Strangers quickly become friends on bike trip to Texas

Posted June 19, 2013, at 9:37 a.m.

by Chris Quimby

Special to The Weekly

It’s amazing to me that we are almost at our destination after seven weeks of cycling from Maine to Texas. This trip has captured the attention of a contingent of people, I assume because of its uniqueness.

However, I’ve found that once you engage in a nontraditional lifestyle, you end up crossing paths with others who are doing the same.

Such was true last night at the home of our hosts in North Little Rock, Ark. The owners of the house that we’ve called home for the past two nights were strangers until we knocked on their door Wednesday afternoon. That’s been the case with most of the people we’ve met while couch surfing across the country.

They’ve been told by others that they’re crazy for letting strangers into their homes, and I understand the sentiment. However, once you speak to people who’ve offered hospitality in this manner, you hear mostly stories of blessing rather than tragedy.

They took us into Little Rock that night to catch some free jazz at an outdoor amphitheater where the group’s lead were two excellent saxophone players. He called it dueling saxes, but I suggested it might be better to call it The Battle of the Saxes.

I practiced patience while hoping for the temperature to cool a bit from the day’s high of 97, which was very difficult to bike in. Thankfully, my daughter had discovered a free splash park only a few yards away, and we walked over and got completely soaked, making the rest of the jazz show more enjoyable.

Shortly thereafter, a couple of friends of our hosts showed up. To be honest, even though I love to meet people, I felt like I had not had enough time to even get to know our hosts yet, and now there were two new characters.

My attitude was unwarranted, though, since after only a few minutes we were in the middle of great conversations and building new friendships.

Our hosts threw a pool party the next night. It was meant to be an opportunity for us to meet more people in the area and to celebrate the purchase of a new home for a couple who had been living with them for a few months.

Three of the other people in attendance were avid couch surfers, two were guests of the third who was a host. It was fun to pick the brains of the couple that was passing through. Such obvious questions were the first topics of curiosity for me, like what their reasons and goals are and how they are able financially to support the lifestyle they’ve chosen.

Jamie was in her 20s and explained that she gets antsy if she stays anywhere too long. The idea of her sitting in a cubicle simply to support a living was not as appealing to her as having a life. She had saved up money for her trip, which included some time in Hong Kong and Thailand. She also had no children, which allowed her some flexibility not shared by many.

One thing that’s been confirmed over and over from my experience with others during this trip is that there are more people than I realized who are living by nontraditional means, whether they be directionless vagabonds or missionaries or anything in between.

Such considerations can avoid shaking the snow globe in your mind only if you purposely fight against it. I’ve lived for much of my life in a pretty small bubble that I was comfortable in, mostly taking direction by tweaking the plans of others around me to form my own.

But if your plan for life is to rub shoulders with people like you who think like you and do life like you, perhaps you’d be better off simply rubbing your own shoulders. In the mental process of brainstorming that’s a healthy first step in any process of decision-making, it is a responsible plan to throw all ideas on the table and then evaluate them on their own merit.

If all continues to go as well as it has, we will arrive at our destination in Rockwall, Texas, near the end of June. But even if the trip was halted now and we headed back to the Northeast short of our goal, we will not have counted ourselves deprived.

Many friends and family looked forward with excitement to all of the memories we would make along the way. Although I predicted the same, I could not properly have imagined all that I would experience. We have made dozens of friends all around the country and seen things once seen by us only in photos.

My world is getting bigger and it’s my wish for its size to increase all the more.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/19/uncategorized/strangers-quickly-become-friends-on-bike-trip-to-texas/ printed on September 23, 2014