On the first Saturday in August, I embark on an annual bike journey called Ride Idaho. Last weekend, I completed my 6th year with this group. During the typical week, several hundred people from all corners of the United States pedal 300-400 miles over a seven day period. We sleep in tents, eat like royals, and enjoy being pampered by the large volunteer staff. The trip feels like adult summer camp for avid cyclists.
I learn a valuable lesson or gain some insights every year. On my initial trip in 2008, I met a volunteer that seemed to be the happiest person I had ever met. Half way through the ride I asked him if he would share his story with me. Over a two hour period he told an amazing tale of his penniless life dedicated to serving other people. After the event, he was headed to Spain to walk 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago. I thought he was wacko. The seed was innocently planted for my future walk.
A few years later, I had the pleasure of meeting a spry lady named Ellen that happened to be 82 years old. With the exception of one ridiculously long hill, she rode the entire course. I had dinner with her one night and challenged her to give me some advice. I asked her to dig deep into her history, wait three days, and then give me one sentence that would improve my life. On the third day, she said, “Eliminate hate from every aspect of your life.”
Similar to a million steps on the Camino, this trip has vast quantities of wisdom accompanied by adversity. The challenge may be physical like a sore tendon or mental caused by a meaningless problem. No matter how much planning is done prior to the trip, there is always a logistical situation that seems to put a chink in the beautiful armor of this great journey. In previous years, I found myself leading the chorus of complainers about some trivial fault. It could be an aid station without water or campsite for 350 that only has space for 300.
Given my long walk through Spain, I decided to look past the bad parts of this trip and enjoy the sunny side of each day. On day one, the shuttle showed up an hour late to take us from the Spokane Airport to Coeur d’Alene. Instead of pacing and being irritated, I spent the extra hour with my pal Jose catching up on the past twelve months. At breakfast on day two, they ran out of food. Instead of whining, I found a new friend and we ate at a nearby eatery. Day three had an excruciating long wait for dinner at a local Italian joint. It gave me extra time to enjoy my friends. It turned out to be the source of great memories and boatloads of belly laughs.
The final evening was extraordinary. The sunset turned the white thunderclouds into gigantic pink blobs of cotton candy. We enjoyed a one-man band that played the hits from E. Clapton to E. John. A pig was roasted to accompany the luau theme for the night. Around 9:15, the main act pulled the plug and two riders, Hondo and Kevin, took over the dirt stage with an acoustic guitar and a harmonica. Lighting bolts literally danced on the distant horizon. There was not a drop of rain or a hint of wind. The crowd dwindled to about ten people and I was lucky to be sitting with my pals Jose and Patty. In between song, I requested Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. Without missing a beat, the notes flowed and Hondo’s soft voice sang my favorite song.
Someone was probably pissed about the noise……