01 November 2014

Bike Adventure 2014 - Americus to Philadelphia to Atlantic City

During the Bike Adventure this summer I was so impressed by a few of my fellow cyclists who religiously kept journals of their experiences.  There were at least four of these very disciplined riders who I remember sitting down nearly every evening to record what they saw and felt that day... which is so awesome!  Life on the Bike Adventure is simplified, condensed, and deepened--it's like real life distilled to a point that forces your to learn a lot about yourself in a short amount of time, and to form some of the strongest and most meaningful relationships I've ever encountered. Remembering a journey like that is invaluable.

However, it's increasingly amazing to me how quickly the details of the experience seem to leave my brain.  In some ways, returning to a "normal life" that's so different makes an experience like the Bike Adventure feel like a dream--you can remember the feeling of it, but the details get more and more fuzzy the further away you get.  So, while I'm not too far from the experience (and not quite returned to "normal life" yet), I want to try to record the summer from my point of view.  I guess also because I'm a little jealous--those riders who took the time to write it all down along the way will have something awesome to look back on years from now.  So here goes!

Getting to the start - Americus to Philadelphia to Atlantic City

Finally starting the Bike Adventure feels sort of like starting something you've been preparing for a lifetime to do.  I spent nearly every day of the previous 9 months at a desk preparing every detail that I possibly could and never really stopping the running to-do list in my head. Even with all that planning there's a ton of details that can't really be planned. When the thing finally starts, all that planning can sometimes becomes a ton of pressure to make it--something you ultimately don't have total control of--all go perfectly! It's awkward to transition from planning to doing, among all the other awkward things like starting an event in a place you've never been to (hoping there will be someone there to open the door for you!), and all the new people meeting each other (and wondering what they got themselves into). This summer though, the start actually did feel nearly perfect.

But first, a short aside... here begins the list of things I feel so grateful to have learned over and over again doing this job (and that I continue to be amazed by), that I will probably continue to repeat for in every subsequent post:
  1. There are strangers everywhere who are incredibly kind and generous--much more than the evening news would have you believe.
  2. It's amazing (often miraculous, actually) how things seem to just work out when you're doing something like this.  There's so much that you can't really plan, but somehow it all works.
  3. The Fuller Center Bike Adventure is a family just as strong as any family bound by blood.
Me, Ryan, and Jisun (from left) posing for the obligatory early morning departure photo.
Me, Ryan, and Jisun (from left) posing for the
obligatory early morning departure photo. 
Back to the adventure...

The start for me was the drive from Americus (the little town in southwest Georgia where I lived and worked) to the ride's starting point in Atlantic City, NJ.  Ryan, Jisun, and I traveled up with the van and trailer that would become sort of like home over the next couple of months.  To remain true to the Bike Adventure's signature (and possibly excessive) frugal-ness, whenever and wherever we travel we make a point to stay somewhere free.  During the ride this usually means crashing in churches, but when we have a smaller group we try to re-connect with old friends who might have a few empty square feet on their floor (which has some really wonderful benefits in addition to being free--I'm happy to have had this practice added to my life).  Strangely though, we couldn't find a friend along our route in quite the spot we were hoping to.  You collect friends in a lot of places with this cross-country biking thing (see number 3 above!) but I guess they're not quite everywhere. When we shared this unfortunate news with the Fuller Center president, David Snell, he came through with a board member who owns a few hotels in nearly the exact spot we were hoping to stop after our first day of driving (see number 2), and after a couple of emails this generous board member came through with a couple free hotel rooms for us (and number 1 :-) )!  Score!  Thank you to the folks at the that hotel for offering us one of the last beds we'd sleep in for quite a while!
Bike Adventurers, new and old, Geezerman (aka Tom Weber),  and members of the Emperado family, helping us get the  Bike Adventure started.
Bike Adventurers, new and old, Geezerman (aka Tom Weber),
and members of the Emperado family, helping us get the
Bike Adventure started.

Our next pre-adventure stop landed us in Philadelphia where we stayed the night with Kert Emperado's awesome family, giving us a chance to collect a few riders from the airport before heading to the coast (Kert was a part of both the 2013 and 2014 adventures). We arrived early in the day and over the course of the afternoon and evening riders joined us at Kert's house until we packed probably about 20 people (including his family) like sardines into every corner of the home to sleep (including under the dining room table, much to the amusement of Kert's Dad :-) ).  They not only let us take over their home but various family members brought over plate after plate of food (which, unbeknownst to us, would foreshadow our experience when we biked back through the area a few days later). They were so proud of their son / grandson / nephew, so excited to meet all his crazy biker friends, and just as excited to share their delicious filipino food with us! They even helped us celebrate the 72nd birthday of everyone's favorite Geezer.

While we were all gathering, laughing, and celebrating I couldn't help but wonder what the few cyclists who are new to this Bike Adventure family were thinking (most of the people who joined us in Philly were returning riders and knew what they were getting themselves into--we would meet the rest of the new folks in Atlantic City).  I imagined thoughts going something like... "I signed up to ride my bike and build houses, but now I'm sleeping on the floor at some random house in Philadelphia, surrounded by a bunch of loud and crazy strangers!?" I can definitely understand if any of them were second guessing their decision. However, I think it turned out to be an incredible start to the adventure for me (and for everyone else, once they caught on...).

We were gathering in simple, loving community. It didn't matter where we came from, what we looked like, or how comfortable we were--the only important things were the beautiful, loving people around us (and maybe the food...).  For me, it was so awesome to spend a day (before the real onset of the craziness that is leading a cross-country bike ride) catching up with friends, relaxing, and laughing. And for everyone I think it was a perfect beginning to our summer of meeting and communing with equally beautiful strangers all across the country, whether they knew it or not.

And of course it was a free place to stay :-). Thank you Kert and the Emperados!

The next day we drove the last hour to Atlantic City to really get things started!
Me and my excited (scared?) face :-).
Me and my excited (scared?) face :-).

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