After reaching our goal by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on August 1, a depression has settled into my life in the now-void where the 4K had been all summer. And once I finally admitted to myself that the trip was over, I was left with a mess of 4,000 miles and 63 days worth of memories. So in the few weeks since the 4K ended, I have spent much of my idle free time sorting through all the emotions and recollections. As they say, hindsight is always 20/20 vision; and in that vein all of the moments of tension or anxiety are fading from my memory and I’m left with only the most wonderful moments.
My favorite stretch of time on the trip was through Nebraska and Colorado, for a number of reasons, including but not limited to: the terrain, the scenery and the residents. The day into Yuma, CO from Benkelman, NE was one of the most enjoyable days on the trip. As we biked the leisurely 68.2 miles I had a moment of clarity about the trip and how what we do each day actually means something to the people we meet along the way.
Just after we crossed the state line, one of the van drivers set up a water stop at the Laird Community Center. Inside were two older women who were cleaning up from the previous day’s party. They explained that this building had once been a one-room country schoolhouse and then expanded over time to become a kindergarten-12th grade school; a school which all their siblings attended and at which one of their husbands taught! They had tons of leftover food which they didn’t know what to do with… until we showed up on their doorstep, that is. The women fed us and chatted with us about their old school and our journey. As they showed us old yearbook pictures from the school, they pointed out their family members who had battled cancer and how personal our cause was to their family and community. They were so touched by what we did, they wanted to know how they could sign up to become hosts for next year’s 4K. We helped them clean up from the reunion and from the mess we made before saying our goodbyes and heading off on our way to Yuma. The rest of the ride was fun, but unremarkable – just the usual biking and chatting amongst my group members. Later that night, the same two women showed up at the First Presbyterian Church in Yuma during our dinner with gifts of hats from their reunion for all of us. They wanted to give back something (as if feeding us hadn’t been enough!) to us for what we were doing, and also to share a memento so we would remember their community.
It seems, as with most events on the 4K, to be serendipity which made our paths cross with these two women. They were unsure what to do with bountiful leftovers and tables to be moved – neither of which they could handle on their own – and it was at that moment that we knocked on their door. Our ride meant something to these women, and they were pleased just to have met us along the way and to share their stories with us. And, for the record, many of us wore the gifted Laird hats on a daily basis for the remainder of the trip!