Gatorade Angels: Random acts of kindness

triple bike with cardon cactus

It seems like everything in Baja is larger than life, including the Road Angels

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.

cycling baja on a triple bike

There are many, many miles of hot, dry desert in Baja and many miles between water sources of any kind.

Balo and Ole flagged us over and plied us with bottles of Gatorade, which we very happily accepted.

balo and ole

Balo and Ole hid a whole case of Gatorade alongside the road for us.

“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!

baja vista

As we cycled through the remote desert, we looked for rock cairns on the side of the road. We knew four bottles of Gatorade would be close by.

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.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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19 Responses to Gatorade Angels: Random acts of kindness

  1. Lora January 31, 2012 at 5:22 am #

    I remember when you first told this story. I think of those folks a lot and about their kindness!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Lora,
    I realized I had the story posted other places, but had never posted it on my blog. Needed to get that corrected for sure! Shows how kind and generous people can be.

    [Reply]

  2. Living Outside of the Box January 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    This is seriously one of my favorite road angel stories EVER! It makes me want to dream up ways to similarly help some family that I might see on the road someday! Did they leave a final goodbye note on the last cairn?

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Living Outside of the Box,
    I wish they had! We weren’t sure where the last cache would be so kept looking. We’re fairly certain they stopped in one town and bought more as it seemed like we got way more than one case. We didn’t count, so weren’t sure, but we had caches of Gatorade for 200 kilometers!

    [Reply]

  3. Laurie Ashton Farook January 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    I LOVE people like these. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. Thanks for sharing. :)

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Laurie Ashton Farook,
    The best part of travel for sure!

    [Reply]

  4. Jill January 31, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Ooooh, this just sent shivers down my spine. People are amazing.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Jill,
    No kidding. I love this story – shows just how good people are if we give them a chance.

    [Reply]

  5. joy January 31, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    we’ve been in Peurto Viejo for almost 3 months and we will be leaving next week, so far 2 separate couples want to have a party for us before we leave, not the same, but similar… 3 months ago, we knew nobody here, and now we have 2 parties to go to next week. Travel is good, and I think the boys are finally getting into it, too bad we return home soon, but planning our next adventure to start in Oct 2012.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @joy,
    That’s so great! People are so good – that’s way too easy to forget when we’re immersed in America with all the negative media surrounding us.

    [Reply]

  6. Lisa Wood February 1, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    I remember reading that part in the book….and I have told so many people about the amazing angels who brought the gatorade and placed it in hiding spots for you!
    It so touched my heart, and I will never forget what they did for your family – that is what life is all about…having others help each other.
    Cheers
    Lisa

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Lisa Wood,
    No kidding! If only everyone could be this kind and generous, can you imagine what the world would be like?

    [Reply]

  7. Living Outside of the Box February 1, 2012 at 8:20 am #

    Wow…that´s just such a fantastic story. I hope somewhere along the line they run into your story essentially thanking them for the random act of generosity!!

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Living Outside of the Box,
    I’ve often thought of that. I so hope they see it somewhere. Neither of them spoke English and as far as I know it hasn’t been translated into Spanish so I doubt it, but I can wish, eh?

    [Reply]

  8. Heather February 6, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    What a great experience. They are probably still telling the story of the crazy american family on their bikes!

    We, or at least I, am so programmed to mind my own business that when I see a situation where I think I could help I don’t for fear of them getting upset. You know, the ‘I’ll take care of me and you take care of you’ sort of thing.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Reply:

    @Heather,
    I think you are right that we’re taught to leave others be. If we can break out of that, it’s wonderful on both sides. I’m sure Balo and Ole had a blast planting all those caches and I know we had a blast finding them!

    [Reply]

  9. Mary @ Green Global Travel October 7, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    I have been blessed in my life to be both at the receiving end of extraordinary acts of kindness and to be be able to offer much kindness to strangers – including having handed my keys to new friends who needed accommodation on many occasions. I am amazed at the generosity of your angels and inspired to work harder to give back! No doubt, your boys are extraordinarily lucky to be sharing in this experience with you and in turn to be meeting such a diverse and generous group of supporters.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Mary @ Green Global Travel, I wish we could ALL be on the receiving end of those acts of kindness. If only more people would open themselves up to the possibilities, this world would be a better place.

    [Reply]

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  1. Acts of Kindness – World Tour of the Web - January 31, 2012

    […] Gatorade Angels – Random Acts of Kindness by Nancy Vogel, Family on Bikes This post about the kindness of strangers will bring tears to your eyes. Or, at least it did to mine. […]

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