Archive for August, 2009

Picking up Stray Bicyclists

Posted by Doug Shidell, August 8th , 2009. 3 responses

I saw them two miles into my homebound commute; father and son, fully loaded with panniers and asking directions. The guy on the street wasn’t very helpful. He only knew the autoroute to their destination. I was going that way, so I volunteered to lead them.

Before we’d ridden a mile I knew they needed more than a shop. They were tired, a bit cranky, lost and carrying camping gear, but faced with an expensive motel stay because there was no way they would get out of the city before dark. I volunteered our backyard for the night. It’s exactly the sort of thing that others had done for me on my long ago trip to Portland, Oregon.

By chance, they were riding west from Portland. their destination was a friend’s house in Vermont. Too far into the ride to carry the novelty of the adventure and too far from the end to feel the accomplishment, they were at a mental low point, and the normal tensions of parent and teenage son were heightened. It would have been great to hear travel stories of wonder and parent-child bonding, of cherished memories and life changing experiences, but that wasn’t for this night. Dad needed someone to talk with and son needed “space” and rest.

What we could offer was an ear and a respite from the road. We fed them cheese and crackers until the large pizza arrived, then followed up with a couple of large scoops of ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. They took hot showers and dried off with the thickest towels we had. We listened as Dad unloaded his travel blues while the boy slept. In the morning Dad woke up early and worked on the bikes in our basement bike shop as son continued sleeping. I made a pancake breakfast for Dad, but son chose to get another hour of sleep.

I gave Dad a copy of the “Twin Cities Bike Map,” marked the location of shops for picking up the gear he needed and highlighted the route out of town. Then I hopped my bike and went back to work. It was a small respite for the travelers and a break from the daily grind for me. For them, I hope they form that bond and settle into a close friendship as they continue their travels.

For me, I’ve made a down payment on a debt. I can never directly repay those who helped me on my cross-country trip. The best I can do is pass the favor to another traveler. I’ve done it once. I still have a couple more to go before the debt will be fully repaid.

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