Three guys and a gal

August 6, 2008

We are now home and it feels great to be here; to sleep in our own bed, to cook our own meals and in our own kitchen, to walk in our own yard, and to relax in our own furniture and in our own way. I must confess, though, being here is not without mixed feelings.

I know I’ll never experience anything quite like this journey again. How unique it was¬†to be able to travel this way across the United States; to bike the most secondary of¬†rural roads,¬†to drive through the smallest of rural towns,¬†to engage with all kinds of people from all walks of life, and to experience the wide variety of geological masterpieces and terrain¬†this country has to offer.¬† There are¬†places we saw and things we did that will never be replicated.¬†To think I’ll¬†be driving on primary major roads again to get me where I need to go saddens me. These roads, in many ways, have taken¬†those unique experiences from us.

But the thing that made this journey so special for me was the three men I kept company with 24/7.¬† What a great group of guys.¬†They¬†had¬†a terrific sense of humor which kept¬†me laughing much of the time, even when the stress level rose to¬†“oh dear, now what do we do?” Someone always seemed to break through with appropriate humor. They kidded each other and also with me. Certain words were bantered about like mumser, and schlepping, and butt butter, and sissy spandex,¬†and cattywumpus, and these words were used over and over again throughout the trip.

Each¬†worked hard¬†and rode some days until they couldn’t turn the pedals anymore. I especially remember the cold, rainy weather in Oregon, where they ended the day full of mud, tired and wondering what they’d gotten themselves into. I can see them climb the highest of mountains, hurting because of the height and thin air. Or when they rode the flats through intense heat and high winds. All this while I sat in¬†a comfortable,¬†air-conditioned van outfitted with a Sirius radio. I wasn’t sure whether I should feel sorry for them, be embarrassed because I wasn’t out there suffering too,¬†or tell myself this was¬†the condition of my job. I confess, I chose the latter.

Our grandson, Ian, was such a delight to have along. Being 17, then 18 years, helped keep the energy of the trip on a whole other level.  His humor, his use of electronic gadgets, his music, and his teenage personality delighted us and gave us all fodder to use with and against him. All in fun, you understand. He could ride like the wind and often found himself way out in front only to be reminded to stay close for safety reasons. And he looked terrific in his spandex outfit with many looks from young gals observing us along the way. We missed him when he left the ride but we felt his presence when dipping into the Atlantic. A job well done, Ian

Then there’s our son Peter, whom we were¬†constantly with for¬†two months. We haven’t spent this much¬†consistent time with him¬†since he was a preschooler. What a¬†treat that was. He was as serious and sure of this ride as anyone and was determined to finish. He was the out-front guy, the one his dad drafted. Dan would always say what a great rider he had become and what a great pace-setter.

Peter has a very dry sense of humor. He would kid, conjole, and tell funny stories that broke us up. He had nicknames for the most unexpected and mundane things. But surrounding this humor was a serious side as well and when he felt passionate about something, he let us know. These convictions always brought about interesting conversations and sometimes, long nights. We knew he gave up a lot of time that would have been spent working on his dissertation.  But he stuck with the trip and we appreciated that sacrifice. I might have copped out altogether had I that kind of responsibility. Thanks dear Peter for putting up with us for this long and the very best to you, always.

And then there’s hubby Dan. The organizer, the leader of the pack, the motivator, the determined one. He worked long and hard hours for 2 years on this trip. I swear he knew every road, every crevice, every mountain, and every town we were going to ride¬†on or going through. He contacted bike clubs, state transportation departments, and individuals to get their opinions on roads and trails. We had more maps than AAA and all organized according to the daily trek of the ride. And then, during the trip and in the¬† evening, he’d double check his maps and charts and software and have us ready to go the next day with a definite destination in mind. We were dependent on him for the roads to take and without him and this knowledge,¬†we would still be wandering around the U.S.¬†trying to get to the Atlantic.

Another area of expertise was nutrition. Dan studied this like he did the roads. He bought books on nutrition for bikers, he consulted with two nutritionists (both extended family members), he talked with other bikers, and he read labels¬†on foods and beverages to get the best for the trip. In fact, he bought such a huge box of energy bars that 90% of them are still uneaten. They all ate so well that no one lost weight during the first half of the trip. (Two out of the three wanted to lose something!)¬†It wasn’t until they recognized this¬†fact that they decided to eat¬†less and normal foods. They ate this way¬†for the rest of the trip. This helped and they had as much energy as before. And they lost some weight and ended up looking great in those outfits!

Dan was the motivator too. He’d be the first one up in the morning, without fail,¬†and the cheerleader, always reminding us to get out on the roads before it got too hot. I can remember many mornings when we all wished he’d¬†lay off, get lost, go eat breakfast, do something so that we could stay in bed and sleep. But not so. He was determined to ride and held his ground on that point. Of course, we’re glad he did or we wouldn’t be home yet!

For me, it was great to see my husband be this involved with his son and grandson. It was a bond that grew richer with every mile. And the¬†memories they share will remain¬†a lifetime. I was so proud of him as a rider too. He never once wanted to quit or not ride on any given day. And he rode all those miles without having to stop because he couldn’t do it. When he stopped to rest¬†it was to eat, refresh his drink, or relax and not¬†because¬†he couldn’t pedal anymore.

I feel so fortunate to have¬†been¬†their support driver. I confess, I had trepidations in the beginning not knowing what I was in for. Could I deal with three men? Could they deal with me? Would I get lost, dent the van, not feed them properly, get bored, miss golf (yes, I did), and miss home. I can honestly say,¬†all¬†these concerns went unfounded (except driving in the Appalachians). I loved every minute of being with them. They treated me like one of the guys to the point I had to remind them that I really wasn’t one of them. It was a busy time but delightful¬†with experiences I will cherish forever.

Someone asked me if I’d do this again. I knew the answer right off. Without hesitating, I said son Peter and I had a conversation about this exact same thing. As a result, Peter promised me that if he ever plans on doing something this outrageous again, like sailing solo around the world, he¬†would not tell his dad about the plan.¬† Guess that answered¬†her question.

Love you guys

Jean, Mom, Grammy

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