On Sunday July 18, 2021, I cycled down my sister’s driveway in Rhinebeck, NY (an hour and a half drive from New York City) to begin a solo bicycle tour to Chicago—a brief deviation from my route cycling around the world. I felt called to connect back to my community after spending a year and a half in Australia during Covid and the previous 2 years cycling Europe and Southeast Asia.
The result of this solo cycle tour was an abundance of kindness, generosity, and hospitality everywhere I went. After hearing so much anger and distrust from friends, family, and the media in America over the last several years, I was confirmed in my faith in humanity.
I was accepted into peoples homes. I was fed incredible food. I engaged in dynamic conversation. Whenever I needed it, people stopped to help. My hosts organized talks. I was on local radio stations.
For this tour I primarily used Warmshowers —a worldwide organization of over 185,000 people that includes cyclists on tour and people who want to host those cyclists by offering their home and hospitality. No money is exchanged. This is just an act of kindness. I encourage you to donate/support this wonderful organization!
But I was reminded something about kindness—both sides win. The giver and the receiver.
In the past I was resistant to staying in someone’s home. What if I am not good at making conversation? What if they were strange? What if I did not feel like talking to them?
But this was not my experience at all. I stayed in over 30 different homes and every single one of those experiences was memorable, profound, and rewarding.
There is a sweet intimacy about staying in someone’s home. And I was greeted with such hospitality—good conversation, lovely accommodation, great food and sometimes tours of the town.
Not all of the people that hosted and supported me on this trip are mentioned in this post but please know that each and every one of you made a significant impact on my journey.
Northhampton, MA, my host Ruthie organized a talk for me to give to her amazing community and interviewed me for her radio show. Ruthie is an amazing human who among many things, figured out how to send 400 bicycles to a very poor community in Trinidad.
At the talk by Ruthie’s I met Gabor who invited me to come over the next day. Like Ruthie and many other Warmshowers hosts I stayed with, Gabor lives very intentionally. When I arrived, he was picking blackberries in his patch. He makes his own bicycles (like the one above made from the bamboo from his garden) and eats mostly what he or one of his friends grows.
In Hartford, CT, I stayed with the executive director of BICi Co which is a bicycle collective which offers donated bicycles at very low prices to the disenfranchised neighborhoods in downtown Hartford. They offer hands on bicycle education to interns, DIY repair sessions and teen earn-a-bike project and more. I showed up with my fully loaded bicycle to give a talk about my travels to 10 year olds who were just learning to ride a bicycle. Later that day I was welcomed by city planners to discuss bicycle ride-ability in the city and some of the escorted me out of the city. I encourage you to donate/support this incredible project.
In Cleveland Heights, my host David, graciously trusted me to stay in his beautiful home even though he would be away for the weekend. We had never met.
I was constantly reminded of the goodness in people on this trip— in a time where there feels like so much distrust among people and communities.
Often people ask “How can you stay in someone’s home you do not know?” “Is it safe?”
I have only had spectacular experiences with every single host. I always learn something and hopefully they feel the same way.
In Fredonia, NY, my hosts KimMarie and Tim greeted
me with 2 very sweet goats. Their home is a labor of love out in the country. We had great conversations and fantastic home roasted coffee in the morning.
In Buffalo, I stayed with a fireman named Tony who is also one of the organizers of the Buffalo Slow Roll—a 10 mile community bicycle ride that I participated in— takes place each Monday evening in different Buffalo neighborhoods. I had the opportunity to meet many of the organizers and learn about what goes into making a ride like this happen.
The Buffalo Slow Roll is a diverse spectrum of the city—ages, ethnicities, sexualities that gathers together to share a cycling experience.
Cath and Brian hosted me in the hermitage—a charming space made of reclaimed wood. We had great talks they treated me to dinner and took me kayaking down the nearby river.
My host in Syracuse, Mitch, told me I was lucky because Wednesday is the day he makes homemade pizza. I wrote back to let him know that I did not eat gluten or dairy but that I loved gluten free pizza without cheese. Mitch built a fire and we ate homemade gluten free pizza with dairy free cheese (the best pizza I ever had) in their gorgeous yard. Then I camped under the stars. In the morning, he cycled out with me—including a guided tour along the way.
I experienced random acts of kindness during the entire journey. On my way to Albany, a woman walked up to me in a gas station and asked if she could pray for me. I will never turn down a prayer so she put her hand on my shoulder, bowed her head, and said a beautiful prayer. In Ohio, I was at a vegetable stand on a country road and a woman gave me a crystal because she felt I was in need of protection. On the Erie Canalway, I was fighting the wind all day, got a flat tire, and wrote to my host that I would not be able to make it and would just wild camp. He insisted on picking me up which was so lucky because all three of my spare tubes turned out to be faulty! On the way into Chicago on a pretty remote path, I had another flat tire and a gentleman named “Julio” from Puerto Rico stopped to see if I needed help. He gave me that final bit of manpower to get the tire over the rim. And in Chicago I was hit by a car. The guy who hit me was so gracious, the paramedics were so kind, the police found a ride for me to the police station with my bicycle and then went to get me extra snacks and bandages while I waited for my Warmshowers host to drive from the suburbs to get me at the Chicago Police Department!
My route was only loosely planned, purposely, to allow for flexibility:
Rhinebeck, NY to Hartford, CT and up to Northhampton/ Amherst, MA. Then back to Rhinebeck, up the Hudson to Albany. From Albany I took the Erie Canalway Path about 750 miles to Buffalo. From Buffalo I follow Lake Erie to Toledo, Ohio. Then went north to Ann Arbor, MI and then north along Lake Michigan to Luddingron where I took a ferry across Lake Michigan to Mantiwoc. From there I cycled south (cut over to Oconomowoc and then back to Racine, WI and down to the city of Chicago.
I saw parts of America I had never seen and was constantly surprised by the beauty. I cycled between 50-80 miles/day, stayed with Warmshowers hosts for 35 nights and camped for 5 nights and cycled approximately 2,000 miles from New York via Massachusetts and Connecticut to Chicago. I was on main roads as well as many paths along the route. The highlight of the trip was the kindness I received along the way. Not from everyone. Not from most people. It was the people who took the time to share a meal, a bit of conversation, technical assistance, kind words, or even just a smile who made such a profound impact.
Future plans for America? I will definitely do Phase II of the cycle tour but I am not sure when or where. I will probably begin from where I ended in Chicago and then head west. Whatever I decide, I look forward to exploring the country and meeting more incredible people.