July 25th, 2013

Day 92

I’ve been stalling too long.  Just go for it already!  It should be so simple but I’m over-thinking it as I do so many things.  I pull over, shut off my engine and take my gloves and helmet off.  Should I carry my helmet in my hand, or is that weird.  I hang the helmet on my mirror and turn toward the house.

It’s quite a messy house from the outside but there is a car in the driveway so at least somebody is home.  I begin walking toward the house because if I stand out here too long and someone happens to be looking at me through the window, I’ll look weird.  I climb the steps to the porch and ring the doorbell.  I haven’t planned out exactly what words I’ll use, or else I’ll sound weird trying to recite a speech.

When I’m not sure if I’m nervous or not I have this habit of putting two fingers to my neck and feeling my pulse.  Often I think I’m not nervous but my pulse tells me otherwise.  My pulse is stronger than normal and a bit faster.  Dang it!  I’m nervous.  I hate that I’m nervous but its better to not kid myself.

I wait a minute and nobody comes to the door.  I feel relief and resentment.  I resent the fact that I feel relieved.  A part of me thinks, “well I tried and that’s that”.  I shut that part of me up as fast as I can and go on.

I drive to another house and try the same thing and once again nobody is home.  It’s 7:30pm on a thursday evening.  Where is everybody?  Third time’s a charm.  I ring the doorbell and hear footsteps, the door opens and it’s a 14 year-old boy.  I’m sort of taken aback because I was expecting an adult but go through with it anyway.

“Uh, good evening, um, I was wondering, um, I’m riding my motorcycle out there across the country and I was wondering if I could possibly pitch my tent on your lawn for the night?”

“Oh, well my mom doesn’t get home until later, I’ll ask her.”

I thank him and walk away with no intention of returning.  That would be weird to wait here for his mom to get home.  Well that’s not exactly a rejection, not so bad.  I at least got over the first big hump and it should be easier to ask from now on.  On to the next house…

Today is my first day back on the road since all the drama of having my bike stolen, returned and all the repairs.  It’s been two months since I’ve traveled with it and it feels great.  For some reason I’ve finally felt courageous enough to do what I’d been waiting to do before; ask permission to pitch my tent on people’s properties.  I spent sop many nights paranoid that I would get caught trespassing, or stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  It makes sense to just ask permission, that is if somebody will grant it.

I’m leaving the eighth house now.  It’s getting easier to ask but my score is not so encouraging:  4 vacant houses, 1 fourteen year-old kid and 3 straight rejections.  It’s getting closer to dark so if I don’t find something soon I’ll have to stealth camp, most likely having to trespass as I usually would.

I drive by a group of mechanics sitting out front a bus depot on a plot of land and decide to ask them.  They say sure and direct me to an abandoned bus lot where I can pitch my tent.  Although I’m happy somebody finally said yes, I realize quickly that the whole lot they directed me to is gravel and it would be horrible to sleep on.  I consider sleeping in one of the abandoned buses but then decide I don’t want to die of some poisonous spider bite.

school bus

potential home

In the distance I see a couple of guys loading some wood in front of their house and walk over to ask them.  They immediately say yes with a big smile!  I help them finish loading the wood and find a good spot for the tent.  As I finish setting it up one guy, the owner of the house, comes over and offers me to have a shower and then join him and his wife for dinner.

camping on nathan's lawn

camping on Nathan’s lawn

his name is Nathan, 33 years-old and has a 2 week-old baby with his wife Liz.  We discuss values and aspirations.  Nathan admires that I’m traveling but doesn’t feel the desire to leave central Pennsylvania where he was born and raised.  His family and community are here and that is more than enough.  He says it’s all about finding pleasure in the small regular things.  That you don’t need to accomplish great things to be somebody.  That you don’t need to be somebody to be happy.  Just be and be grateful.

I agree with what he says and it makes me look at my own life and desires.  I’ve always wanted to do something big, accomplish something great, and I still do.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate the small things, because I do very much so, but I guess the difference is just that I have a desire for those bigger things.  Whether it is because I was raised the way I was or that It’s just innate doesn’t matter, I have it.

Everyone has their own personality make up with desires and aspirations.  Some want to conquer the world, some want to have a family, some want physical comforts, money, fame, some want only to help others.  This man seems to only want to have his family, time for his family and to help others.  He seems to be fulfilling all of the above and I can have only respect for him.

I have an endless list of things I want to accomplish and know that it would be impossible to do all of them.  It’s good to have drive but eventually I have to draw the line somewhere of being OK with where I’m at.  The humble man sitting across from me is an unexpected inspiration, reminding me to be happy with what I have.  He’s found purpose and fulfillment in this small town in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania.

As for me, I’m realizing that accomplishing big things has a broader meaning than becoming rich, famous, winning a nobel peace prize, etc..  This small encounter and lesson is a big accomplishment.  It’s the small bricks that make up a big, great building.  It can be easy to forget the importance that each of these little bricks has for the stability of its building.  It can also be easy to forget that each brick takes work, energy and a bit of bravery to lay.  They are each worth the effort as little or meaningless they may seem in the moment.

I’m glad I found the courage to ask for help in the face of rejection.  It’s a small accomplishment in a bigger picture.  Every interaction, every experience, every loss and every gain is a brick that should be treated with care and recognized for its importance.  I’m so happy to be back on the road again and feel motivated to go out there and continue brick laying.