When we started this journey one year ago, I knew we were in for the ride of a lifetime. I knew we would climb hills and descend into valleys – both literal and figurative. I knew we would fly on the highest highs imaginable and creep through lows lower than Death Valley. And that’s exactly what’s happened.
I look back upon this year and see fleeting glimpses of a myriad of images rolling beneath my tires.
• I look ahead and see the silhouettes of my three boys and their bicycles against the snowy backdrop of Atigun Pass and I wonder just how in the heck we managed to climb up that hill on that horrible dirt road carrying tons of food and other gear, but I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter how we did it – but that we did it.
• I see us stopped next to the “Welcome to Canada” sign and grinning for a photo and I shake my head in wonder to think that we had crossed all of that great big enormous state of Alaska and had pedaled each and every inch of it.
• I pedal in awe as a massive bison runs alongside us with his thundering hooves kicking up little clouds of dust and we pedal faster and faster in order to keep up with the beast but in the end he outruns us anyway.
• I watch the boys jump up from the pedestal to catch and swing on the “Alaska Highway” sign and am amazed that we actually made it that far and that, even though the distances between towns were outrageously long, we had managed to do it.
• I nearly jump off my bike with excitement at finally seeing the American flag – home, sweet home – at the border after having cycled three months and 3000 miles and after having climbed a killer hill to get there.
• I open the tent door early in the morning and am greeted by a blanket of white turning our campsite into a winter wonderland and I realize anew that Old Man Winter is rapidly approaching and that we need to get south – pronto!
• I see Claudio’s smiling face greeting us on the bridge over the Rio Grande and wonder just how this humble man will ever be able to pull off the logistics of arranging motorcycle escorts for us through every Mexico city, but somehow he does it and we are blessed with help from motorcycle clubs through the entire country.
• I remember passing the border into Belize thinking we would make a beeline through the country because we had heard horrible things about the country but it took us about five hours before we knew all those others were wrong and that Belize was a wonderful place to travel.
• I feel the agony as we push our heavy bikes up a steep hill on a dusty dirt road in Guatemala and it was hotter that blazes and we didn’t know how in the heck we were going make it up to the top, but all four of us jumped in with everything we had and we worked together as a team to help each other however we could and somehow – a couple hours later – we managed to crest the hill and get back onto a paved road.
• I see the Verhage’s smiling faces as they say “hi” in person after so many months of communicating via email and telephone and we finally got to meet them along the northern coast of Honduras.
• I arrived – after 22 years – into my Peace Corps village and saw Gloria again after all those years and it was like I finally came back home again.
One year on the road. 365 days. 13,500 kilometers. 8400 miles. Seven countries. Millions upon millions of memories. One incredible experience.