Wow, what a great response I’ve had, all over social media, for my last post about my route! It’s been wonderful to connect with so many like-minded people all around the US and Canada, many of whom have offered me lodging or meetups when I reach their areas. I’ve also done some Zoom calls with some of you about your wonderful ideas and projects. (If you’re reading this and you feel drawn to a Zoom or phone call to talk about yourdreams or projects, please comment or use the green “contact” button above to schedule something!)
My newest step forward on this journey, which I’m excited to share with you all, is that I just finalized my Servas.org membership. I love talking to anyone who will listen about Servas, because I find that very few people seem to know about it, and it is an absolute gem of an organization. It’s a global peacebuilding nonprofit, founded in 1949 in the wake of a horribly destructive world war, and run entirely by volunteers who support its mission. I first learned about it a little over a year ago, from a friend who had had a great experience with Servas hosts when she was a traveler, moving to Oregon from the Midwest many years ago.
Servas is similar to couchsurfing.com in that it is a way for travelers and hosts to find each other and connect. It differs in that it is a nonprofit organization, and explicitly aiming to foster deeper human connection. Therefore, joining is a bit of a process: you submit a letter of introduction, which is reviewed by Servas volunteers. You answer several questions—such as whether you wish to join as a traveler, a host, or both—and fill out an online application. Then you do an in-person interview with a local Servas volunteer in your area (or, in the era of COVID, a video interview) and then you pay your annual dues. As a traveler, I paid $98.
Once you join, you gain access to connect with more than 12,000 other members worldwide. (About 1000 of these are in the US, and another 300 in Canada.) When travelers and hosts connect, the “standard” stay is two nights, which is perfect for my intentions. During that time, travelers and hosts share at least two meals, and engage in meaningful conversations, with the underlying belief that connecting meaningfully with strangers all around the world can lead us to greater intercultural understanding and, ultimately, a peaceful world.
This vision—and this way of moving toward it—is 100% aligned with my personal vision, and more specifically, my vision for this bike journey!
Between Servas, Warmshowers.org, couchsurfing.com, friends, family, and friends of friends, I’m so excited for all the amazing personal connections I will be able to make on this journey. I’m honored to do whatever I can to support each host in bringing about their ideas and visions for themselves and the greater good.
If Servas appeals to you, as a traveler or host, please take a look and consider joining!
To schedule a one-hour session with me to talk about your dreams or projects, use the green “contact” button above!
To be notified of future blog posts, use the green “sign up” button to subscribe
If you support my vision, I also welcome financial support to keep it sustainable! I am seeking to manifest $50,000 in lieu of a “salary” for the year of this journey. You can make a one-time or monthly contribution, or even become a fairy godfunder (thank you to all my patrons and supporters!)
I’ve always resonated with the concept of a “broker.” Even though this concept often exists within fields that don’t resonate with me, such as the stock market or the insurance industry, I find the idea itself appealing. An insurance broker once helped me to find a good health insurance plan for myself. Real estate brokers help suitable buyers and sellers to interact in mutually beneficial ways. A broker is someone who learns thoroughly a complex field that an average person can’t be expected to understand… and then helps the average person to navigate that field. Ideally, everyone benefits within this model.
Of course, I have never “fit” within conventional models of pretty much anything, so my current take on brokerage is different.
What I am envisioning right now is that I would like to serve as a broker between people who have great ideas and projects, and great drive (and often great expertise) but who lack the funding to bring these ideas and projects to fruition within our existing economic and social structures… and people who have plentiful financial resources and want to support such people and their projects. (I have written about such “fairy godfunders” before, and I expect I will continue to do so.)
As regular readers will know, I am seeking one or more fairy godfunders to underwrite my work as someone who will travel the nation by bicycle, offering emotional and strategic support to people with great ideas and projects to make the world a better place. My intention is to manifest $50,000 by July 1st, so that I can take this trip for a year, from September 2021 to September 2022. (If you are reading this and you know someone who might want to “godfund” this for me, please feel free to put us in touch!)
But I don’t want this only for myself. As I have written before, there are many, many people who are extremely hardworking, intelligent, and creative thinkers, but whose ideas and work to make the world a better place are not easily funded via conventional means. I want to help these people to do the work they want to do, which will benefit countless people (arguably, all of us, collectively, in some way.) I know that there also exist many people of means who would like to help these folks, and would like to do so in a very simple way, such as writing a check to a trusted individual, rather than going through an established nonprofit, for example. (Nonprofits are wonderful, but for a person with a great idea, they take an often-insurmountable amount of time and effort to set up, and the person’s time and energy could be better spent actually doing the work they would like to do. In fact, the prospect of setting up a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is such a barrier for some folks that it overwhelms their ability to simply do the work, from which we could all benefit.)
I envision myself working discreetly, since I expect many fairy godfunders would prefer to remain anonymous. Therefore, I am currently envisioning/working toward a praxis in which I identify a cadre of such funders, while keeping their identities under wraps. Meanwhile, I am holding “magical meetings” with as many people as possible—people who have ideas and projects they are either just discovering for themselves, or on which they have been working for years. I am thrilled to be able to already be doing this powerful work—around the globe—before I even hop on my bike for my tour, but I expect that when I do get on the bike, I will meet even more such folks. I want to be prepared to help them financially, if and where appropriate. (I’ve been taking some inspiration from Leon Logothetis and his “Kindness Diaries” series.)
So… consider this post a combination of food for thought/conversation starter, and a direct request for contact with folks who might wish to participate in my vision as fairy godfunders for myself and/or others. Anyone interested may contact me at email@example.com, and I promise to keep identities private unless the person wishes otherwise.
I just placed my order for this amazing bike trailer, designed specifically for the Brompton by a company in the Netherlands (where they know a thing or two about cycling.) I saw the promotional video a few months ago, and couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Mind you, I’ve never biked with a trailer before. Not once.
I know I will end up loving this, but I’m a little nervous about how I’ll feel when it actually arrives and I need to put it together, and then use it!
This is such a tangible way for me to continue committing to this journey I’ve started. Part of me had thought, Why don’t I wait until later to get the trailer? What’s the rush? I don’t want to jump the gun.
It was fear.
“What if I later decide I needed that money?”
“What if something comes up to thwart the trip? I will have wasted the money!”
“Can I be the kind of person who has a bike trailer??”
And… as I’ve written before, these days I am choosing to allow my decisions to be guided by inspiration and trust, not fear.
The stimulus was the perfect nudge.
Meanwhile, I have been jumping into doing the interpersonal work that is every bit as much an essential part of this trip as bicycling equipment.
I’ve done 27 2021-intention-setting sessions since December 21st, which is more than one per day on average. I have loved every minute of it, and based on the feedback I’ve been receiving, so have the people I’ve been talking with. People are setting many different intentions for this year, but I’m loving some of the themes and overlaps I’m noticing, and I’ve also been enjoying connecting people with resources to support their dreams where I can. In some cases, this has included introducing some of these folks to each other, where their interests overlap.
This is what the trip is about. And the more sessions I do, the more powerful the network will become, to the benefit of everyone. I intend to continue doing this work from now through the end of the tour, and probably beyond. It’s not even just in the US, either: I’ve done one session with someone in Canada, and have scheduled another with someone in Australia.
I would love to do sessions with people in all US states (especially the ones I’ll be traveling through!) as well as countries around the world. How much of an impact can we all make, individually and collectively? There is so much important and beautiful work to be done to make this world a better place.
I continue to offer these sessions free of charge, with optional donations or trades welcomed but not at all expected. I believe this work needs to happen, and I love to do it, and I trust the money will work itself out.
Do you have dreams for the coming year? Would you like one of these sessions? Comment or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a one-hour phone call or video chat.
Would you like to support my efforts financially? I’m accepting one-time donations via PayPal (you can send it straight to the above email address) or monthly support at www.patreon.com/dreamintochange. My aim is to manifest $50,000, via various sources, for the year I’ll be on the road. (If you happen to know any fairy godfunders, please feel free to put them in touch!)
I’ll keep you updated on the bike trailer when it arrives. Meanwhile, I hope your dreams are unfolding joyfully in this tumultuous world. We need the forward momentum of our dreams more than ever at a time like this.
I don’t think I can—nor do I even want to—say anything about 2020 that hasn’t already been said… but WOW, did I grow a lot through all of the pain and challenges I faced. I hope you all found growth in your own pain and challenges as well. 2021 feels like turning the page of a brand-new journal, getting ready to write all kinds of magical new stories, using alchemy to transmute the pain of the past year into something beautiful.
On December 21—fittingly, the winter solstice—I began diving head first into offering what I want to continually offer to the world from now at least until the end of my yearlong bike tour, and quite possibly for the rest of my life. Between the 21st and the 31st, I have held 17 one-on-one phone or video chat sessions with folks both known and unknown to me, to reflect on their past year and set intentions for the new year.
It has been amazingly rich, as I knew it would be. People are incredibly resilient and creative. And the power of simply holding supportive space for people to talk for an hour never ceases to amaze me. Many of these sessions started with people who were exhausted and/or in deep pain from the events of the past year, and/or their difficult current life circumstances, beyond their control. And yet, almost without exception, by the end of the hour they were feeling inspired and joyful, with dreams beginning to coalesce for the coming year. One person said, “Now I have a compass,” and I loved it! We all need a compass. We all need dreams. No matter our current circumstances, we need something beautiful, larger than ourselves, to move toward and light us up when day-to-day life is painful or tedious.
Dreaming up this bike tour has absolutely served that purpose for me. After many painful setbacks in 2020—from a flood in January that displaced me from my home for three months, to the abrupt ending of a wonderful seven-year romantic partnership, to fears of losing my health and/or income from a terrifying and powerful global pandemic—this dream rose from those setbacks. If not for the “openings” represented by the “closings,” this dream could not have come forth.
And it has transformed my day-to-day mental and emotional state from one of turmoil, pain, anger, and fear to one of excitement, empowerment, and joy. Of course I still have day-to-day emotional setbacks, but now that I have this “compass”—this beacon—it all fits within a very different context.
I will sign off here, lest I write too much. (I fear I did so in my last post.) I intend that I write shorter pieces here, more frequently. I love keeping in touch with you all. I feel joyful, humbled, and deeply grateful to my new patrons—I have five now! Yay! Thank you all so much!—and I am joyfully trusting that this will continue to grow, as my momentum grows.
I intend to write more about people’s dreams (with their permission, of course, and perhaps withholding names in some cases) because I believe that dreams shared become more powerful: they manifest much more quickly for the dreamer, and also inspire others to bring forth dreams of their own. I also intend to share more of the wisdom I glean from talking to people. I have begun noticing themes and trends, and I believe that these can be powerful to share with my readers as well.
I have several more intentions sessions lined up for the next week, and I am actively seeking more for January, so if you would like to schedule a time with me, contact me at email@example.com. Payment/donation for these sessions is optional, and if you do choose to offer it, it can take many creative forms. Right now my top priority is connecting with people for these sessions, regardless of compensation. I trust that the material abundance will find me, probably in mysterious and magical ways.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey. Here’s to an incredible new year for all of us!
Another great phone conversation with a far-flung friend deepened my thinking on these matters. This friend, in her late 30s, is someone whose intellect, knowledge, and heart-centered wisdom I deeply respect. She has tremendous gifts to offer the world by combining her heart and mind to serve others. She has specific visions for how she would like to do this.
And yet, on a day-to-day basis, she spends her physical and mental energy toiling in obscurity in an office, barely keeping her head above water, in order to pay her living expenses and significant student loans.
The world is worse off as a result of this, not to mention my friend herself, who could be personally thriving if she could give her gifts in a way that would also cover her living expenses.
After the phone call, I thought of many more friends in similar situations. I know many people who are gifted healers, artists, and other kinds of creators, but who do not have the ability to sustain themselves via these gifts to the world. I place myself in this category, as I earn my keep at an administrative day job while wishing I could be “changing the world” with a much higher percentage of my time and energy.
There are deep structural, economic, and cultural roots to this problem, and there is no quick or easy solution. Tax reform, student-loan reform, and healthcare reform would all go a long way toward alleviating the financial pressure so many Americans live under on a daily basis. But those things will take time, and they will not completely solve the problem I see, which is that in our cultural/economic system in the USA, we have “externalized” the costs of human wellbeing. Of human thriving.
I thought again about how so many healers and artists struggle to “market” ourselves, to “sell” our goods and services. Doing so feels icky; it feels antithetical to what we are offering to the world, because it seems base and self-serving, even though everyone agrees we need to have money to survive in society.
But then I also took this line of thought a step further: it feels icky to me that, as a society, we expect people who need healing of any kind—medical, mental-health, emotional, spiritual—to pay for this healing themselves. In an optimal society that I can envision, people who need any kind of healing should be able to receive it for free. Of course, in most industrialized countries, this is already the case, at least for medical issues. But not in the US. Not today.
What I envision is a society-wide decoupling of the costs of healing work from the “transaction” between healer and client or patient. Tax reform could play a large role in a long-term solution.
In the short term, though, I keep thinking of the enormous disparities of wealth in the USA. I know many people like myself, who feel reasonably financially comfortable only if we work at jobs that do not feed our souls, and often do not truly benefit the larger community. I also know many people who are not financially comfortable at all. They have no retirement savings, and sometimes struggle to pay their basic shelter, food, and medical expenses. Meanwhile, in May of this year, CNBC.com reported that there are 630 billionaires in the United States, while other sources report approximately 18.6 million millionaires nationwide.
I recently read about Chuck Feeney, an 89-year-old man who gave away more than $8 billion of his personal fortune between 1982 and 2020, leaving himself with just a “nest egg” to last him comfortably until the end of his life. He gave to schools and nonprofits, much like many other wealthy individuals such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. I admire such philanthropy.
And here is my suspicion, based on my own tenuous but growing trust in magic, and also my community ties to many people in the Burning Man world: There exists a small but significant group of people with personal wealth over, say, $1 million, who would derive meaningful pleasure from sharing some amount of their wealth that is relatively insignificant to them, but would be very meaningful to someone like me or many of my creative or healer friends who want to give to the world. Say, $50,000.
I would like to find someone like this. Or perhaps two or three. A “fairy godfunder,” if you will. In fairy tales, we understand fairy godmothers to be benevolent beings who give from their own abundance to help those who could benefit from their help. They trust that by helping their protégés in material and/or spiritual ways, the world becomes a better place.
Most of us have heard about “angel investors” who provide startup capital for risky business ventures, hoping that some of these startups will succeed and pay off financially for them. My idea is similar, but I envision funders who are not motivated by the prospect of further increasing their own wealth, but rather by the opportunity to use their own resources to make a positive change for individuals and the collective.
Chuck Feeney, the billionaire philanthropist, wrote, “I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living—to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.”
And… of course I don’t just want this funding for myself, although the spark to think about it came from thinking that if I were to receive a “godfunder” check for $50,000, I could stop worrying about money and simply start planning my trip, as well as immediately offering free empathy and coaching sessions to anyone who felt like a good fit for me to work with for a win-win outcome.
One possible vision is a platform that would fall conceptually somewhere between Patreon, Kiva, Kickstarter, and GoFundMe, but would be aimed less at crowdfunding and more at larger, one-on-one (or perhaps 2- or 3-on one) sponsorships, allowing healers and creatives to spend less time and energy on fundraising, and allowing more meaningful relationships between the “godfunder” and funding recipient. Startups and tech are not my thing, but it seems to me that setting up such a platform might be another great use for perhaps $50K from a funder who could be paired with someone who has the skills and desire to build such a platform.
And if I could find a handful of such potential godfunders, I could end up connecting them with various people I meet in the course of my trip. People who have great ideas for projects, but would need funding to get started.
There could be various kinds of accountability built in, of course, such as an agreement for a total annual “grant” of money, but an arrangement for monthly disbursal, based on mutually agreed-upon benchmarks of forward movement in the project. Such accountability is one reason many funders prefer to give to established organizations such as 501(c)(3) nonprofits… but taking the time and energy to start such a nonprofit (or even to locate and secure an “umbrella” organization to receive and disburse the funds) is yet another potentially overwhelming layer of work and bureaucracy for a healer or creative to take on, when their optimal use of time and energy for the greater benefit would be to simply use their own skills to uplift others.
I trust that there are such potential funders out there, who appreciate such efficient, direct, and out-of-the-box ideas for turning their “money that is wanting to be spent” into a win-win-win scenario for themselves, their funding recipients, and the greater good.
Today is my 48th birthday, and it occurred to me with a chuckle how appropriate that is, given that within the year I hope to begin circumnavigating the “lower 48” under my own power.
More importantly, of course, as of yesterday our country has struck a blow against fascism, and although the amount of political, social, and cultural work remaining to be done feels nearly overwhelming, this is something monumental to celebrate. And I do.
Having acknowledged these two personal and collective milestones, I want to share a bit of an epiphany I had yesterday about my vision for my trip—and indeed, about life itself—after a wonderful phone conversation with someone I encountered recently on Facebook.
Sara Eden and I spoke about both of our career/life paths, and it was an enriching conversation.
At the very end, she said this about my goal to raise between $35,000 and $50,000 to fund my year-long trip:
“I hope the money that’s wanting to be spent finds you.”
What a profound statement.
What a mind shift.
“…the money that’s wanting to be spent…”
After we hung up the phone, I spent about 20 minutes allowing my mind and heart to marinate in, and free-associate with, that statement.
One of the first things that came to mind was a sense of abundance vs. scarcity. I thought about how money is something that I have traditionally thought of as scarce, and that “asking for money”—even in terms of marketing my genuinely valuable services to prospective clients—has felt scary and painful.
I further reflected that my “day job” of the past 17 years has involved accounts-receivable work, in which I have to “hunt down” unpaid and delinquent bills, using postal mail, email, and phone calls to recover the money our company is owed by customers. I have grown very accustomed to this work, but at first I found it so unpleasant and frustrating that I wrote a humorous, blowing-off-steam “template letter” to these various customers (which of course I never sent, but my coworkers and I got a needed laugh from it) and the one phrase that still sticks in my mind from that letter was, “It’s like frickin’ pulling teeth to get you to pay these bills!”
What a visual. It conjures how painful it feels to ask for money, or for me to imagine someone “giving up” their money, even to my employer from whom they did take merchandise with an agreement to pay for it within 30 days.
And then I found myself laughing out loud at that phrase: “pulling teeth.” I literally met with an oral surgeon this past week, to discuss doing exactly that in my own mouth. My own body. Physically removing all of my lower teeth—to replace them with hopefully more secure false ones—probably within the next few months.
Losing my teeth was a theme of recurring nightmares for most of my life. But now that it’s really happening… maybe it’s not so bad? It’s just a part of my life story. So, how funny to see this as a metaphor: maybe my asking for money—and maybe others’ giving or trading that money toward me—needn’t be painful or difficult.
What if it could be beautiful? Joyful?
“… the money that’s wanting to be spent…”
Next, I flashed back to my high school physics class, where I learned about potential vs. kinetic energy. Potential energy is that which is “stored up,” such as a book sitting on a high shelf. Kinetic energy is energy in motion, such as when gravity impels the book to fall to the floor.
What if money is a form of energy? (I believe it is.)
In that case, the money that is “wanting to be spent” is potential energy, existing within the hearts and minds of those whose money sits in their bank accounts, waiting to be transformed into the kinetic energy of a bike trip with a world-changing purpose.
This line of thinking spurred a visual. (I love visuals!)
I pictured myself standing in the middle of the continental US, or perhaps on an imaginary map of it. I stood with confidence and joy, which filled my body and began a dance. I extended my arms as if to receive, and looked joyfully around in all directions as I danced in a fluid expression of all that I wish for this bike tour to be.
As I did so, colorful dollar bills were magnetically drawn to me from all around the United States, like floating autumn leaves. (It brought an even bigger smile to my face to enjoy the fact that our bills do now come in various vibrant pastel shades, rather than the staid green they all wore in my youth.) The money was being drawn toward me by the beauty and resonance of my dance, my purposeful vision. Like November leaves, they floated effortlessly, joyfully toward me on the breeze, and joined me in the dance.
I flashed forward several months, and these vibrant “leaves” of financial abundance were now fluttering all around me as I piloted the picturesque Brompton along the roads and trails of this country, surrounded by ever-changing natural beauty.
I am now in this dance. I am trusting that the money that is wanting to be spent will indeed find me.
Sara Eden suggested a few nonprofits that might be interested in granting me some of this money. I will follow up on these leads. I’m also dreaming up ways to offer my empathy and coaching services in ways that will be a win-win for this trip. As time goes on, I will make more of a push to encourage people to sign up for my Patreon. (If you find yourself inspired to do so now, I welcome it!) I’m also open to the idea of meeting just the right individual benefactors/philanthropists who have this “potential energy” money in abundance, and would find it joyful to transform it into something kinetic by supporting my trip. Really, I would like to find a variety of sources of funding. I wish for this journey to be a wide-ranging, community effort, with community benefit. But rather than seeing “raising the money” as a painful, shameful, awkward, or insurmountable chore, I will now view it as a joyful dance from which everyone benefits.
Thursday was another beautiful summer-like day, and I wanted to make the most of it. After I got off work around 4:30, I spontaneously decided to check out a new all-vegetarian Ethiopian food cart I had heard about. Google Maps told me it would take about an hour to bike there. I thought, Sounds perfect! Having had a late Clif bar instead of lunch, I trusted that my appetite would be perfect by 5:30. The route was pretty much a straight shot, and pretty flat. I would be done with dinner by about 6:15, and should even be able to get home with some light left in the sky.
I wasn’t on the Brompton; my daily commuter bike remains my beloved red 1979 Free Spirit.
I enjoyed the ride to the cart pod, and savored my kik alicha at a picnic table in perfect weather. My (pre-sanitized) hands got pretty messy with the meal, but I knew I could wash them at home, about seven miles away.
I threw away my dinner trash and put on my helmet. But as I began to roll the bike, I noticed the chain had come off.
In the 24 years I’ve had that bike, this has happened probably only five or six times. It never occurs to me to worry about it. Partly for this reason—and partly because I’m just lazy and hate doing bike repairs, and partly because for the past two years I have been paying for bike roadside assistance through Better World Club—I haven’t bothered to carry any tools with me. And, as I soon noticed with dismay, even the grease-covered rag I normally carry in my backpack in case of such events had been removed in preparation for my North Carolina trip, and I had not yet replaced it. So, my stash of paper napkins was the extent of my bike-repair preparedness.
I sighed, and hoped I could easily put the chain back on with my hands.
Nope. (But now my hands were filthy.)
It was thoroughly jammed. Only once before had I encountered this problem so badly, about ten years ago. I was at my workplace at the time, and two coworkers helped me and struggled with it until they finally righted it.
Those two were nowhere to be seen at the cart pod. I looked around to see if there was someone I could ask for help, or to borrow a tool. I felt embarrassed. Vulnerable. Stupid for being so unprepared. In pre-COVID times, I would have thought nothing of simply walking the bike to a bus stop and making the (lengthy, two-bus) trip home that way. But these days I’m doing my best to avoid enclosed auto spaces.
My eyes fell on a father and daughter sitting at the next table over, waiting for their food. I stepped awkwardly toward them. (The pandemic makes every social interaction more fraught: I wanted to get close enough that the father could hear me through my mask, but not closer than six feet.) I asked if he had any sort of tool I could borrow, to put the chain back on. He said no, but that maybe he could help with his hands. I felt further chagrined as he interrupted his chat with his daughter to blacken and grease up his own hands, before concluding that he couldn’t get it to budge either. I thanked him for the effort, and decided to look up nearby bike shops. Could I find one still open?
Google Maps showed a dearth of such, but there did appear to be one a few miles away that claimed to offer mobile repair. Great! Who knows what I might shell out for this, but it was exactly what I needed. I called the number, but got a voicemail box. Dejected, I hung up. A few seconds later, I received a text:
“Thank you for contacting XYZ Bikes. Please send a text with your name and description of which bike or service you seek. Thanks!”
Hmmm… maybe this could still work?I sent a brief explanatory text, as well as a photo of the chain’s predicament and my location.
After about ten anxious minutes, I decided it was time to call Better World to redeem one of my two annual roadside-assistance service calls. Maybe this could be an important “trial run” for me, with very low stakes. Yes, actually, this was a good thing! I could get in some practice close to home, on a pleasant-weather evening with buses not too far if I needed them.
I needed to find a place to make the call, though. The cart pod was noisy: music on the loudspeakers mingled with the rush of traffic on the busy road, not to mention all the ambient conversation. I walked as far away from it all as I could, and looked up Better World Club on Google, grimacing as I realized that if I had a membership card or number, I didn’t have it on me. I found the phone number and called it.
What I heard in “answer” was an extremely jarring sound, which cranked up my existing tension by several notches.
I hadn’t known it was possible for a phone connection to sound like this in the 21st century. I flashed back to a 1999 quote by comedian Dave Barry: “What, exactly, is the Internet? Basically it is a global network exchanging digitized data in such a way that any computer, anywhere, that is equipped with a device called a ‘modem,’ can make a noise like a duck choking on a kazoo.”
The sound I was hearing through my iPhone could best be described as 90% kazoo-choking duck, plus 10% what sounded like a standard automated phone menu:
“Press 1 for…” I had turned up the volume as high as it would go, to try to compete with the cart pod sounds, and this static blaring into my ear was an assault on both my senses and my sanity.
Cranky, bewildered, and increasingly anxious, I wondered how to respond to this. I pressed a series of 1s, hoping to somehow reach a live operator. This had little apparent effect; the squealing static continued. I moved the phone away from my ear and glanced at the home screen, wondering if I should hang up and call back, or…?
I spotted a new text from Better World, an Arizona phone number: “Reply with your vehicle’s location in the following format: Street# StreetName, City, State or click the link to automatically locate you.”
I hastily clicked the link, and the squealing-static automated voice blessedly gave way to the call ringing to an actual person.
This person was not much help. She asked if I were sitting in the vehicle. I explained it was a bicycle, and she seemed to understand, but then asked several questions that indicated she thought I meant a motorcycle.
I was not enjoying this customer-service experience.
Eventually she transferred me to the “bicycle division.”
A woman with a Southern accent and matching slow-paced demeanor answered, assuring me that she was happy to be providing me service this evening. By this time I had burrowed myself behind a closed food cart, next to a building wall, to get as far away from the noise as possible. The daylight was quickly fading, and I was losing patience: All I needed was a tow. Why was this so complicated? Why did this agent seem completely unconcerned with the urgency of my predicament?
I strained to stay polite and explain that I needed a tow for my bicycle.
This seemed to please her, and she continued to speak slowly but enthusiastically: “Oh! This is my first experience with a bicycle issue. I may need to ask my supervisor for help.”
“OK.” [Really? Does no other bicyclist use this service?]
She asked the “make and model” of my bike. [Again, really? I knew that the only service they would provide would be to send a tow truck. How much detail did they need?] I explained that it was a Free Spirit, a Sears. I didn’t know the model; it was from 1979.
“OK… now wait… did you say 1979, or 1976?”
[Are you freaking kidding me???]
“Haha, OK, that’s what I thought you said. But I just wanted to make sure.”
The conversation continued along these lines for probably another ten minutes. At one point she read out loud from her list of “vehicle options,” wondering if my bike might qualify as a “recreational vehicle”? [Please, no, this is not an RV.] At another point, she happily assured me that she had found my location on the map: “Buckman Field!” No, I told her—struggling to un-grit my teeth—that was seven miles west. “Ohhh… haha, OK, the street number is 15700, not 1500!” [I’m glad one of us is enjoying this conversation, ma’am.]
Her last question was whether I would prefer to receive a text or a phone call from the towing company—once she could locate one—to let me know when to expect them.
“How about both, to be on the safe side?”
“OK, sounds good…”
We got off the phone at 7:15. It had been 45 minutes since I had discovered the problem with the chain.
I walked back to my bike and sat in the waning light. I watched the workers at the Ethiopian cart close up shop.
Argh. This had started out as such a pleasant evening. How long was this ordeal going to last?
And what if I were on the top of a mountain right now, in Southern Oregon, in the dark and the rain? Or how about the middle of the highway in New Mexico, miles away from any tow trucks, or possibly even cell service?
What on earth am I getting myself into here?
How can I rely on people to help if I need it?
I guess I really do need to brush up on my bike-repair skills.
7:30. I get an automated call from Better World, telling me that ABC towing company, in Vancouver, Washington, was going to respond to my call, “in 120 minutes.”
Two more hours?
I mentally repeated the above hypothetical scenarios. If Portland, Oregon can’t produce bike roadside assistance faster than three hours, what hope do I have elsewhere?
I thought, There is no way I’m sitting in this nearly empty food cart pod at the edge of town for another two hours. I’ll walk to the bus, and cancel the tow.
Right then, the Ethiopian cart guy who had taken my order approached and asked if I was OK, if there was something wrong with my bike. He offered me a ride home, on his way home from work, and I was touched and humbled by his generosity.
But this was clearly my problem, not his, and I did not want to sully his car with my greasy bike. I thanked him for the offer, and indicated I would take the bus.
I set out to walk the 14 blocks to the bus stop. The road was unpaved and potholed, and I thought with a chuckle, Well, I guess my bike tour’s adventures are already beginning!
I felt dejected. Morose. This experience had shaken the sense of security that I had allowed myself to feel after enrolling in the roadside-assistance plan.
Clearly, though, this was all surmountable. I hadn’t even left Portland and its city-bus range! The evening was warm, and dry. I had options.
And… I know that I will always have options. I will undoubtedly face much more difficult obstacles once I begin the tour. And, I will find some way around each one. It will be an adventure, and that means there will be lots of fun, plus some big challenges and difficult times.
People do this.
I can do this.
The gravel under my feet turned to pavement, and the level road gave way to a slight downhill. I thought, Hey, maybe I can’t pedal, but at least I can coast, eh? I hopped up on the saddle and rolled about half a block. I even tried pedaling for a second, just to feel how badly the chain was stuck.
And… the pedal seemed to work.
I pedaled again. The gears engaged.
This wasn’t possible. The chain was hopelessly jammed. Was I dreaming? Had this entire scenario been an elaborate anxiety nightmare?
I hopped off the bike just as I hit Burnside Street. Pulled onto the sidewalk, and examined the cassette.