Friday, September 05, 2008

winding road coffee

winding road coffee
Originally uploaded by rod lewis
August 17, 2008
To Home
429 miles (9,006)

When I woke up this morning, the dew was so heavy that everything was soaked. The insides of the tent were soaked with condensation, and it was cold. I certainly didn’t expect it. I’d chosen the route south through Chattanooga, and Atlanta because I’d miss most of the mountains, and I was seriously contemplating riding late into the night for an early arrival home. I knew I’d freeze out across the smokies. By the time I was 50 miles south of Nashville, it felt like I was back in Wyoming. So I found a campsite and gave up for the night.

This morning’s coffee cup shocked me. As I sat beneath the tree at my site, I looked at the cup, which read, “Winding Road Coffee – The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but isn’t the meandering road more fascinating?” You can laugh at me, but I feel those kinds of things as blessings of affirmation.

An hour’s ride this morning, put me in Chattanooga, where I pulled off for gas at apparently a pre-appointed place. Before I could finish pumping 2.5 gallons into my tank, I’d been approached by a homeless man. Actually, before I climbed back on my bike, I’d had conversations with 3 homeless men. All had different stories, but the most interesting, and the one that grabbed me most deeply, was a man who was released from prison 5 days ago. He’d served 7 years for stealing cars. We were headed to the same destination, but I hadn’t room on my bike for him. I gave him shuttle fare to Atlanta, and bid him godspeed and quick work. The other stories were only slightly less interesting.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say that I spent an hour at the Exxon station talking to homeless guys. The most amazing thing to me though, was that each one told me, “thanks for your time and for talking to me. I’m glad you didn’t run from me.” Honestly, each of their departing statements were barely paraphrases of that very sentiment. I got back on my bike with “Message in a Bottle” playing in my head.

“A hundred billion castaways, looking for a home.”

All this loneliness only strengthened my need to be home already. I rode south with a growing loneliness. I thought of nothing else, and a few miles into Georgia, I began to calculate miles, speed, and ETA. I determined to see Allison before she went to work, and was positive I could do it. When I stopped for gas just north of Atlanta, I realized that I’d crossed into the eastern time zone. I thought I’d done it last night, and that I wouldn’t lose an hour today. My hopes were dashed.
Further on, the hope returned as I started devising plans to see her. Finally, I realized I could redeem 20 minutes if I intercepted her on her way to work rather than getting home before she left. So in the end, I rode the 331 miles from Chattanooga with only short gas stops without even removing my helmet. It began to rain as I came into South Carolina, and I rode the 65 miles from the Savanna river to Columbia watching the rainbow I’d become so familiar with welcoming me home.
I actually got to downtown Columbia a full 15 minutes before she did and was waiting beside the street when she came by. During those 15 minutes of course, I met 3 more homeless guys. One guy from Miami, a guy from Columbia, and a fellow who had JUST gotten off a freight train from Illinois and was looking for the Salvation Army. I told him I was in Illinois yesterday, and gave him directions to Oliver Gospel Mission where he could get a change of clothes and a bed.

“Seems I’m not alone in being alone…”
“I’ll send an SOS to the world…”

When Allison came by she stopped for a kiss, and we lingered too long. I’m sure I made her late for work. I rode home, got the same from the kids, complete with welcome signs, Will making supper, and the whole enchilada, so to speak.