July 12, 2015
When I was growing up, one of the favorite children’s books in our house was Old Mother West Wind by Thornton Burgess. The author was a conservationist, and his stories were filled with a love of nature, seen through the eyes and told through the voices of his anthropomorphic cast of characters, including Peter Rabbit, Jimmy Skunk, Little Joe Otter, Bobby Raccoon, and the eponymous Old Mother West Wind along with her Merry Little Breezes.
For the last two days, we’ve encountered Old Mother West Wind as we crossed the last of North Dakota and entered Montana. But I have to say she hasn’t been in anything like the bucolic mood I remember from Burgess’ beloved tales.
Yesterday, we rode 75 miles from Bismarck to Medora, ND, with 50-60 miles of that into a 10-15 mph headwind. Today, we had a shorter day of only 65 miles, but encountered a westerly wind up to 20 mph. Some of us were on the road by 5:00 am to mitigate the headwinds and to avoid the bulk of the heat (it was in the low nineties in Glendive, MT, our end point).
Needless to say that our daily mph average has slowed considerably the last two days. But we’ve seen some beautiful country, met some lovely people, and have been touched by random acts of generosity.
Yesterday, several of us ate lunch together in a cafe in Medora. When we got up to pay, the manager said, “Your bills have all been taken care of.”
Another customer had seen the BTUSFMS jerseys or T-shirts several of us were wearing, and arranged to pay for all our lunches. She’d been gone for 15 minutes before we knew what had happened, so we couldn’t thank her directly, but it was a gratifying and humbling gesture.
There have been many other moments like that. This afternoon, as a group of us sat in a diner having lunch, a woman came up with tears in her eyes and said, “Thank you for what you’re doing. My cousin has MS.”
It’s remarkable the number of people we’ve encountered who either have or know someone who has MS. That, coupled with the fact that we’re traveling by bicycle, has created countless spontaneous conversations and connections along the way.
Actually, the whole experience has been one not of making connections, but of being repeatedly reminded that we ARE connected. All of us traveling by our individual lights, sometimes facing into the wind, sometimes riding its tail, but ultimately arriving together.
Not a bad place to be…