Archive for February, 2014

The Lives We Touch Upon

change the worldIt’s been an uphill battle getting from Pollock Pines to South Lake Tahoe, but it was worth the effort. South Lake Tahoe’s Campground by the Lake provides me all the amenities that wash away my road fatigue. Knowing the water of Lake Tahoe would be too cold to swim in I set my sights on the community pool. I almost can’t wait to get my tent set-up before taking a dip, but I resist the urge knowing that chores always come first.

I don’t waste any time setting up camp, but before I head to the pool, I do my grocery shopping for the night. I will soon find out I could have eliminated this chore, but I don’t find that out until after my refreshing swim.

Back at my campsite and feeling refreshed, I find a comfortable spot to eat my pb&j sandwich and read a good book. I do more people watching than I do reading. It’s fun to watch how different couples work together when backing in some of the monster RVs people have nowadays. It makes me think back to my early camping days.

Back then, it was a large tent, sleeping bags, coolers, and a lot of family and friends. Our camping gear was stored in a two-wheeled trailer towed behind my family’s station wagon. Back in the day before seat-belt laws, we’d fold down the seats and lay our sleeping bags down for some padding. Our trips to our destination were filled with comic book reading, playing car games, and probably driving my dad nuts. But the man was a saint and never said a word. He simply drove in silence towards those sacred campgrounds, sacred in a kid’s mind since there was always swimming, horseback riding, hiking, and a whole lot of other fun. What fond memories I have of those family vacations.

But today, it’s just me and my little pup-tent and bike trailer. I have the cooler, but it’s nowhere near as large as the ones we used so many years ago. As I sit acting like I’m reading, I see a toy-hauler RV approach the site next to mine. The RV is massive looking. Inside the crew-cab truck are six people. They look to be in their 40’s and appear to be 3 couples.

They waste no time getting their coach backed in and set-up. And it’s not long before the three women come over to introduce themselves to me. Being somewhat of a loner, I am hesitant to be too friendly until I hear them say, “OMG, you ARE the woman we’ve been hoping to connect with!”

These three couples have been tracking my progress from day one. They decided, early on, I was someone they needed to meet.

Carol, the more-outspoken of the three women, says, “You have been an inspiration to me and my husband, Mac. We were so focused on having a healthy bank account we forgot we needed to keep our bodies healthy to enjoy our riches. So he and I and our friends decided to buy this rig, some bikes, and follow your path.”

Carol goes on to tell me they have not ridden every mile as I have, but now that they’ve met up with me, they would like to give it a try. It’s then that I see their husbands unloading six bikes from the rear of the toy hauler. Carol tells the men I was the woman they’d been following.

My mother’s negative thinking rears its ugly head as I think, “Are these people stalkers? Should I run, run like the wind away from them?” But I know deep down, they mean every word they’ve said. For some reason, I have changed their lives, and now I must find out exactly how I’ve changed their lives.

I’m invited to their site for dinner, as we all get to know each other. I tell them how I got started on this trip, and how it’s changed my life for the better. I tell them about the weight I lost, one of the goals I had for taking this trip, how I have come to know the real me, and how many people have touched on my life in such a positive way.

I say, “I just don’t think you get to know people when you are jetting here and there, staying in hotels, and eating in restaurants. This,” I extend my hands out to encompass everything around us, “is the way to meet people and see this country for what it stands for.”

Carol is brought to tears saying, “You are so right. Mac and I used to live that life thinking we needed to see all the wonders of the world. We would have missed out on so many places, towns, and people had we kept going down that path.”

All of them talked about health issues they had all been having from serious things like high blood pressure and heart palpitations, to lesser ones of food allergies and anxieties along with a failing marriage. Once they all decided to spend some time on the road, like I was doing, all of these issues disappeared. Mac’s blood pressure was back to normal and Carol was able to wean herself off of all anxiety medications.

Mac looks me head-on and says, “You saved our lives, you saved their marriage,” pointing to Bart and Martha O’Brien. Bart and Mac have been friends since grade school. Everyone knew Bart loved Martha, but the grind of feeling like they needed to succeed bigger and better every day had begun to make cracks in their once happy marriage.

Bart says, “And today, right now, I see the beautiful woman I married 25 years ago, and it’s all because you showed us a better way to live.”

During our scrumptious scout-pack dinner, they asked me all sorts of questions about the route I was taking. I explained I wasn’t sure if I should head across Nevada and down through Utah to get to those southern states, or if I should head south into Vegas and then across the south. After some careful deliberations and a whole lot of research, my new riding partners and I decided to head south to Vegas.

I went to bed that night with excitement of knowing I would no longer be traveling alone, at least until we got to Las Vegas. For some reason, this part of my trip had been a concern of mine. Both Nevada and Utah have a lot of desolate terrain that probably wasn’t good for a single, middle-aged woman to be traveling alone on.

The next morning, only one bike was put back in the toy hauler. Bart would be pulling the rig and my bike trailer, and the rest of us would be riding those US highways and bi-ways. I say a silent prayer, thanking God for my newest friends, for this great country we live in, and for all those wonderful blessings we don’t even realize come from Him.

And in my real world, I’m reminded of the many times people have told me, “You just don’t know what an impact you’ve made on my life.” It’s a humbling experience and one that leaves you speechless. None of us truly knows how our words and actions affect those we come in contact with on a daily basis. What we see as a friendly nod may be the very thing that keeps a teen from committing suicide. And then there’s those people who are prone to paying it forward. They’ll pay for their coffee and the next three people in line. Maybe one of those three is so moved that they head to work and give their secretary a raise she’d been promised for months. And now that secretary knows she’ll be able to pay her rent and won’t be evicted. She’s so thankful that she decides to help out at the local soup kitchen where she meets her husband-to-be.

I know this is all silly sounding and a bit too clichéd, but it’s just an example of how small actions are like a trickle of a creek. That creek becomes a stream which becomes a river which becomes a mighty ocean. So don’t think that your small actions are meaningless. We all have a purpose here, and we are all children of God. Don’t allow the harshness of the world to keep you from touching on someone’s life. You might just find yourself being told, “You just don’t know what your actions meant to me.”

For me, those special people, who influenced me enough to get off my couch and get on my recumbent bike, so I could lose over 40 pounds and counting will be told today in this blog how they helped me. The first person was Stephen King, yes the author, whose short-story reignited the notion of going somewhere in my mind as I ride endless miles on my recumbent bike. Thank you, Mr. King, for your great story abilities. Then there’s Fr. Michael O’Donnell, my mentor and friend, who encouraged me to start writing this blog. Without you fans of my blog, I would have stopped riding a long time ago, but I just couldn’t disappoint you all. Then there’s my sister-in-law, Cele Finley. She helped me understand why I had been fighting losing the same five pounds for a year and a half. Her knowledge of physical education provided the fuel to get me off that plateau. And finally, after watching the movie “Thor” and Googling what the next “Thor” movie was about, I discovered the “Thor Workout”. Now I knew I was not going to do all that body building because I didn’t want to gain weight, but what ignited the fuel my sister-in-law provided was Chris Hemsworth’s determination to look the part for roles he’s in. I thought, “I’m a determined woman, I can do this, too.” It was the thing that pushed that button in my head to want to try harder, and I’ve lost those nagging five pounds plus another five pounds. Thanks to all of you who unknowingly helped me along my path in life.

God bless, and let’s keep going the distance.

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