Yesterday we spent the day driving back to Wenatchee. It was a long car trip, and the smog and traffic were heavy through the Columbia Gorge. I found myself constantly checking on the condition of the bike lane and imagining the experience from a bicycle as we sped through the landscape in the car. We were still traveling by bicycle in our minds.
When we finally arrived home, we had another welcome. Colin had made a Welcome Home poster for us, and Mike's parents had left a bouquet of flowers and a refrigerator full of food: steaks, fruit, potato salad, pastries, and a homemade peach pie for our return! Wow! We fired up the BBQ and celebrated. Then we faced a pile of mail to sort and a growing list of things needing our attention after being gone so long. I looked at our journal on the big computer screen for the first time, as well as the photos as slides that we had mailed home for development along the way. I hope to scan these to add them to the journal. This process helps bring back hundreds of memories of what was an awesome trip.
Two days ago when we ended our bike trip at the Pacific Ocean, I was asked if it felt good to get off the bike and ride in the car for a change. My answer was no. I miss the satisfaction of propelling myself on my trusty blue bike. I miss the richness of the experience that we have by bicycle touring.
In particular, I remember straddling my bike by the side of the road, in the middle of one of Montana's big valleys, under Montana's big sky, and marveling as we had so many times, that "we are really out here", we have the whole view, 360 degrees, no steel nor glass between us and the world, the wind, the fragrance of the pines, the sage, the honeysuckle, the rain, or the sun. In a world where people travel to a National Park in speeding vehicles, and "experience the Park" in an IMAX theater, bicycle travel may seem crazy. But who is crazy?
Our trip has made us strong and fit, we have made many new friends, we have learned more about this country than we ever knew, we have experienced the diversity of this great continent's landscape intimately, we have become wiser, and we have tested our strengths. No matter how discouraging and arduous bicycling might be at times, I would never trade this bicycle trip for the same in a car. As I reflect back over the last three months, I am grateful that we were able to accomplish this dream and create memories like these that nourish our souls.
And now, some words from Mike (But I didn't put him up to this!)
At no time throughout this trip have I had second thoughts. Every morning I looked forward to the day of exploring and enjoying the surroundings. Even when the rain held us in Elkhorn City, six consecutive days of headwinds in Wyoming, or facing a 33 degree morning clad only in warm weather bike gear, I did not want to be somewhere else or doing something else. Though frequently amazed, I was never disappointed with what I found each day.
The best part of this trip was Marilyn. Her strength and courage were demonstrated with every hardship, and I was impressed with her capability and determination. I feel truly blessed to be able to share this once in a lifetime experience with her.