Making a Difference, One Poorly Located Rash at a Time (Day 28)

Day 28: Bryan, OH – Clyde, OH

Distance: 106 miles

Vertical: 295 feet

Biking Time: 5:30

Day 28 of sleep depravation and stiff legs. I cannot wait for July 28th but in a sense am dreading the 29th. Finishing something that you have dedicated almost a year of your life to planning and working towards is a weird feeling. When we aren’t arguing about whose bike has been more of a financial burden and time sake nuisance, we often talk about what we are going to do when we get to Boston. I think that we have all come to the conclusion that instead of dipping our front tire in the Atlantic, we are just going to ride our bikes off a dock straight into the ocean. Nigel’s bike has broken down so many times that a little bit of salt water couldn’t do too much extra damage.

Yesterday I went on a 60-mile stretch where I rode my bike by myself because of Nigel’s spoke massacre. When I was riding I had a lot more time to think than when I normally do when I bike with Nigel (we spend a lot of time playing road trip games or ‘would you rather’ to pass the time). I thought about a lot of the usual stuff like ‘I wonder when my computer science acceptance/denial letter will show up and if I got in’ or ‘I wonder if Joey would want to do a Spartan race with me when I get back and if he would be faster than me’, but then I thought about something different. I am in the middle of nowhere in an Amish community in Indiana and I rode my bike here! I will never be here, in this exact location, again for the rest of my life. It was a pretty surreal thought, and from then on I was just trying to live in the moment and enjoy all the things around me.

I tried to take in the community as much as I could because, believe it or not, not many Amish people reside in Seattle as far as I am aware. I saw some pretty neat things.  I saw a whole family in a horse carriage pass me with four cyclists holding onto ropes skitching on the back of the carriage, an Amish man and woman driving in a pickup truck, which I thought was an Amish felony, and a little kid on a donkey sized pony HAULING ass.

Being in the Amish community was really nice except for a few minor setbacks. Horses pull the carriages at around 15 mph, which is the perfect speed to where it is annoying to be stuck behind one but absolutely terrifying to be in front of them. I’ve always had a slight fear, or intimidation if you will, of horses after a couple bad experiences in Boy Scouts. Having one right behind me, never knowing if it was going to get startled and chase after me, was frightening to say the least. Also, because of all of the horse riding, a lot of the roads were unpaved and merely just sand and a little loose gravel, yielding it nearly un-rideable on a road bike. The last thing is not really the Amish people’s fault but I ran out of water in the middle of their community and believe it or not, gas stations and fast food restaurants are a rarity in those parts of the country. The lack of water was completely my fault though, I didn’t feel like taking a half-mile detour to a McDonalds to refill my water before entering the area and ran out of water 20 minutes later, failing the Scouting motto of ‘Be Prepared’.

Yesterday Josh got his fourth flat tire of the ride, however this time the flat tire was on the car. After completely vaporizing a raccoon that set up base camp in the middle of the highway, our passenger side front tire lost some serious air pressure. We filled it up with air at a gas station and are praying we don’t have to get it fixed at a shop. Believe it or not I don’t think that our patch kits or tire levers are strong enough to fix our car tires, but what do I know.

Today we had our first ever live, in studio, radio interview with our fraternity brother, an Alumni of Ohio University, Jim Funderburg. We were all a little apprehensive at first that one of us would fail to filter a dumb comment (most likely me), but with Jim’s smooth interview and buttery deep radio voice, the whole thing ran amazingly. We then got featured in the Bryan newspaper, and got blessed with a tailwind. As long as Nigel’s bike doesn’t break again, today will be another great day.

Although today has been my day to drive, so technically I shouldn’t be writing a blog post, there was something really cool that I wanted to talk about. It has been impossible to ignore the fact that for the entirety of the bike ride, American flags have been at half-mast. It seems like every time we find ourselves in a home with Wi-Fi or a McDonald’s with the news on, some new act of terror or evil has happened. News and mass media have portrayed humans to be unpredictable, untrustworthy, and well… evil. This trip has taught me that that is every bit as false as it has ever been. The hospitality, prayers, blessings, and warmth that we have received along this ride have been a true testament of the kind-heartedness of those around us. I am parked on the side of the road as I write this blog post, and without knowing our cause, two cars have already stopped by me and asked if I was having car troubles and if there was anything they could do to help. Today we went to a McDonald’s to refill our water and get out of the heat and we struck up a conversation with a group of kind, elderly people about our bike ride. 15 minutes into the conversation almost the entire McDonald’s had migrated to where we were sitting to hear what we were saying, even a few employees chimed in. A man gave us $20 and told us that seeing our generation of people doing big things for those around us made his day and gives him reassurance for the future.

Hearing comments like that is what gives us purpose to wake up in the morning and get back on our bikes. I remember the first time we ever got positive feedback from people. I believe that I am speaking for the entire squad when I say that we received a lot of doubts in the weeks leading up to the ride. In my mind, justly so. However, on the summit of Washington Pass on the second day, we were swarmed by people asking what we were doing and why the hell we biked up such a high mountain pass. One lady in particular stood out to me because she was so elated that we were doing such a thing that she demanded a picture with us to send to her friends. Ever since then we have been bombarded with positive feedback, which was honestly a little overwhelming. When I started to do the ride, my whole goal was to make it to our daily end destinations without dying, I didn’t process the fact that our purpose would resonate with so many of those around us and touch so many people’s hearts. My initial purpose for this ride was for the sense of adventure, to pursue this far out dream or touring the US on a bike that I have had since was in my early teens, and to lose some of the weight I have put on since starting college. Since this ride has started I have realized that its purpose is so much greater than me and it will without a doubt change my life. It’s really cool to see that ordinary people can leave huge impacts just by pushing to do things that are, well, out of the ordinary.

Like Nigel said in his last blog post, as we age we begin to limit ourselves to what we believe is possible. I complained about the sheer impossibility of our route more than anyone else, but we have held to it. Leaving my comfort zone by not limiting myself to what I personally believe I am capable of is one of the best life lessons I have learned this summer.

I’m pretty high on life,

Matt Gaylor