When I decided to make this journey and began speaking about it with friends and family, I encountered what a former manager used to refer to as “The Wall of No”. Almost everyone had an objection or reason why I shouldn’t do it: “What if you get robbed?”, “What if you have an accident?”, “Are you in shape to do this?”, “You might get lost.”, “Your bike could break.”, ” Shouldn’t you go with someone else just to be safe?” is just a sampling of what I encountered.
None of these things occurred or came close to happening. Instead, almost every encounter was positive. From Lori, the waitress I met in Jacksonville to Erwin, a fellow traveler from Holland and the dozens of others that I never wrote about, people were overwhelming friendly, supportive and helpful.
While riding through Landry Parish in Louisiana, I had a conversation with a man leaving a convenience store. When he found out about my ride, he asked where I was headed and whether there had been any problems in Landry. I told him I was going to Acadia Parish and that everything had been wonderful. He proudly responded: “Good. You’ll be fine here. People will look after you. Good people here. You have nothin’ to worry about. But you need to watch you’self when you get to Acadia Parish. It’s mighty dangerous there. Be careful!”
I thanked him for the advice and a day later rode into Acadia Parish. As I was standing in front of a small market, a man came up to me and struck up a conversation about my trip. When I told him that I had just traveled through Landry Parish he exclaimed incredulously: “You didn’t get robbed there? Nothing happened? Boy, you was lucky. Landry is one dangerous place.”
The point of this story is that we used to be “home of the brave”. Now, I’m not so sure. What strikes me is how as individuals and a country we have become fragmented and fearful. Perhaps, this is a reaction to 9/11. Certainly, the era of Nancy Grace type media coverage only makes things worse. All I know is that this is not how or who we used to be.
And, it’s a shame, because if you give in to fear you will never see that amazing field of purple lupine on that lonely dirt road. You won’t enjoy the camaraderie of a fellow traveler and have it develop into a friendship. You won’t stand in the middle of that expanse of desert at dawn and enjoy almost perfect silence and solitude. You won’t experience the soft, loving voice of the elderly woman in that small bayou town who held your hand and prayed for your safety. When we let fear limit us, we miss the best of each other, our country and ourselves. So, my big piece of advice if you are considering a tour (or any other endeavor) – don’t be afraid.
But do keep an eye out for the dogs.