“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.