Roadside Inspiration

by Matt Schiff

Like many people, we’ve had grand ideas that never reached fruition. We put things off that we need to get done and want to have done because the path of least resistance, inaction, is easier. At one point during the planning for this trip there was an idea to highlight people on our website that we met during the course of our trip that give us inspiration. The idea never died, it just required more updating, more computer time, more just doing it instead of talking about it.

We’ve met many people on this trip that are on their own adventures. While we’re biking the country for the next year, which is pretty amazing, we’re still in our 20s so we certainly can imagine harder challenges. We’ve met people hiking the hardest through hike in the United States, the Continental Divide Trail, and they were in their 50s or 60s. We’ve met people doing solo bike tours around the country and even someone from Taiwan planning to ride for 3 years. And there are those people who “make it happen.” They have a job and family, but are continually out there volunteering and doing good things for their community.

Just the other day we came across 3 people bike touring that pretty much made our day. We’d been following the Pine River Trail from Cadillac to Grand Rapids, MI and stopped in the town of Leroy. We noticed some cyclists sitting at picnic tables and although they looked loaded down we couldn’t tell if they were touring or not. They didn’t have the colorful panniers from brands like Ortlieb or Axiom. They  weren’t dressed in spandex or other techy riding clothes; they had jeans and a work shirt. As we pulled closer we saw a huge mound of baggage strapped to the back of each bike. They must be touring given their baggage. We had to check out their story.

Here is where poor journalism comes in. We have no pictures of this event and no names of the riders involved, but bear with me, I’ll do my best to describe the scene. There were two grownups and one kid. Now the grownups weren’t like us, but a quite a bit older. I’d put one in his 40s and the other in his 50s. The kid was definitely in high school. It was a special occasion. One of the guys had just retired and I’m not sure what prompted his desire, but he wanted to cycle the trail from his place and back (about 185 miles of dirt and paved path). He figured if he got any older it might never happen. He convinced his younger friend and that friend’s son to come along. The kid got to take a week off school. I don’t know what was in it for his friend. Were they having fun? I’m not sure. They talked of being pretty sore and worn out after a couple of days but they were definitely doing it for the experience.

To a non cyclist I’m not sure how extraordinary this seems. They’re pretty much doing what we’re doing with little difference. But the thing is, what they did was harder than what we do. We’ve all done plenty of riding before we loaded a bike to 100 lbs and decided to take off. We have more comfortable clothes, a mix of spandex and khaki pants, definitely not jeans and a stifling shirt. We’ve got fairly expensive bikes that are more efficient and make the pedaling easier. Those guys were riding cheap (although nothing wrong with it, any bike is a good bike) and heavy bikes. We’ve got lightweight gear that’s made for this type of riding. Those guys, by the way they were packed, must have had the square Cabela’s sleeping bags that take up the size of a small barrel. Finally, this is something we’ve done for a while. Our bodies feel made for it. These guys (and sorry to stereotype) seemed more at home riding an ATV or dirt bike, fixing a car, or milking a cow. They’d feel more at home doing any of those than riding a bike. Doing any of those things would beat me up more than riding a bike. That’s the difference.

That’s inspiring, people that don’t just talk about doing it, or make excuses for why they’re too old, or not in good enough shape, but get out and do it, get ‘er done, live for today, seize the day, and do it why they’re young, all because you only live once.

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