Road Angels to the rescue

All we hear about, it seems, are the bad people; drug dealers, suicide bombers, bank robbers, and murderers.  By watching the nightly news or reading the morning paper, one would get the impression that our world is filled with bad people; people who would happily mug or rape or kill us.

Many individuals respond by creating fortresses to live in. They arm themselves heavily, install home security systems to monitor their house 24/7, and monitor the feedback through a cell phone they carry on their hip.

road angels

Random strangers saw a family in need and stepped up to the plate to help us out. We are humbled every time we see such kindness.

I have to wonder if that is all necessary. Our experiences traveling on our bicycles have shown us another side of our vast world – a kinder, gentler side where people are kind and generous and more than happy to give us a helping hand.

When we first pedaled out of our driveway with our children in tow so many years ago we knew we would find adventure.  As we rode around our country on something resembling a rolling wagon train, we knew we would see a side of America most people miss.  And yet, all the random acts of kindness people showed us astounded us.  Each and every time someone reached out his hand and offered us help, we were humbled.  And those experiences were not few and far between.

Take, for example, the couple in New Jersey who rescued us from the pouring rain.  It had been a long day of cycling in the rain, but thoughts of the warm, dry surroundings of a friend’s house in Manhattan kept us going. Late in the afternoon, we pulled up to the ferry dock, only to discover the last ferry of the day left in 30 minutes from a pier five miles away.  We took off like a herd of stampeding buffalo.

While stopped at a stop light, a black car pulled up alongside me, its window rolled down, and a face emerged.  “Where are you headed?” the woman asked.

“We’re trying to make the ferry!  And it leaves in 30 minutes!” I replied as I took off through the red light.

Pedaling like mad through the torrential downpour, I crested the top of the second hill and readied myself for the final push to the ferry.  The same black car pulled up beside me. The window came down and the face appeared  “You aren’t going to make it,” she announced.  “The ferry leaves in two minutes.  There is no way.”

cycling in rain

My face fell and my shoulders sagged.  I looked around at my dismal surroundings.  Rain fell from the sky …  puddles filled the road … we were soaked to the core, along with all our gear.  This was about as bad as it gets.

“Do you know where a hotel is?” I asked.

“The nearest hotel is about ten miles away.  And it costs around $250 per night,” the woman told me.

Life just doesn’t get any lower than that.  We were stuck in the pouring rain with our precious children in the middle of a massive urban sprawl.  No place to pitch our tent … no hotels … nothing but rain and more rain.  What kind of parent was I to subject my darling boys to conditions like this?

“Would you like to stay with us tonight?” she asked.  “We live just a couple miles from here.”

Once again, Road Angels had reached out and added magic to our journey.

Or maybe I should tell the story of the total stranger in Portland who handed us the keys to her house.  “Go on in and make yourselves at home,” she instructed us.  “I’ll be there in a few hours.”  And she didn’t even know our names.  Or perhaps the doctor in San Luis Obispo who pulled up alongside us as we pedaled into town and asked, “Would you like to spend the night at my home tonight?”

Each and every time complete strangers go out of their way to make our lives brighter our faith in mankind grows.  Our children are seeing the good; the way people were meant to be.  It may be something small like stopping on the road to give us tomatoes or oranges or water, or it may be something bigger like leaving caches of Gatorade over the next 200 km, but each example of kindness teaches our children the value of giving.

They have been on the receiving end so many times and I have no doubt they have learned an important lesson in giving.  Indeed, Davy told me, “When I grow up I am always going to keep Gatorade in my car so I can give it to bicyclists.  And I’m going to have an extra room in my house so people traveling by bike can stay there.”  And I have no doubt he will.

Those little acts of kindness – a cold Pepsi on a hot summer day, a shower when we’ve gone too many days without one, or refilling our empty water bottles during those long stretches of nothing – are like little rays of sunshine.  They lift us out of the doldrums and put a new perspective on our day.  And they show us, in no uncertain terms, that people on our planet are not as portrayed on the nightly news.

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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6 Responses to Road Angels to the rescue

  1. Justin April 8, 2013 at 6:52 am #

    I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had experience like this in just 3 months. It’s amazing how generous and kind people are. We’ve stayed in nearly 100 campground and hotels throughout 23 states and we’ve had only 1 slightly negative experience with a couple loud campers. We’ve been offered food, free places to sleep, tickets to amusements parks, etc… People are amazing and very generous. But it’s like your momma told you, “you hang out with those type of kids, and bad things will happen!” I find the people we meet on the road have a great outlook on life – especially those we meet camping.

    I haven’t watched TV, news, or read a paper in about 30 days, and life looks good.

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    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Justin, I am so happy to hear that! It’s amazing what happens when you put yourself out there and allow the magic to happen.

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  2. marquita herald April 8, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Enjoyed your article. For over twenty years I made my living in the hotel sales industry and traveled all over the world. I’ve been in every state in the US, coast to coast in Canada a few times, Europe, Pacific and throughout Asia. My friends used to ask me all the time how could I possibly travel like that on my own – but I met the most amazing people every where I went. Were there occasional jerks – absolutely! But they were few and far between.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @marquita herald, Exactly. It seems like we all fear “them” so much, but we rarely meet them. Is it really worth the time, money, and mental energy to “prepare” to meet them?

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  3. Hollie April 8, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    I loved hearing about your Road Angel stories! I went to Ireland and France alone several years ago, and friends wondered why on earth I would do such a thing. I joked it was a “quarter life crisis”. I ended up having so many wonderful experiences with strangers, including one little old lady who caught me looking confused in a French train station, and spent fifteen minutes walking me to the right place to catch my next train. I didn’t speak French, and she didn’t speak English, but we made it work, and in the end we parted with delighted smiles. It really restored my faith in the universe.

    I do think there are cases where home security is worthwhile, but I think reasonable steps can be taken so that it doesn’t become expensive or an exercise in neurotic stuff-protecting. In certain areas where crime violent crime is rampant, I’ve had friends who do simple things like install a sensor that beeps when their back door is opened, stuff like that. I agree, though, that when you’ve reached a place where tons of time and money and anxiety is going into protecting yourself, than it’s time to take a look at whether what you’re doing is really necessary.

    [Reply]

    Nancy Sathre-Vogel Reply:

    @Hollie, I love that! We’ve had so many people help us out. Some we could speak with, others we couldn’t. Our experience has shown that when others see a need, they are willing to step up to fill it.

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