As I think back upon this year on the road, I see fleeting glimpses of images rolling beneath my wheels:
* the sheer beauty of snow-lined Atigun Pass
* Arctic Circle sign
* Santa Claus
* entering Canada – our first crossing
* buffalo, bears, and bighorn sheep
* the end of the Alaska Highway – 1,422 miles from the beginning
* the American flag at the border
* waking up to a couple of inches of snow on the tent
* the hiss and gurgle of steam vents and geysers in Yellowstone
* trick-or-treating in small town America
* inches of dust piled up inside the tent during a sandstorm
* being escorted through each and every Mexican city by the local motorcycle clubs
* visiting Mayan ruins and climbing to the tippy top of the temples
* getting off the beaten track in Belize to explore pristine jungles and rivers
* snorkeling the second largest coral reef in the world
* reuniting with my Peace Corps family after 22 years away
It’s been a wild ride. We’ve ground up mountains and plummeted back down the other side. We’ve gotten soaked by rain, frozen in snow, and sweltered in unfathomable heat. We’ve bounced and jiggled over rough roads and raced over roads as smooth as silk. And yet, through it all, we’ve lived life to the fullest and taken advantage of every moment we have here on this planet.
Yes – there have been challenges. We’ve pushed our heavy bikes up impossible grades in extraordinary heat as thick clouds of dust swirled about our heads. We’ve reached for water bottles only to find the water within frozen solid. We’ve battled headwinds and fought for each inch of forward motion we managed to make.
But when I think back upon this past year, it’s not the challenges that come to mind. It’s the many, many days of smooth sailing that I remember. It’s those moments when I crest the top of the hill and gaze upon miles and miles of valley ahead and my breath gets all tangled up in my throat at the sheer magnificence of it all. Or when 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. Or when a family who has next to nothing graciously offers to share it with us and we feel guiltier than hell taking their food but know all along that we can’t possibly decline. Or when Davy snuggles up next to me in the tent after a tough day on the road, puts his arm around my chest, gazes into my eyes, and says, “I love you, Mom.”
It’s the many people we’ve encountered who have brought nothing but magic to our lives and I pray that God will bless them all. May God bless the man who dragged us to his house in order to give us a new tire after John’s developed a mystery bubble. And God, heap blessings upon the woman who brought us a big plate of tacos even though all we ordered was Sprite. And bless the tour guide who handed over all the leftover food from his tour – including beer and chocolate. And bless, too, the couple who invited us to their RV for our evening meal so we had a sheltered place to wait out a downpour. And God – please bless the family who adopted us as their own and wouldn’t allow us to stay in our hotel “all alone” all day so we got to spend a delightful three days watching all the comings and goings of a typical Mexican family. And bless as well all those people who sent us emails after John’s accident offering us a place to stay or the use of their car or an invitation to a play group. God bless the cattle rancher who said he had more than enough money and simply wanted to share a bit of it with us.
It’s watching my boys grow and change and mature before my very eyes that makes this journey so special. It’s seeing the triumph in their eyes when they crest the toughest pass yet or when they finally break their personal record. It’s watching Daryl joke and laugh with Daddy as he revels in riding on the back of the tandem or hearing Davy expounding on the advantages of riding solo. It’s knowing that, no matter what may come in the future, my boys have learned life lessons from the road that will carry them through all the ups and downs of their lives.
Yes – it’s been a wild ride, and we know more wild times are coming. But we’ll take it one day at a time; one mile after another. With each pedal stroke we’ll see more of this grand world of ours, meet more of her wonderful people, and learn more than we ever could have imagined. It’ll be crazy and mad and zany and wacky all rolled into one. But it’ll also be the most incredible, mind-boggling, fantastically phenomenal journey of all – just like the past year has been.