Kim and I are currently on a 6+ week ride from Vermont to the west coast.  We’ve rented our house out to our neighbor’s kids, and we are without a home base until mid-August. So as I sit here writing this, we are in South Dakota staring at a long-distance view, including the Black Hills Needles and the back of the mountain that holds the Mount Rushmore memorial.  Life is definitely not stinking at the moment.

We’ve wandered this way from Vermont without any real route, just some looks at a map to give us an idea of how long we might want to ride each day.  There have been short riding days and long ones.  We’ve already ridden in lots of weather, with high heat and humidity, lots of wind, pelting rain, and thunder and lightning.  You get the picture.

It has been a terrific journey so far.  We’ve been only on “back roads” the entire time.  Interstate highways are a clear “no-no,” and we’ve already seen so many beautiful sights on deserted roads that it would be easy to become jaded.   But somehow, we always want to see more, and I’m sure we’ll see and experience much, much more as we travel.

The little things

But while all the scenery and twisty back roads, both paved and gravel, are a cornucopia of delight, we still manage to find things that make our travel even better.  In two and a half weeks, we’ve ridden more than halfway across the country.  We’ve got a little more than 4 more to get to the west coast and back to VT.

This wandering without a route has many advantages, including the ability to slow down and smell the roses.  And I don’t mean to stop to sniff some flowers.  I mean, we’re lucky enough to have the time to do more than just travel.  We already have had several experiences that have only added to the pleasure, and I’m happy to tell you a little about some of them.

Cool in the forest

Take, for example, an unplanned afternoon dirt road ride through a New York state forest.  It was a hot day, but for the several miles we traveled through the trees, a cool, moist breeze blew.  The green foliage surrounded us, cooling the air.  It was so cool and clean that you felt you could just drink it in.  There were no houses, no telephone poles, and no signs of civilization.  Just us and the dirt forest road.   Ahh…

As we made our way through Pennsylvania, we stopped for a night at a small B&B.  It was nothing fancy, but the owners were gracious and charming.  It was clear that they are proud of the surrounding land and gave us unsolicited suggestions on things to do or see.  And the following morning’s breakfast on the old home’s porch was the best part of our one-day stay.

A new family

One other family was staying at the B&B, and they were the treat tastier than the delicious breakfast meal.  There was a mom and dad along with twin 7-year-old girls.  Now while they were adorable, it’s their story that made this particular stay notable.  The little girls said that they were traveling with their new family to see their new home.  And they were overjoyed.

The little duo had been under foster care for most of their lives.  And this mom and dad had just adopted them. So they were enroute to their home as a new family.  The joy that the kids had was just something so touching; you’d truly have to be evil not to love them.  I was so caught up in their happiness, I failed to get a picture of the girls to share with you all.

Finding Superman

And then there’s the time we stumbled into the small Illinois town of just over 6,000 souls named Metropolis.  If the name Metropolis sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the place that Clark Kent plied his journalistic trade for the Daily Planet newspaper and where Superman appeared from now mostly extinct telephone booths.  So if you are a small Illinois town with little industry, what do you do?

little things

I thought Jim Croce said “you don’t pull on Superman’s cape!”

Well, of course, you seize on the town’s name and, in this case, build a Superman museum.  Actually, it is a single Metropolis resident with a huge Superman collection that built the museum.  But the rest of the town followed along, building a large statue of the “Man of Steel” right in the town square.  Not to be left out, there’s a smaller statute of Lois Lane a few blocks over.

As I slowly made my way through the museum, I was suddenly taken back to my childhood when I watched black and white Superman serials. I can still hear Daily Planet editor Perry White yelling at the trio of Kent, Lane, and Olson with his “Great Ceasar’s Ghost!” and “Don’t Call Me Chief” rants.  It is magical.

Unexpected gift

And probably the most amazing thing that we’ve experienced on this trip happened in another small town.  This time we were in Orange City, Iowa.  Strangely enough, its population is about the same as Metropolis’.  It was an uneventful evening, but the following morning is what made this day so special.

When we arrived at our bikes in the morning, I saw a piece of paper stuck into the bungie net attached to my top box.  It had some writing on it, but I couldn’t tell what it said.  When I pulled the piece of paper off, it simply said, “Thank You for Exploring,” and folded into the paper was a $10 bill.

little things

The note and the $10 bill attached by a stranger to my top box. (I unfolded it so you can read it.)

I was stunned, perhaps even a bit emotional.  If anyone says I shed a tear, I’ll deny it.  But I couldn’t believe it.  Apparently, someone had seen our out-of-state plates and the stickers from some of the many countries we’ve traveled to.  They’re on the bike only as mementos of our journeys.  But somehow, they struck a chord in someone, and they felt strongly enough to leave us a note encouraging us to continue to explore and $10 for a little extra gas.  I’m still at a loss for words on how this little thoughtfulness has touched both Kim and me.

So for us, it’s these little moments that make travel so special.  Sure bumping around in the forest or on BDR-like routes is awesome, but sometimes for us at least, these types of moments make our travels so much more worthwhile.

Tell us about your travels

If you’ve got some special stories to tell from your travels, we’d love to hear them.  Let us know what makes your rides special in the comments below.  Or better still, if you are in the area of Sturgis, South Dakota, on July 15th and 16th, stop by the Get On ADV festival and tell us in person.  Both Kim and I will be at the ADVRider welcome reception from 7:30 – 9:30 PM.  We’ve been sent 5 boxes of swag, including hats, shirts, neck gaiters, and of course, copies of our spectacular ADVRider coffee table magazine.

So please stop by and say hello and tell us what makes riding special to you.




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