By Justin Smith
Riding a bike across the country (or in a 4,000 mile loop, as it were), is not really about the bike ride. The pedaling, the exhaustion, the many hills, roads, and turns, are all much more ancillary than they are vital. Riding this far, and in this manner, is about leaving things behind. When I first rode in 2014, I was riding to leave behind a chapter of my life, and find my new self. This time I’m just on for a week, and riding to leave my day-to-day stresses behind, locked away in my work phone and social media accounts.
The leaving doesn’t end there though. The trip gives you a chance you time and miles to contemplate what else you need to leave behind. It starts with leaving behind the notion that you trained hard enough (you did not) but thankfully that is balanced by leaving behind the notion that anyone minds if you take it slow (they do not). And slowly, you begin to leave behind your worry you cannot make it for so many miles, and you begin to take things as they come.
You also get to leave behind people. That might sound like a negative, but it really is not. You start be leaving behind your family and your city. You miss them, but you get to build the anticipation around the great things they will do, and the wonderful ways they will change and grow while you are gone. You then get into the routine of meeting wonderful people each night, letting them into your life, and leaving them behind the next day. Each group at each church that hosted us thus far has been eager to give us a glimpse into how they too are engaged with us in our mission to change the world. We have left behind: a community dinner with the town’s local population experiencing homelessness; a wonderful sermon on the joys of living simply and eschewing empty luxuries; and a community of wonderful volunteers who helped me prep and bake some great apple pies. Leaving each group is bittersweet, but tempered by the anticipation of the next night’s host, and the insight into their own missions and good works. We can only hope that we have left behind some of our energy and our mission and our inspiration with them.
I unfortunately will myself leave the ride at the end of this week and say goodbye to all of the wonderful other riders who are making the trek the whole way. As I go, I hope it is much the same, and that I leave them with a bit of my energy to keep them going, and for them to distribute evenly as they continue down the road.