Jeffrey here. As every year, I get the last word.
People pay for what they value. That’s how we know (alas) that sports stars and pop stars are valued more highly than the home health care aide who patiently changes centenarian Auntie’s diapers.
If you value human rights … if you respect the effort that went into this 1576 mile (2553 km) three-week Ride for Human Rights … if you enjoyed the stories and pictures that gave you a glimpse of North America that you’d never see another way … and if you haven’t already done so, please cast a vote of confidence and donate to Human Rights First. If you give more than you gave in 2013, that new gift or increase will be doubled by The Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life foundation. $5 becomes $10, $500 becomes $1000, just like that!
Donations come in for months after each Ride. See rideforhumanrights.com for the latest numbers. But don’t wait to make your own gift. Delay and you may forget. Refugees are counting on you.
Scenes from the last hours of this adventure (the photos from the train were taken through tinted windows):
I grew up in the country, spent decades in small towns, and now I live in what some call the greatest and busiest city on earth. I just spent weeks in a world familiar to me, of which I am not quite part anymore. Reentry takes readjustment.
But it is worth the effort. Like everyone, I have troubles and tragedies. Deal with illness and death. Suffer frustrations and setbacks. I care about family, friends, clients. I stew about them. I feel their pain.
Like Meriwether Lewis, who with Clark led the Corps of Discovery (1803-06) to explore the Louisiana Purchase and reach the Pacific Northwest, these expeditions suit me. (Poor Lewis melted down after he returned to “civilization”. I am not quite so sensitive.) Life on the road is challenging, yet needs are simple and fundamental. Everyone I meet is on best behavior. My faith in people is refreshed. The sights, sounds, smells of the world, the indescribable richness of life experienced through hundreds of miles each week, is hypnotic. My pulse slows, my head clears. For this small-town boy with the big-city veneer, the Rides hit the reset button.
At son Benjamin’s June 13 baccalaureate service before The University of Chicago’s 519th convocation, a student read an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road. Except for the lack of wheels and asphalt, it might have been written for me.
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune. Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing. Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, Strong and content I travel the open road.
The earth, that is sufficient, I do not want the constellations any nearer, I know they are very well where they are, I know they suffice for those who belong to them. . . .
From this hour I ordain myself loos’d of limits and imaginary lines, Going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me. I inhale great draughts of space, The east and the west are mine, and the north and the south are mine.
That, dear Reader, is the Stuff of the annual Rides.
Drunk with the freedom of the road, living a safer and more comfortable version of the ancestral hunter/gatherer lives that may be hard-wired into us, how can I stand to be caged again in a city?
In a word: Nancy.
I want Nancy, the love of my life, to feel to her core that I am there for her, ever and always. At times I may succeed so well that I feel invisible. But when I ride into the Heartland, I see how Nancy suffers. She works hard to pay the Ride’s expenses. She imagines the roads, the traffic, the weather, the people, and she imagines the worst. She bears her burdens – supporting the family, working and mentoring, generating retirement income for thousands, providing gifts and taxes to support the needy, teaching and inspiring our children and making charmed our own and our children’s lives – alone. Through her efforts for me, through the worries she expresses (and I gather she hides most of those worries from me), I know I am loved.
Love. It’s why I do everything. For Nancy’s love most of all.
Home is wherever Nancy is. The rest doesn’t matter.
Now I am home.