown to us, both big and small, has made me re-think how I interact with strangers. We have been allowed to pitch our tents in a church yard when it had gotten dark and we were still miles away from a camp site. Strangers have stopped to help us when we had mechanical troubles on the side of the road. We have been given comfortable beds and warm showers. We have been treated to cold drinks at a roadside fruit stand on a hot and humid day. Just after we had crossed into Ontario we had asked a woman walking with her child and husband to take a picture of all of us with the setting sun in the background. As we got to talking about our trip we had told her about some flat tire problems we had been having. She asked us a simple question, yet one that has stuck with me: "Is there anything we can do to help you?"
  • I have found a joy in my children that I couldn't have anticipated. We have been with them every day, almost every minute of the day. And I have not gotten tired of their company.

Yes, the trip is nearly over. But only this part of the trip. I am sure that our experiences, the good, bad, and ugly, will stick with me for the rest of my life.

~ Dan


lisa said...

Dan Calzaretta, ya nearly gave me a heart attack!

i took "this is how a trip ends" literally when i read the headline. glad for the false alarm.

so to your list of lessons learned, insights gained, i'd like to add one.. it's incredible how often i'm talking about all y'all. and when i tell the bike story, i have to tell stories about me and Kirby and our eraserhead days, and all those early stories of Dan, and all of what i know of Sonia and Gus, and stories of dwight, and Rachel, and Elaine and Jim.

and it's amazing, Kirby, how everyone remembers you, us, from when we were just girls. and every single person is so proud and happy for all of you.

i think you all are not just making new memories, but preserving memories as well.

so hugs and kisses for my eraserhead buddy and much love to you all as you approach maine,knowing that it's just one more milestone on an amazing journey.


wombat064 said...

Yeh Guys ,What Lisa said... I had a heart flutter too knowing you still had at least a couple of weeks to go on your trip.

All I can say is I will follow you to the end of the trip and as you continue your journey please keep in contact.

Proud of you all


Anonymous said...

Your post made me cry....it is very touching. I have told you before, and I will again, what you are doing is amazing. Our children grow up so fast that the time we actually get to spend with them outside of school, and friends, and extracurricular activities is so precious. How wonderful that you have had this summer together to get to know each other, to learn, and grown together. This is a journey they will remember for the rest of their lives and maybe even one they will repeat with their own children. That must make you feel so good. I am waiting to hear more of your trip everyday. You have been an inspiration. Enjoy the last few weeks. Savor the view and the time with each other. It is sad that all good things must end, but I suppose that makes them all the more special. Chandra

Matt said...

What a very poignant and moving entry. I've been reading this blog since inception and I've enjoyed every moment of it... this particular post had extra meaning for me. My sister and I also were able to travel rather extensively (mostly camping... REAL camping!) with our parents when we were younger (8-16). I will always have very (good!) powerful memories about these times and the experiences I shared with my family.

It's also a small coincidence as I lived in WW for a few years, and my parents still live there (they pointed me to this blog in the first place).

Good luck on the rest of your trip!

Anonymous said...

Because of you...
We've taken our children to far more community events this summer...invited more company over, even when the house was dirty...allowed our kids a little more freedom, loosed the reigns a few more notches...gone to the library for amazing presentations, on a moment's notice...
How much farther will your ride take the rest of us, I wonder...

Elaine said...

Oh, I loved that last statement = "How much farther will your ride take the rest of us?" Reading your latest news, I too, reveled in reading all that you have experienced and shared with the kids this summer. The memories from this trip will return to you again and again throughout your lives. It always amazes me how often a memory of a special moment will come flitting back when my mind is idle.
After reading the latest article in the WW newspaper, I am concerned for Alison going across the Adirondack, Green and White mountains coming up. As I told Jim when you were making that long pull up the mountain north of Baker City, Oregon, "If determination will get Alison there, then she'll make it!" But, I know at this point, you have to be getting very tired and those mountain pulls have got to be painful. As a mother, I wish I could help you, but even if we were there, I know you would say, "I want to do this myself!"
So, when you reach the top, I know you will enjoy the ride down the other side of the mountain all the more.
Stay safe. We love you, Mom and Dad

Anonymous said...

Wow Dan and Family
I read the first article in the UB and located your blog and although I seldom wrote I always followed your journal daily. I waited in anticipation of your next challenge and your next accomplishment. I envy your family time together and the growth you must have made together this summer. These last two weeks soak every minute in and although it sounds like lots of terraine challenges ahead you will accomplish them I am sure. Thanks for sharing your days with the world. Sue Clark

Uncle David and Bonnie said...

Hi Alison and all,
I only recently knew of your blog and I am not very talented when it comes to blogs and things computer high-tech, so this writing is a first for me. But I wanted to comment the enormity of your trip and planning it must have taken. But I guess you got that from your dad as I know how complete he always is in his planning. I know you got your grit from the times when your Mom and Dad and all three kids would cut various lawns back in Dwight. It certainly builds character as I'm sure you are now aware. I am somewhat envious of your trip and at the same time realize that I would never be able to undertake such a trip. You must have gone thru Deer River, MN about the same time that we were there fishing.
I have a question about your bikes. You must not have gotten those "off the shelf". Are they custom made just for your trip? They seem a lot longer than the traditional tandom bike with much more space between the seats, and the seats look to be much larger and more comfortable than stock. We continue to be amazed at your spunk and determination and wish you continued good luck and God's blessings as you complete your trip. Getting back to the clinic must seem like such a downer after all this activity.

blackwhiteandreadallover said...

Okay, Biker Family,
Time to talk about our last story from the road. Can you call me Tuesday? Monday is already shot.

Terri said...

Your family has inspired, motivated, and caught the attention of many folks. Thank you for sharing this incredible experience with the rest of us.

Safe travels- Looking forward to seeing you again soon! Hugs- Terri G. from WW

klawbaugh said...

Dan, Allison, Sonia and Gus,

I've truly enjoyed reading about your adventures and look forward to hearing more about them from both Dan and Sonia at school (Sonia is in my science class!)

Enjoy the rest of the summer and your trip!

-Kim Lawbaugh

Sarah said...

I stumbled upon your blog in a moment of sheer chance and pleasure (you know that little banner on blogger that says which blogs are being updated at that very moment? Cool, huh.) I used to bike all the time in Portland and miss it terribly, so I clicked, and I read and read and read and have thought of you guys very often since. Way cool and very inspiring.

I guess I really can ride on Hwy 200 in Montana(smelly road kill and big trucks be damned!). I hope my husband and I will do something amazing with our kids.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

While riding through thoes hills of Vermont,ride with a song in your heart,the hills are alive with the Sound of Music. Listen and squint your eyes Julie Andrews rides on your handle bars.Can you tell I just looked at some movie clips on the internet. Bob & Joyce

Elaine said...

I guess I was reading the most recent comments again as Joyce and Bob were adding their note just now. I check in every day about this time. You entered the Adirondack Mts. today and are camping at the Golden Beach State Park at Raquette Lake, NY tonight so probably no access to a computer. With the mountain terrain and all the lakes in that area, I'll bet it's pretty. Love to you all, Mom

Anonymous said...

Hope you are all doing well. It has been a couple days since you wrote. We keep checking in. Hang in there and we look forward to seeing you soon. Chandra

Terri said...

I am also missing you and hoping all is well.

Safe travels- Terri G. from WW