I’m BACK! Most of you knew this already if you’re following me on Facebook. It’s been a busy summer since the ride ended. Since I’ve returned, I’ve traveled to meet with people in places I did not ride my bike to. My network is continuously growing with more and more like-minded people. It brings me joy!
The ride itself consisted of many ups and downs along the way and I appreciate each of them. Now I know why people often use physical journeys as an analogy to life. I wonder who was the first to pen it and what they were experiencing that made them put their synthesizing skills to use. I rode to encourage discussion of the income and education gaps, to see how others were handling the issues and how we can incorporate or create solutions that are working. I also rode as a Prince Hall Mason, to bring awareness to our craft and our efforts within the communities we serve. Knights of Pythagoras is a non-affiliated group for boys that we sponsor, that was also something I was working on during the ride. As an advocate of health and well-being, I rode to promote cycling within our community. As an advocate for for rebuilding our communities, the ride also served as a fundraiser to provide a scholarship to a student entering college to pursue specific fields that contribute to rebuilding our communities. Personally, I rode for the challenge. I accomplished much of what I aimed for but I learned so much more! The trip eventually took on a new meaning.
As I traveled state to state, I learned the issues regarding income and educational gaps were universal but also handled largely the same way. The result is not much progress.They offer programs and services that gave to the community rather than empowering the community by giving them the opportunity to learn how to do it themselves. This would allow them to build off of their own skills and knowledge, rather than return to the source empty handed with hands out. I found that within my own organization, PHM, results were only as effective as leadership. This is symbolic of our community because we consist of members of our community across the country. It is not necessarily bad because I mt so many amazing brothers with great leaders and I was excited to see so many on the same page as far as how to approach the topics and building wealth. In spaces where things were not addressed, we have a starting point. The contacts have been made, relationships being built an conversations taking place. I’d say it’s a step forward.
I met a lot of people along the way due to my desire to camp as much as possible. The cycling community has been very warm and welcoming to me. The people I met were full of great experiences and information. I learned how to find free campgrounds, which was good considering we were on an austerity budget. I met a young cyclist who showed me apps built to find free campgrounds and how to check the direction for an upcoming ride. They’d have more curated details of where to go because they were generally familiar with the area or roads due to experience. If they had just come from where you’re headed, they could tell you if a road was inaccessible or the best places to stop, whereas a map or google may miss it. Our first campgrounds was Kampgrounds of America (KOA). KOA is a franchise of campsites. They were inexpensive, offered clean, hotel-like amenities, at minimum, free coffee every morning, while some offered free continental breakfast. There were only two campgrounds we used that weren’t a part of this franchise and the experience was also great. They were small businesses so the owners would find a way to make room for us and one even waited after hours for us to arrive. Otherwise we stayed in hotels using Orbitz or the hotels tonight app and friends when we were fortunate enough to be near them.
I found another interesting community while camping, recreational vehicle owners. More people with more great stories and experiences. It’s a lifestyle. One that many were able to afford because they’d learned to build wealth through investments, pensions and home ownership. Some even retired early. A concept I was riding across the country to help promote and teach within our communities.
It didn’t take long for me to begin learning about how to become a more efficient cyclist. I had a support vehicle whereas others were alone. I relied heavily on google and others were tried and true roadmap users. I “glamped” versus camped with my air mattress and electronic devices. There’s only so much you can carry on a bicycle. It’s not bad, I just learned a better and more efficient way to bike for future reference.
The ride itself was difficult and disheartening in the beginning. Coming out of Los Angeles, as I had been forewarned, was difficult because I was biking up a mountain. It took days before I would bike the 100 miles in a day as I planned. I learned about different types of terrain and fluctuations in weather. I felt I’d burn under the sun and freeze under the night sky, but it was beautiful. Limited funds and space meant limited types of meals. I really had to plan in advance so I’d always have enough food, water and shelter. It was a lot of work but it was worth it. Here is when I realized why people liken life to physical journeys. You manage life in very much the same way as you manage a journey, you often learn as you go. I’m a better cyclist for it.
The turning point of the trip was visiting the site of Brown vs. Board of Education in Topeka, KS. There was so much history there but being inside of the actual elementary where children as young as kindergartners were forced into very negative adult situations created a different feeling, no museum could ever create. I began checking out more historical places along the way. I couldn’t believe the amount of information I learned about this country in the second half of the trip alone.
I learned a lot about cycling, camping, masonry, people, places, this country and myself on this trip. I would urge anyone with the opportunity and the ability, to travel the country by bicycle. The view and perspective are completely different than traveling by any other means. You may begin with one goal, as I did, but end up with another. Either way, you will be changed, I’d like to say, for the better.