Hosting Road Warriors

The idea of traveling with everything I need on my bike pedaled by my own strength unnerves and invigorates me. `

I signed up to host traveling cyclists because I wanted to meet adventurous people from other part s of the world who would avail me and my boys to different perspectives and traditions.  And hopefully these gypsy travelers would inspire me to load up my bike and take off on a trek of hundreds of miles.

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Throughout my teens my family hosted students from Japan and Spain.  I was profoundly intrigued by people, just a couple of years older than me, who were willing to leave their homes, comforts and families to live with strangers and travel the unknown. The subtle and yet tangible differences in how they interacted with each other enthralled me.  Though I didn’t like sharing my space, people from other cultures intrigued me.

In my early years, I rarely strayed from the comforts of my existence: choosing to attend college close to home and apply my graduation money to move to Chicago instead of travel to Greece even as my wild heart yearned for more. Soon after, a ubiquitous sense that I could gain an immense value, a sort of personal freedom, from breaking traditions and habits tugged relentlessly at my soul. I began to crave road travel, idolizing Jack Kerouac, Woody Guthrie, and Janis Joplin’s Bobbie McGee. Unfortunately for the most part, it’s been like understanding a truth without the will to live it.

This weekend, seven cyclists from Spain and Canada broke something inside me.

Jorge left San Francisco on October 17 and arrived at my doorstep Friday evening bearing red wine and Trader Joe’s blueberry muffins. He preferred to ride his mountain bike 20 or so miles a day, spending little money and meeting as many people as possible. On Saturday we visited the Farmer’s Market. In his accented English, he told me about his favorite bar in his hometown just north of Madrid that serves only beer and wine – no juice, no soda – with free tapas and live music until 1pm when they kick everyone out, telling them to go the fuck home. As we rode along the boardwalk, I kept asking what he wanted to do until he rather burst out saying you tell me where we are going and I will follow. Fine. Beers and onion rings at Ruby’s on Balboa Pier. He had never tried onion rings.

Then came three girls and three guys ages 21-26, traveling from Vancouver to Mexico, having begun their journey on October 6. They showed up after dark, tired and bedraggled, all not in the typical cyclist gear, but rather like young hippies.  A happy lot, they had camped most of the way. Bruce played a mean banjo. April spoke blithely about the narrow roads along winding Big Sur. Chelsea spoke of four days riding through Oregon in a constant deluge like it was nothing. Jay, Josh, and Natasha added to a lovely conversation. Baby-faced road warriors riding with bulging packs hanging off both sides of rear and front wheels: half their crew would travel to Central America, the other half riding to mid December, before taking a train home for Christmas.  They made an excellent curry for dinner.

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Sunday evening we took a jacuzzi together and pointed out constellations to each other.

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