In the last light of the day I made it to Kroka in New Hampshire. My route totaled 646 miles over 13 cycling days (and 4 rest days) and I raised $1,403 for No More Deaths (a humanitarian aid organization working to reduce human misery and death on the US-Mexico border, and advocating for immigrant rights). Today a soft cold rain blows across the white fields and I'm ready for stillness. ‘We return from solitude laden with the gifts of circumstance’ (Berry) and these gifts feel abundant. I stayed with kind hosts all along the way, some of whom I knew and many of whom I didn’t yet— family (Roger and Emily), friends (Kristen, Robbin and Max), Quakers I met through a rural New York meeting (Ginny and Bob), kindred spirits who reached out when I emailed a Waldorf school (Krista, Bruce and Warren), and hosts I met through Warm Showers, an amazing network for touring cyclists, who shared their dinners, homes and daily ways with such easy generosity (Kathy, Scott and Jennifer, Julie and Caroline, Sheryl and Alan, and Alice, Gregg and Olivia).
I received loving encouragement and donations to No More Deaths from folks in 14 states coast to coast, England, New Zealand, and a Pacific sailboat which embarked from Mexico!—Meganne, Rob and Eileen, AP, Nancy and David, Marcy, Aurora, Pape, Keaton, Morgen, Statia, Pam, Matt, Bob, Kristen, Rachel, Madeline, Cappy, Sara, Joy, Nia, Kathy, Marianne, Carl, Polly, Audrey, Dana, Kylie, Allie, Mary, Jose, Kristen, Vanessa, Michelle.
This journey has been so filled with grace. This grace arrived to me through particular land and people, and I think was invited by the intent to move slowly, be curious, see anew, and ask for help. But I think this could happen in any number of places.
On my mind have been Kroka’s expedition principles of meeting people (v.promoting privacy) and giving and receiving (v.Leave No Trace). I have had the impression through wilderness programs I’ve led, and in my personal life, that certain places are FOR adventures— for challenge, for personal growth, for reflection. Namely, the wilder the better. This has led me to some amazing places far away, but has also allowed me to overlook places I crossed on this trip I considered to be FOR something else.
This mentality is the same one from which the many fields of monocultures that I passed emerge— this land is for corn, that land is for a housing development, and the land for the border becomes always further away. It’s the colonial imagination to keep looking further afield with dreams of self-discovery.
Of course the wilderness areas which so plentifully offer gifts of all kinds of learning demand preservation and also the reverence to exist beyond human purpose. But by pinning certain types of places as for adventure, challenge, personal growth and reflection, I’m expending resources to get to other places, and confirming that what’s near is for something else. On this ride I found that adventure is a will to be curious, whatever we find, including among places and cultures that seem to be our own.
Part of my intent in making this trip was to show myself the real possibility of biking for distance transportation without super special training, planning or investment in new equipment, technology or clothing. Two chainrings and a rack on my road bike were not ideal but eminently possible.
To plan my route, I used Google Maps for bikes, which at times did an excellent job connecting designated bike routes, but also misled me onto muddy dirt roads, and gave me no topographic information. I didn’t use a specialized biking app to foresee hill profiles, which allowed me to notice so many ways in which land reminds us of itself. Noticeably steep roads often end in ‘mont’, ‘hill’ or ‘view,’ on a long downhill I anticipated a drainage at the base followed by a comparable ascent; through a valley I would be climbing or coasting according to the direction of the water’s flow.
Each evening I sought route suggestions from my hosts, traveling within their local realm. I felt a distinct transition around the Massachusetts border that I was no longer far— people started to know of Marlow, NH; some had personal connections, or at least knew roads that went there. Each day I only went so far as my host could easily describe to me, and by travelling somewhere close day after day, I ended up far away. I’m not commonly granted such a graceful, gradual transition from far to close.
Choosing to go by bike involved more time, doubt, solitude and physical pain. My main source of despair was hurting knees, from crunching on hard gearing the first few days, accompanied by burning sun and prickling rain, and lonely moments by the side of the road looking so pathetic cars slowed and asked if I needed help. But I also continue to think, I could have missed this. I could have missed the sparkling snow-covered brooks and air of melting snow, a floating layer of wood smoke from maple sugaring, the sun setting over and over as I climb the hills, and reading by a fire in friendship with banjo and fresh baked bread on a slushy day when travel, for me, was just not possible. If I had chosen, as I have many times before, a means of travel faster and more oil intensive, where the pain inflicted by that travel was alienated from my experience of it, I could have missed this.
Filling out employment paperwork today, I feel gratitude for the ability to travel freely with safe passages, find hospitality, and farm and teach under the protection of law, which impresses upon me again the importance of the work of No Mas Muertes. And I feel such gratitude for all the folks who accompanied me (in word, contribution, and spirit) on my ride!