Beauty can manifest itself in so many different ways. I am a city gal: I was born in Los Angeles and have lived here all my life. I have lived in the South Bay most of my life. Most of the beautiful things I have appreciated are manmade. I can appreciate the beauty of a well-designed building. I can appreciate the beauty of a sleek car or a well-designed freeway intersection that sucks you in and effortlessly spits you out with no change in your speed. I can appreciate a pedicure that lasts three weeks (don’t look too closely!) with no touchups.
On May 17, 2012 I set out on an Epic Journey to ride my recumbent trike across the United States with two other cyclists. We met in Bar Harbor Maine and intended to ride west to Washington State.
This adventure would be an extreme departure for me: I am a city gal who had camped once but now would camp most nights for three months. After several weeks of camping I can see the beauty of camping: setting up a puzzle work of cloth and poles and stakes that becomes a mini temporary house that protects you from the harsh elements for a few hours as you slumber. There is beauty in a down sleeping bag that reflects your own body heat to keep you as warm as a baby cradled on your mom’s arms. There is beauty in opening your bags of foods, throwing it in one pot, applying heat and producing an edible (and often tasty) meal. There is beauty in relaxing after a good meal and taking in all that surrounds you: sights, smells and sounds of nature.
During my ride through Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, I had a companion that rode along with me: water! There seemed to be running water in the form of a stream, a creek, a lake, a river or a trickle down rocks along the road for the majority of the miles I road in these states. It was a welcoming comforting sound that I missed when we road into New York.
The irony of communing with nature is that, even in the city, nature is all around you. But nature is only a whisper to the roar of civilization. I’ll give you an example: the birds start singing and calling and warbling when the sun rises. They are nature’s alarm clock. But birds in the city also make this racket. I never heard it because my ears were tuned to the alarm clock I had set.
I saw beautiful sights as I rode but what remains with me is the beauty of the people I met during my ride. There was the police officer, who we never met but only talked to on the phone, who let us camp in the city park because we were too hot and too exhausted and could not ride the additional 20 miles to the campground we planned to use. There was the group at the VFW who let us camp behind their post. There were two Warm Showers host families who warmly welcomed us into their homes. There was the bike shop owner who crammed the three of us and all our gear into his van and drove us five miles in a cold downpour to a hotel. There was the fellow who drove my trailer to the top of a challenging mountain pass I was climbing in a cold rain and dropped it off with my companions. There were the health care workers who took care of my needs before asking about my insurance. There was the bike mechanic who replaced my shift cable free and said his payment was in knowing that I would be able to have an enjoyable ride the next day.
My journey ended after three weeks of riding due to some health issues. I have an autoimmune disease that leaves me with a compromised immune system. I received a few bug bites that quickly became infected. It became clear to me that though my spirit was ready to conquer that three month trip; my body wasn’t up to the challenge. I learned an important lesson the day I decided to fly home: you have to know when your journey is over.