The kindness of strangers

Day 15: Layover in Berkeley

A day of rest, well earned and lazily spent. I cycle to a bike shop, buy a new Schwalbe Marathon Plus for my back wheel, then on to a bike coop to replace the tire and oil my chain.

I’m staying at Caroline’s place in Berkeley, which she so graciously made available even though she’s out East right now. I met Caroline in Bandon on my last tour, in October 2013 (above picture, right). She was traveling with 4 other San Franciscans, and we immediately fell into the Pacific Coast touring community, staying at the same campgrounds, all the way down to Arcata. Caroline is a writer, and invited me then to SF Litquake, a literary event happening the week before the Esalen retreat.

Her exceptional hospitality is a reminder of what I’ve been learning about the human condition, something I’d long suspected: the basic nature of people is to be generous, to share what we have. No clearer is this seen than in the online cycling tourist community, Here cyclists host each other, offering anywhere from tent space to full hostel experiences – bed, shower, food, transportation – all without recompense. The only expectation is that the generosity be returned in the future, to other cyclists. “Pay it forward” is the common phrase for this. I’ve only stayed with a couple Warm Showers hosts, but heard time and again from other cyclists how generosity is shared.

Kindness extends from so many others on the tour, the fellow travelers, curious onlookers, friends I visit along the way, new acquaintances waiting to be met. After all, what is a stranger, but a friend who has yet to be met? These contacts help warm the heart, from the chill of the long lonely miles. Lost in thought on many of my past tours, I’ve missed countless opportunities to connect and share. Something is different this time. I’m not feeling aimless, or displaced. My home is moving with me, for it rests in my heart, and in the friendships resumed, friendships yet to be made.

3 thoughts on “The kindness of strangers

  1. “After all, what is a stranger, but a friend who has yet to be met?” Ah, I like that! Today’s blog entry describes my favorite thing about touring — being able to witness the unbelievable generosity of complete strangers. I wish the generosity was more visible in everyday life, and I wonder why it is that sitting atop a bicycle saddle intensifies the generosity.

    1. I think it’s there in “normal” life too. Maybe I’m more open to receive, while touring, so I notice it more. Ask for it more. Something about the raw vulnerability of riding the roads on bicycle, sharing the “carriageways” (the Brit’s word for lanes) with metal and steel monstrosities. Perhaps in our meager stature we earn the pity of the passengers? Not all, for of course there is the occasional road-raging driver who roars his engine, honks the horn, threatens to muscle us off the road. Thankfully, those characters are few and far between. Courtesy, kindness, generosity all appear in ample measure. I am so grateful.

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