June 28, 2015
Yesterday I flew from Seattle to Minneapolis. Today I joined up with the Northern Tier team for Bike The US For MS. They started in Bar Harbor, Maine, on their way to Seattle, and have been on the road for a month. I’ll be riding west with them for two weeks. We leave Minneapolis on Wednesday, and my journey will end in Malta, Montana, where my wife will meet me and drive us home.
For now, we’re spending three nights in a dorm on the campus of the University of Minnesota. It’s my first dorm room in 43 years (can that be right?!!).
Why am I joining them in Minneapolis and ending my trip in Montana when the group will end their much longer trip just ten miles west of where I live? Well, that’s an interesting story. When I decided to ride a segment of the Northern Tier with BTUSFMS, I figured I had enough vacation time to be on the road for two weeks. Originally, I was thinking I’d join them in Sand Point, Idaho, and ride to the end of the route, in Seattle. That would have been the easiest, logistically.
But I was born in Minnesota, and the thought of riding through my home state had a certain emotional appeal. So I checked the group’s itinerary to see where they’d be two weeks west of Minneapolis. That put them in Malta, Montana.
That sealed it. Because in 1915—100 years ago this year—my paternal grandmother got on a train in Minneapolis on her way to Malta to join one of her older brothers homesteading on the high plains of Montana. She was a 24-year-old single woman with a suitcase full of size 3 shoes and a full-length mirror. But she’d grown up on a farm, the fifth of fifteen children; she figured she could handle a homestead shack. She did too, staying four years and proving up on her claim.
So, I decided that my 1,000-mile cycling adventure would be a tribute to the 100th anniversary of her leap of faith. Retracing her straight-line journey across the Great Plains was a circle connecting us in a new way.
Staying at the University of Minnesota involves another circle of reconnection: My father graduated from the UM when he came home from World War II. As I walk the campus, I’m walking in his footsteps more than 65 years later.
Being at one’s place in the circle can be a constantly shifting, evolving, returning dance… It is, as Lao Tsu wrote in the Tao Te Ching: “In Tao, the only motion is returning.” My return to Minnesota has called me back into the circles of my ancestors in ways I couldn’t have scripted.