Wonderful People

Today marks the seventh day of our trip (we are in Willsboro Point, NY). It’s been filled with ups and downs (literally and metaphorically), but all experiences nonetheless part of an amazing journey. A big part of what has made every day so incredible has been the people that we have had the good fortune of crossing paths with. This post is dedicated to elaborating on some of those interactions and remembering the people that have shown us love and support–we couldn’t have made it through the first week without you. Thank you.

Steve and “Oz”

On the second day of our journey, Clara and I were aiming to reach a small town in southern New Hampshire. However, for different reasons, it seemed that we were not going to make it. Tired and hungry, we stopped to eat our leftover pancakes and trail mix next to a beautiful little pond, Ward Pond, in northern central Mass. As we settled down, we saw two men sitting at the pond having some beers. We greeted them and they invited us over to sit by them and enjoy the scenery. They were both belligerently drunk but charming in a way that I imagine it would be meeting a well-intentioned version of the Duke and the King from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Some highlights from our conversation:

Auto-timer photo of us and Steve, the timing wasn’t quite right

Oz (40) is sitting down smoking a cigarette next to us, and Steve (64) is standing in front of him facing all of us, while trying from time to time to steal a cigarette from Oz’s hand. For some context, Oz and Steve had just met that day at a nearby town and had drunkenly stumbled 8 miles to Ward Pond. 

Steve (to Oz): “You know what the ONE THING I like about you is?”

Oz: “Shut up.”

Steve: “Hey Oz, you know what the ONE THING I like about you is?”

Oz is silent

Steve: “You know what it is?”

Clara: “He gives you beer?”

Steve (with a huge smile on his face): “EVERYTHING. The one thing I like about you is EVERYTHING”

Steve: “I can’t believe you’re gonna ride your bikes everywhere! You INSPIRE ME! … You know what? I’m gonna tell one of my girlfriends, ‘You need to get a backpack and some trail mix! We’re going!’ Tomorrow, I’m gonna buy a bike! Wow! You’ve INSPIRED ME”

Shortly thereafter, Oz walked away to his house nearby(where he graciously offered us a place to stay) and beckoned to Steve, who stayed chatting with us. A little time after, a patrol car rolled up to Oz’s house, and then a fire department vehicle. We didn’t know what was happening but it was getting late and it did not seem like a smart idea to stick around, so we packed up and kept moving. This brings me to Bill and Melinda…

Bill and Linda

It was too late to make it to our destination so we decided we wanted to camp out by the pond. We scouted the area and everything was private property, so we knocked on the door of a friendly looking house. A man in his 50s, perhaps, walked out:

Bill: “What’s up”

Me: “We’re biking across the country and were wondering if we could pitch a tent on your lawn.”

Bill: “Uhhh… that’s a weird request. Uhh hold up”

Goes inside and comes back outside with his girlfriend, Linda, then proceeds to have a conversation with her in front of us:

Bill: “What’ya think?”

Linda: “Uhh I don’t know. What do they want?”

Bill: “He says they wanna pitch a tent here.”

Linda: “I don’t know. I guess.”

Bill turns to us:

Bill: “What a weird request. Yeah I guess it’s alright. You wanna check it out? Go down and check it out”

We walk down and are faced with a patch of grass that sits facing the beautiful pond. We agree that this is definitely the place to stay.

Bill and Melinda’s backyard facing Ward Pond, where we stayed our second night

As we’re pitching our tents and settling in, Bill comes down and lets us know that there’s a sink downstairs that we could use if we want to fill up our water bottles. He then comes back a few minutes later and says, “There’s also a shower down there if you guys wanna use that to wash up and stuff.” A few minutes later, “If you guys get cold, you can also just put your sleeping bags inside and sleep on the floor.” Over the course of the evening, Bill continued to come down and offer us more and more, to the point where he had offered us the entire downstairs portion of his house, extension cords, extra lamps, the remote to his TV,  a ziploc bag well stocked with toiletries, and coffee in the morning. It was hard saying bye to Bill and Linda the next morning–we had become so comfortable with them and had shared a strangely quiet but deep connection. They shared their stories with us and welcomed us, strangers, into their home with the utmost sincerity.

This experience was a moving example of the sincere generosity that people can summon when faced with such a situation, such as a stranger asking for a shelter. And this is the kind of generosity that I continue to see every day from people, whether it’s to this extreme or people stopping to ask us if we need a warm place to stay and wait the rain out. I’m continually impressed by the beauty in people and how ubiquitous this kindness is, regardless of the type of town that we’re in.

From left to right: Linda, Bill, Clara, Erick

I wish to share more about the other wonderful people we have met along the way but it is far too late for me to be  up so I will have to continue this post tomorrow. Thanks for sharing these reflections with me. Goodnight from me.