Chance Meetings On Journeys

Whether you ride a bicycle or not, the story below is a perfect discovery in the final days of 2020. It was published in March and presumably Kim Cross wrote most of it prior to the pandemic becoming a focal point of life for most people in the world. It is a reminder of the randomness that comes with nomadic life, in my case best exemplified by a chance encounter at an airport in 1983. It is also a reminder of a bicycle journey Amie and I took in 1988, prior to my starting graduate school, which is a welcome reminder considering the stationary nature of our lives since March.

We were completely inexperienced at distance riding, but going from Missoula, Montana to Jasper, Alberta still seemed like a good idea at the time.  And it was. The first couple hundred miles, until we got to Going-To-The-Sun Road, were strenuous but not beyond our capacity. Then, that road made us wonder if we had made a huge mistake. Somehow we made it to the top, with the cheering support of the group we were riding with, all experienced distance riders.

The next 500 miles included plenty of other challenges, including headwinds so strong at the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park that we pedaled harder downhill than we had going uphill at Going-To-The-Sun. The support we got from, and brief friendships we made with total strangers on the journey is the reason why Kim Cross’s article resonates. Whether you have lived a nomadic life, or wish you had or could, this story is full of reasons to read. Or just look at the pictures and let your imagination ride:

What Happens When Two Strangers Trust the Rides of Their Lives to the Magic of the Universe

LEON HAD BEEN RIDING WEST FOR 309 DAYS. NOEL HAD HEADED EAST FOR 176. THEIR MEETING IN THE DESERT WAS A SMALL MIRACLE.

Once upon a road in Kazakhstan, two men converge in the desert. Strangers born an ocean apart, riding bicycles burdened like camels, they emerge from either horizon, slowly approaching a common point. Day by day, hour after hour, they make their way through a land as flat and featureless as a page without words. Thousands of miles spool out behind them. Thousands more lie ahead.

One rides east. The other, west.

For months now, each has been pedaling, alone, through sun, wind, rain, and snow, climbing mountains, crossing plains, and loading his bike onto boats to float across minor seas. Now, on a Sunday morning in August, they soldier down an unpaved Soviet road that never seems to bend. The only sound is tires crunching on gravel and, now and then, the lonely roar of a truck hurrying between two somewheres.

The earth spins. The sun rises. Long shadows shrink into puddles of shade beneath their spinning wheels. From dawn to dusk, in every direction, the landscape looks the same.

The only thing that changes is the angle of the sun.

Then, through the shimmering heat, a blur appears on their common horizon and gradually comes into focus: a simple white box of a building on the edge of the dusty road. Next to it, a metal shipping container marked by a hand-painted word, шaихaнa. Translation: chaikhana, a teahouse, where travelers can find water, food, and shade. The nearest city, on the Caspian Sea, is 235 miles away.

Here, under a noon Kazak sun, two sagas, by chance, eclipse.

The American is six feet tall, 200 pounds, smiling through the scraggly beard of a traveler who hasn’t seen a shower in days. He is 27 years old…

Read the whole article here.

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