We’ve met many Road Angels along the roads we’ve traveled. Hundreds of people have come out of the woodwork to help us out in more ways than I can count over the years we cycled the Americas together as a family. I remember each and every act of kindness demonstrated and am humbled by the goodness of mankind.
Amongst the hundreds of stories I could tell, one of them stands out above all the rest. Perhaps it was the uniqueness of the way Balo and Ole reached out to us, or perhaps it was the fun and excitement of the treasure hunt itself, but I’ll never forget those two men who flagged us over in Baja, California that day so many months ago.
We were pedaling south through an especially remote and mountainous region and, as my legs pumped, I pondered our relatively short supply of water. It was approximately seventy miles to the nearest town; seventy miles of difficult terrain and high heat. Seventy miles of needing an awful lot of water and, I feared, our meager water supplies were no match for the job.
Balo and Ole flagged us over and plied us with bottles of Gatorade, which we very happily accepted.
“We first saw you back in Ensenada,” Ole told us. “We could tell from your bikes that you were going a long way. So this morning, before we left town, we bought a case of Gatorade for you.”
Our mouths gaped open in astonishment.
“I know the Gatorade is too heavy to carry,” he continued, “so this is what we’re going to do: every fifteen or twenty kilometers we’ll build a rock cairn like this.” He built up a pile of rocks on the side of the road. “Then we’ll go back in from there and hide four bottles of Gatorade under a bush or behind a rock.”
By now our jaws were hanging down around our belly buttons.
“OK?” he asked. “Every fifteen or twenty kilometers you’ll find a rock cairn. Near there will be four Gatorades.”
We nodded our heads, unable to speak.
Balo walked over to a cooler and brought out a Ziploc baggie with a big foil-wrapped something and a bunch of napkins inside. “The Gatorade we can hide on the road for you. But these tamales we can’t. You’ll have to eat these soon.”
I picked my jaw up off the ground and gratefully accepted the bag of tamales. Our angels climbed back in their truck and the four of us piled back on our bicycles.
A mile or so later we found a small patch of shade, sat down to eat our tamales, and I knew I had arrived. Nirvana… utopia… heaven… whatever you want to call it… I was there. That had to rate right up there as the all-time best lunch consumed on the side of the road!
Licking our lips and fingers to get every last tasty morsel, we climbed back on our bikes to begin the treasure hunt. We kept our eyes peeled for a rock cairn. Our boys were giddy with excitement as they scanned the roadside for signs of cairns. And eventually we found it – and the treasure!
Four brightly colored bottle of Gatorade were nestled under a bush like baby birds in a nest.
For the next 200 kilometers we found rock cairns alongside the highway and bottles of Gatorade hidden beneath bushes, and the excitement never diminished one iota. When we spied a cairn and ran back to find the cache, all four of us were giddy over the idea of yet another unexpected Christmas present.
I have no doubt that my boys will remember this act of kindness long past their childhood years. They will look back on that day and remember those two men who went out of their way to make our lives a little bit brighter. These angels have attained a special level of sainthood in my mind, and will forever remind me just how good people can be. I hope my boys will grow up to be just like them.
Our lives have been touched by many angels throughout our journey. The man who offered us a plate of pork chops as we camped in his lawn. The family who joyously filled our panniers with oranges. The total stranger who handed us the keys to her house and instructed us to go on in and make ourselves at home. The man who pulled up alongside us on the road and asked, “Would you like to stay at my house tonight?” Hundreds of people from all walks of life have reached out to us with trust and kindness, and showed us the “other” side of mankind; the side not portrayed in the morning paper or nightly news.
The people we’ve met along the highways and byways of the Americas created magic for us every day. They showed us the good side of our great world. The people we encountered approached us with outstretched arms and embraced us with kindness. They demonstrated the true side of people – the “angel” part of us all.
I just wish the newscasters could meet those people.
This story (and many more) is taken from our book Twenty Miles per Cookie: 9000 Miles of Kid-Powered Adventures. Read more and order the book here.