Yesterday I met Andrew. It was evident from the first second l laid eyes in him that he was different, even as we engaged in the same activity. Being as I am, I chatted him up at the first stoplight we shared. If he was from Canada. Yes, he was. Earlier he had passed me on a hill, not noteworthy in itself as it seems everybody passes me on the hills. Correction, everybody passes me on hills, but noteworthy because he was towering above me, was riding with sneakers and had four panniers strapped to his bike and a huge knapsack in his back; with a Canadian flag sewn onto it. Hence my question.
Where was he going, I asked? To JFK was the answer – this was in New Jersey on a popular biking route 9W. Mmm. Then after a pause: to fly to Madrid, across the Iberian Peninsula and then through Asia. Mmm. I figured he knew that there was a slight gap between Spain and Asia. I asked him how many miles he had already ridden: 5,000, from Vancouver. It was my turn to be silent for a moment while my brain scanned my inner map of North America looking for Vancouver and not finding it on the East coast. Dang. Of course, you don’t rack up 5,000 miles on the East coast unless you have a very, very rotten sense of direction. Even so, he must have made some detours (Google map, by bike from Vancouver to my house: 3,220 miles).
By now I’m riding next to him and peppering him with questions. Where is he staying in New York, does he know he needs to lock his bike and take all bags with him all the time, are his wheels and saddle bolted or quick release, when his he flying out, is he shipping the bike. I just can’t help myself – I see a logistical ‘challenge’ and I can’t resist but solve the puzzle. After I’ve scared the living hell out of poor Andrew who probably is debating if I’m godsend to warn him of all the evils that await him in New York, or if I am the evil itself, I’ve now switched gears on him and want to know if he’s doing this for charity (note to self: don’t do that). No: semi half-apologetically he says, I’m doing this just for me. Ok.
Is he blogging? No, he didn’t want to bring a laptop. I’m thinking, you don’t need a laptop to blog and just about manage to not share that thought with Andrew. Is he tweeting? No. I’m thinking: what a missed chance. Then I’m thinking: Nina, shut up. Then: how many more crazy people do we need to be able to follow doing crazy things? Who’s missing a chance here? This man is traveling by bike around the world for a year, after 5,000 miles and with 70 pds of luggage (yes, I asked) he’s still powering past me on the hills (just FYI, I had an easy time catching up on the straights – I just want to let it be known) and my conversation is probably not the weirdest he has had and certainly by no stretch of the imagination the weirdest he is about to have anywhere between Madrid and the Pacific. He’s completely unplugged and I’m guessing a millennial. Has no phone, no GPS, no laptop just a few maps, a camera and a dairy. How awesome is that? Argh, what a missed chance I’m still thinking. I wonder what he does for a living, why he’s doing this, what his background is.
By now I’ve offered to lead the way to the George Washington Bridge. I ditch him a few blocks early but make sure I find a new guide to make sure he makes it onto the ramp and then into the general direction of the Brooklyn Bridge. His map is of the East Coast of America and Manhattan is about as big as my thumb. We barely make out the GWB, that is he is, I’m not wearing my reading glasses while riding, I could be looking at a map Italy and not know the difference.
As we say our goodbyes we introduce ourselves and shake hands. I wish him luck on his adventure and think how cool it would have been to follow his journey on Twitter or a blog and to say: I rode for all of 5 miles with this dude. So maybe it is as well that Andrew is unplugged because I really just was sad for my missed opportunity to follow some one daring, different, maybe a bit crazy and other. No need to be sad for Andrew, he knows what he’s doing and how he wants it done. I just hope he makes it to JFK with bike and contents intact. And I wish for him to meet kind, supportive and generous people along the way – all the way till home.