I am now in Michigan well over halfway across the United States on my cross-country kNOw THEM America Bicycle Trip. I knew that this trip would be a physical challenge and accomplishment, and a “bucket list” dream, but it has also been an incredible “spiritual journey” for me. There is nothing like 6-10 hours a day of primarily solo bike riding as a moving meditation to really center and find yourself. Initially I was somewhat concerned about potential loneliness, boredom, and safety, but this time alone ended up being a huge gift. At first I filled my time with future planning, but once I thought through possible current and future projects, I ‘naturally’ entered a calmer state and began deeper reflection around purpose, meaning, and relationships. I found myself doing a lot less worrying, planning, and judging, and was more a human ‘being’ from a place of gratitude, curiosity, flow, and discernment.
I mentioned earlier that I had the opportunity to discover and experience my intense fear of heights (bridges, trucks, steep downhills, crosswinds, etc.) and some of the efforts I was making to address it. I definitely took those efforts to the next level with three consecutive skydiving jumps out of an airplane at 13,000 feet over July 4th Weekend in Fargo. After having to watch the strongest waiver video ever, I experienced the greatest terror I ever felt stepping out of that plane. The shift to a calm and near-exhilarated state after the parachute released was amazing. I even made the Fargo nightly news (July 4th must have been a slow news day). Sure enough, after jumping from an airplane, a bridge 100 feet over the Mississippi doesn’t feel too intimidating.
My favorite experiences of the trip have been in the “nothing out there” areas of Montana and North Dakota, especially spending time in towns with extremely small populations. I’ve enjoyed meals in bars, diners, and senior centers and really getting to know THEM. I’ve met many ranchers and farmers, most of whom are descendants of homesteaders, who are far more politically conservative than I am but wonderful people to spend time with. I had expected to find a wariness of outsiders, particularly an East Coast urban liberal and everything that goes with THEM from their perspective. Instead of being immediately dismissed, I found that everyone was warm, welcoming, and open.
I am continuing to update Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as well as a master map of my travels on dicksimon.com. In addition, I’ve created a new website with all the images and writings from my kNOw THEM America Bicycle Trip. I’ve included my journal notes and more detailed information on my travels (maps, mileage, etc.). Please take a look and let me know your thoughts!
Hope you are having a great summer.