We have been cycling through Iowa for the last few days and I’ve been thinking about the assumptions I made before coming on this trip, and what the reality actually turned out to be. All cyclists on the trip (myself included) believed without a shadow of a doubt that everything past Ohio and before the Rockies was flat. Iowa was definitely flat. A few days ago, right after we passed over the Mississippi (which was so cool!!!), the hills began. We were wrong. Iowa has more than just a hill or two–Iowa actually is quite rolling. And because of those hills, Iowa has taken my breath away.
Coming over the Mississippi was meaningful–it seems to me like a great divider between what I grew up with (the East coast), and what I came on this trip to experience. After passing over the very muddy river that is forever linked with Huck Finn and his friends, Iowa’s lush hills grabbed my heartstrings. There are fields that seem varied, although they are still corn and soy, sprawling across the valleys and bumps of Iowa. There are many trees that break up the monotony of fields, and barns of all shapes, sizes and hues. There are creeks and rivers that run through the hills, dry though they may be after a month of drought. The cows and horses and pigs all seem happier, more robust from the strangely shapped terrain. And the people–the people here know that Iowa is overlooked, but take great pride and joy in showing travelers their beautiful state. They love on us in ways I’ve never known. Generosity is just the usual in Iowa.
My experience on Bike and Build has been pretty much just like the above–my assumptions have been far from the truth most of the time, and I am happy about it. Before the trip began, I thought that cycling would become easy, I thought that I might make friends but not gain a new family, and I thought that the whole adventure would be fun all the time. I had many snap judgements about the people I would be spending the summer with, and a whole load of ideas about how we would spend our time. I thought cycling would take less of my time, and that I would have endless amounts of energy for exploring all the amazing towns we pass through. Although I didn’t think I had beliefs about what the summer would be like, I had many.
Like most things in my life, the reality is so much better than the future I was able to dream up. On the second day of orientation one of our leaders explained what a typical day in the life would be like. I remember worrying about what food we would eat, and how much free time I would have. The description that leader gave could not come close to describing the absolutely perfect life I have today, and my worries couldn’t have been more misguided. I eat so well, fed by sweet church and Habitat for Humanity folks, and have just enough free time to keep me sane–and with those needs taken care of, I have very little to worry about.
I think the most incredible things I believed were about this country I call my home. I come from New York City, and grew up with more than a little pride. When I visited San Francisco as a 12 year old, I actually said, “They call this a city?”–and I meant it. I was shocked when I road tripped across the country three years ago and found out that America is beautiful. I thought that beautiful countryside was monopolized by European countries.
I came on this trip hoping to really find out about America. What I found was that it is more amazing than I ever realized. People have been so generous and open to me as a traveler. They have opened their door to me, a stranger, on the road when I need water, they have given me free breakfast when they heard my story and not stayed for my thank you, and they have shared their lives and their love of their land with a passer-through. I never would have guessed that Americans could be so big hearted and generous, so willing to hear about another cause and share their own life experiences. I could have never imagined my fellow countrymen and women would be so welcoming to me, a complete stranger who looks a little odd in these parts. Add the incredible scenery into the mix, and you have an equation that made me fall head over heels in love with the USA.
For the first time in my life I can say that I honestly hope that God blesses America, land that I love. I sincerely hope that you readers aren’t annoyed by the huge amounts of cheesiness I am capable of!
And finally, my last assumption was I assumed that since I have dreamt so much about travel, that this journey would be easy. What I have found is that I miss my family (my parents, and my huge support network of friends) more than I ever thought was possible. Today is my parent’s 29th anniversary, and we chatted on the phone. I got off the line and was amazed at how much love and support I receive from these two people. When I have a bad day and need comfort, they are the two people I want to talk to, when I need a hug, I wish they were here. Through everything, these two people have loved me and helped me along my way.
This trip has come about through a series of coincidences. If I didn’t know Avry, if Avry didn’t buy five finger shoes that I became jealous of, if we weren’t in REI buying my pair, if I didn’t have generous friends, if my parent’s didn’t instill an insane belief that I can do anything in me, if my parents never met, if they never reached their 29th anniversary, none of this would have happened.
Life has been showing me my ignorance recently, and I am more willing than ever to just go with its flow. I know very little about the world and the ways it works, and I am so thankful that more is continually revealed. I hope that through all the hard times, my heart still continues to swell as it does now, with gratitude for those that have brought me this far and love for those I share today and tomorrow with.