First from Pat,
So, our “event of a lifetime” is now behind us and I have had some time to pause, look back and reflect over what we just did. The first thing that comes to mind is, Wow, what an accomplishment, we did it! We traveled some 3,000 miles, across 14 states, from Seattle to Washington, DC on our bicycles! And, we did all that with our own legs, all the way. Self-powered. I must say that I am quite proud of that.
Another reflection is, what a diverse and beautiful country we live in. We got to see Puget Sound, the Cascade Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Plains, the Great Lakes, the Midwest and the Appalachians. We traveled through deserts, forests, corn fields, soybean fields, and dairy farms. We experienced several cities, including Seattle, Lincoln, Omaha, Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh and Washington, DC., and countless cute small towns, too many to mention. We also crossed over or cycled along dozens of rivers, including the Columbia, the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Ohio and the Potomac. There is great diversity to see out there and I am happy that I got to see it at ten miles per hour.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, this trip restored my faith in humanity. With so much focus on negativity nowadays, I learned that the vast majority of people out there are indeed friendly and want to help. And it doesn’t matter where they live, what they do for work or what they have experienced in their backgrounds. On many occasions during this journey, when we really needed assistance, someone always showed up to give us a ride, provide us with water, lend us a hand on a repair or offer some other kind of help. This was very gratifying. I was also astounded by the daily curiosity and interest that total strangers showed in what we were doing. Some even took us out to dinner. We have made some new friendships all across this country. I really didn’t expect all of this generosity when I started this trip.
First, I would like to thank my wife, Shevonne, for coming up with the idea of doing this trip. Frankly, I don’t know if I would have come up with the concept on my own.Secondly, I would like to thank my employer, Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., for allowing me to take a three-month leave of absence to take this journey and wanting me to come back to work after I finished the trip.
I also want to thank my brother-in-law, David Morganwalp, for providing guidance on what we would need for equipment and gear and to Jill, my sister-in-law for dropping us off at Union Station in Washington D.C. for our train trip west and picking us up in front of the US Capitol on the other end of our cycling trip and toasting us with champagne.
I also need to give out a shout to my sister-in-law, Leah Wilder, for picking us up and hosting us at her home in West Virginia when we ran out of rail trail and later taking us into Pittsburgh to avoid a dangerous road.
A big thank-you has to go out to all of the Warm Showers hosts that invited us into their homes, fed us, allowed us to do laundry and take a hot shower. The Warm Showers concept is awesome and we will now be hosting passing cyclists in our home through Warm Showers.
Thanks to all of our friends and neighbors here in the Mad River Valley and beyond, who warmly sent us off in June, followed our blog, eagerly awaited my Facebook posts, expressed support during the trip and gave us such an awesome welcome when we arrived back home. To this day, we are still receiving “Welcome back” greetings and that is heartwarming.
And finally, huge thanks to all of the “trail angels”, all across the country, who provided help when we really needed it.
And now from Shevonne,
The fact that an individual can pedal across our country continues to astound me. While many folks we talked with along the way indicated that they would not be able to cycle 10 miles let alone 3000 miles, for the vast majority this is probably not accurate. As we discovered, our bodies, our minds and our souls can adapt to new environments and new challenges that we present upon ourselves.
Putting our trust in others was absolutely essential for us on this journey. Our most horrific day was our fifth day into the trip, on the Army base in Washington, where we experienced miles of pushing our bikes through sand, high temperatures and then an unrelenting windstorm. Then, Bob Myrick appeared out of the blue to help us. it was then that I realized a power greater than the two of us would guide us forward and all we had to do was find the space to believe in and to trust others.
My best moments throughout this summer on wheels were those in which we made ourselves available to talk with others and listen to their stories. My life has become much richer and our connections with people now stretch across the country.
To my father, Henry Walp, whose story of how he traveled from Pittsburgh to California by bicycle in the summer of 1939, lit a fire inside of me as a child and a flame that I could not extinguish until I was able to make my own cross-country journey.
To the Rails to Trails Federation for their vision and promotion of the Great American Rail Trail, that though unfinished, convinced me that this trip could be safer than I had ever imagined.
To my siblings, Jill and Leah, who housed us and listened to me when I was frantic about either a trail closure or my disastrous bicycle issues, I thank you. And to my niece, Carly, who knew exactly how to bring our Two Slowpokes on Spokes blog to life.
To my son, Ryan, who while expressing plenty of trepidation about his mother taking this on, stuck by me and listened by phone as we moved across the country. To my son, Corey, and his partner, Kyra, who shared their Iowa home for a much-needed respite and then subsequently assisted our daughter, Destyni, in moving from Arizona to Chicago for dental school. This enabled Destyni to move without requiring any help from us.
To our friends from the Mad River Valley and Grand Isle who celebrated our leaving with a bon voyage party and then upon our return surprised us with another fabulous get together.
To everyone who read our stories on our blog, on Facebook or in the Valley Reporter and added supportive comments along the way. We appreciated it all and were thrilled that you lived vicariously through us.
To my former employer, VSBIT, and the VEHI PATH team for listening to me as I talked incessantly about this idea for over a year and for making sure I stayed relatively dry from bad weather throughout the trip.
And lastly, I want to thank Patrick, who got on board with this idea, spent hundreds of hours building an itinerary complete with maps, distances and places to stay and then carried it all in a pannier in a three-ring binder. Every time our trip needed some revamping because of unforeseen circumstances or because I was in a panic about the lack of shoulders on a road, he graciously found new routes to travel.
Cheers to all of you!!! We shall miss writing to you all.