It took 72 days to ride 3322 miles from Chino Hills, California to Saint Augustine, Florida. We crossed over 8 states, dipped our rear tire in the Pacific Ocean and then the front tire in the Atlantic Ocean, while we followed the coast of the Gulf of Mexico between Mississippi and Florida. We rode through deserts from California to Texas, climbed up a few mountain passes, shared the road with cars whizzing by at 80 miles per hour, were woken up by rumble strips in Mississippi and Alabama, and wondered if there were alligators lurking in every bayou we passed from Louisiana to Florida. We survived a bee sting and a scorpion sting. We spent a total of 28 days riding through Texas, the long way. We were chased by dogs throughout the South. We camped in freezing conditions in New Mexico and sweated through the 100% humidity of The South, as the temperature stayed in the upper 70s (Fahrenheit) overnight.
But the most memorable thing that I took away from our Southern Tier tour was the extraordinary level of kindness on the road. The kindness you only read about or witness behind a television or the big screen in theatres. In a time when our country’s rhetoric has been dictated by fear and anxiety, I can tell you that the world is a kind place.
There have been times when the kindness of the road took us by surprise and left us feeling grateful as each encounter renewed our faith in strangers. Here is a short story of one of these incidents.
Hungry in Aguila
It was a little before noon as we rolled into the small town of Aguila, Arizona. The only restaurant (so we thought) was closed for good and the only thing opened was a dilapidated looking gas station across the road. The day was a warm one as we logged 35 miles of desert sand and fields of cacti from Hope, Arizona on highway 60.
We caught up to our on-the-road companion, Taj, whom we met in Palo Verde, California a few days before. He was also looking for a place to have lunch. The options were looking really bleak as we wandered back and forth, passing the local library, debating whether or not we needed to dig into our emergency meal so soon in the trip.
As soon as we passed the library driveway, we were greeted by a rather large Hispanic gentleman waving us in. At first, we stood there, analyzing the situation.
What did he want from us?…
Should we run?…
Oh wait…he has a plate of food in his hand and smiling.
There’s another person there with him, a woman…
They’re preparing food…it smells like chicken!
We got closer and he offered us plates of barbecue chicken and asked us if we wanted “Coke” or “Agua” with his limited English. At first, we declined, not wanting to intrude, but his insistence and the aroma from the food convinced us that we should stay and enjoy this fortuitous meal from our host.
His name was Oscar and his wife, Lenora. They heated up tortillas and chicken that helped fuel the second half of the day for all 3 of us. We sat and ate in awe and thanked them profusely. I must have said thank you 20 different times in both English and Spanish. We must have looked really hungry (and desperate) walking pass their mobile home for them to open up to us.
Oscar was on his lunch break, so as soon as he finished his plate, he left to go back to work which was out in the nearby farm fields. Lenora stayed and made coffee and continued conversations with us. With her limited English and our very limited Spanish, we found out that they had adult children living in Mexico who they were supporting financially.
Before we left, we offered her some money for their kind gesture. At first, she refused to take the money and said that this was something she wanted to do because of her faith. It was our turn to not accept “no” for an answer and told her to give the money to her church if she didn’t want to take the money for herself. She finally took our donation and we left with our bellies full and our hearts filled with what I can only describe as unconditional love. Not the kind of love you have for a partner, but the love that goes beyond the color of our skins or the amount of money in our bank accounts. The kind of love that one human being can give to another without any reservations.
Can’t Believe It Happened To Us
This was the first random act of kindness we experienced in person. The kind that we only hear about from other bicycle tourists. This caught us all by surprise. I look back on that day and still can’t believe how fortunate we were in meeting Oscar and Lenora. That meal not only gave us something food and fuel to continue our day’s ride, but it gave us hope that the world is still a good place.
If you haven’t already watched it, here is the video blog from that day.
Have you experienced kindness like this in your own journey, whether on a bike or otherwise? If so, I’d like to hear about it in the comments below. I believe sharing stories like this with one another only supports the fact that most people are good. It will help us break through fear or skepticism of strangers to make this world a better place for all. If you like this story, please feel free to share with others.
Stay tuned for more stories of kindness on the Southern Tier.