We are proud to announce that on August 3rd, Lidia and John safely arrived it back to DC! Exploding with endorphins and unbridled relief, they pulled into Yorktown on the 3rd and marked the end of the ride by walking straight into the Pacific Ocean with their bikes. This to satisfy ancient bicycle tradition which demands the cyclist’s back tire be christened in the Pacific and front in the Atlantic. After extricating themselves from the water, they found the closest bar, took a seat, ordered two celebratory beers, two large burgers, and a giant slice of bread pudding. This post is meant to capture the reflections, commentaries, agreements and disagreements that occurred during that final feast and the weeks since.
Reflection #1: We have a beautiful and diverse country
The United States is overflowing with history and wonder. In our 3,600 mile journey, we traced the footsteps of the tens of thousands of 49ers who crossed sagebrush deserts and frozen Sierra Nevadas in pursuit of gold. We stayed at way points and station houses that captured spring water for the men of the Pony Express (folks who ideally, were lanky orphans with a sense for adventure and an understanding that each ride will likely be their last), and we spoke separately with members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints and Navajo tribe who see the history of the U.S. differently than their compatriots. We saw mining operations larger than mountains, agricultural plantations that touched the horizon, and cities where the internet hasn’t yet made its debut. The food we ate changed from climate to climate, the accents from region to region, and the people themselves gradually but certainly as we progressed.
By visiting only coastal cities, one cannot claim to know the U.S. This applies to U.S. citizens, just as much as those traveling from abroad.
Reflection #2: People on average are great
Over the entire ride, we only had one man engage us in a suspicious manner—everyone else was incredibly kind. At least once a week, we found ourselves in a stranger’s home, a warm meal prepared, a washing machine at the ready, and a bed made. Multiple times a week, we had individuals stop their vehicles to hand us bottled waters or fruit. We had grocery store owners fill our arms full of goods that would feed us for days on end. And if we had a bike breakdown, we had to hide ourselves to keep from holding up traffic as car after car would stop to offer assistance.
And this doesn’t even touch on the fact that this ride was entirely funded by individuals who wanted to see rural and low-income communities represented in DC and abroad. We owe so much to the generosity of others.
Agreement #1: Much of the U.S. is isolated
Surprisingly, we found it quite difficult to get internet access for much of our ride. Many towns we passed through had little to no internet connectivity. Universally, when people discovered Lidia’s Russian origin, they grew super excited. Many of them told us she was the first person they had met from over seas.
Agreement #2: Cycling is better than driving
If you really want to see the country, cycling is the way to do it. Not only are you forced to reckon with distances, elevations, weather and wildlife, but people are significantly more likely to talk with you and welcome you into their community.
Agreement #3: Cottage cheese and peaches is one of the best desserts out there
No need to expand upon this.
Commentary #1: This journey was life changing.
We cannot put into words what this trip has done for us, but we are different people now than when we began.
Lidia and John are engaged in employment search mode. Once they’ve sent out enough resumes to feel comfortable, they will begin reaching out to their contacts to start discussions on how to best connect the DC IR community to their students.