In one of the posts, just prior to the beginning of our bike trip across the continent, I said our trip was something of a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage puts you in a place between things, neither here nor there, a place where the mundane things of life can be left behind and energy expended on reaching a goal which can be both physical and spiritual.
Pilgrims in ancient times would put all of their affairs in order before leaving, say farewell to loved ones they may never see again, and set off on journeys that could take many months, even years to complete. The modern pilgrimage is often not such an isolating experience. Modern technology keeps us in touch with loved ones back home, allows us to continue some level of employment, in some cases even monitor our homes. While we are disconnected physically, we are still connected through the web and radio waves, and phone lines.
This is not a bad thing, but it does change the sense of finality the ancients must have felt as they set off.
We have been very much connected to home cycling across the continent. Readers of this blog will have noticed references to the fact that my mother was diagnosed with serious illness very shortly after we began our ride. We have kept in close touch in terms of her situation and on Thursday, just before we reached the village of Thessalon, were advised we should come home.
The disappointment is very great although it is tempered with a sense of relief at being able to be near mom without always needing to work out how long it would take to get to the next major center, the next pathway home. We accomplished a lot. We travelled over 5000 kilometers, in five provinces and four U.S. states. all in fifty two days. We met a lot of great people, saw corners of the world most people never even drive through let alone stop in.
We have been blessed. Most people aren’t even able to take fifty two consecutive days off. The greatest blessing though were the angels we met along the way; the Warmshowers hosts who took strangers into their homes; the bike shop folks who dropped everything to keep us going; the strangers we met at rest stops who offered their homes and lawns to us for the night; the hundreds of people in cars and trucks and trains who honked and waved encouragement.As we tearfully changed out of our cycling gear into “civilian” clothes in the restaurant in Thessalon though, the real angels appeared. We were embraced by the people in that place, offered comfort, rides, and storage for our bike. We were given a car to drive by the people who were to have hosted us that evening, people we had never met before (relatives of a friend), a car we drove through the night to get to London early Friday morning. Even after arriving home offers of help continue to flow, angels continue to appear.
Mom has stabilized somewhat but for the next while anyway, our journey is going to parallel hers, we need to walk with her, my dad, and the rest of the family through the valley ahead of us. For now the other pilgrimage, the one on the bike, is put to the side.