There are many sayings about where your home is. Some say that home is where your heart is, or where you lay your head at night. It may be where you park it, or where you hang your hat. This afternoon, after several days of being in transit and a grand total of 6 weeks of amazing travel throughout China, I have arrived back to my little home on the 14th floor in my little city of Jian’ou. Including the love of friends and family which I carry with me everywhere I go, everything I own in this world, except for a few books in my parents’ basement and a few other odds ends scattered hither and thither, is here with me. It is where my heart is, and it is where I lay my head at night. It is where I park it, if you consider “it” a bicycle, and while I usually throw my hats in a closet rather than hang them, this is where they are, too.
I have to say, it is really nice to be back. To open closets and see so much fresh clean clothes and a washer outside to do more when I should need it? Makes me feel like a rich man. No more washing clothes in sinks with shampoo or cheap hotel soap and hanging it off the bike the next day to dry as I ride down the road. No more chronic pit smell or dubious underwear. No more shaking the sand from socks before putting them on again the next morning, or covering a rare clean pair with plastic bags to try futilely to ward off the inevitable wet feet that come with rainy days. No more of that. For now, at least. It may sound odd, but I am really going to miss that. I have already started to. I love the open road, warts and all.
I am sitting at home now with my road music playlist drifting out from my TV and I think back to all the incredible places that I was so blessed to see and visit and all of the wonderful, warm and welcoming people I met along the way. I think of all the things that I carried with me that I humped up and down many great hills and mountains, through scorching thirsty deserts, and into the face of spirit busting strong winds: a camera, phone, and laptop and their requisite chargers. Multiple changes of clothes, extra shoes, rain gear, riding gear, a hatred of wet feet, tent and sleeping bag, air mattress, cooking gear, pot and pan, stove fuel, food, water, toiletries, spare tubes, extra spokes, chain oil, tools, toilet paper, a near constant craving for a cheeseburger, patch kit, a power cell, and the undying dreams of a teenager.
But the single most important thing I brought with me is you! If it weren’t for all of you that follow along on my travels, they would be a great deal less special than they are. And I do bring you with me. All of you that look at my photos and writing, from the most casual observer to my most long standing and dedicated followers, you are with me on those roads. You are in every stroke that I make on the pedal, and you are in every word I write and every photo I take. It is you that makes VeloTramp. Without you it could not exist. And it is knowing that you are with me, that you are part of this, that provides me with motivation to get out and shoot photos on the days that I am tired and maybe don’t feel like I want to, or dig deep and find the words on days that I would otherwise be silent. And if I were alone and doing this entirely for me, it would be so easy to keep the camera in the bag on those days. It would be so easy to leave the pen hidden in my pack. But wanting to share with you these beautiful places that I am so fortunate to visit keeps me going, keeps me working.
When I rode a camel over those massive sand dunes and scampered to the top of the highest one, you were there. When I climbed the 660 steps to the top of a 700-year-old section of the Great Wall of China and gaped in wide eyed wonder at the seemingly infinite Gobi Desert below, you were there. The day that I climbed a long and steep mountain without pause and surpassed 12,000 feet of altitude and whooped with joy and beat my chest in triumph, you were there! And when I reached 2000-kilometers in distance with a rapturous shiver and quiet but beaming satisfaction and a small degree of disbelief, you were there. And on the long hot, hard day that I struggled so mightily up a great hill into the teeth of a gale that threatened to blow me off the road at times and I screamed and howled with rage and frustration at the unrelenting elements as I ran ever more perilously low on water, you were all there, helping me up that hill. And when I finally managed to reach the top of that beast and saw it laying at my feet defeated and was gifted with enough water for two or three days by many kind and generous Chinese people, and was rewarded for my efforts by a 40 kilometer stretch of downhill that was the most joyous and liberating ride of my life, you were there then, too, yelling joyously right long with me. You are always there, and I am so fortunate to have that motivating factor. I am so thankful and grateful for your kind words and encouragement. They make each memento and memory that much sweeter.
So to each and every one of you that follow along in any way great or small, my sincerest thanks for your contribution to my endeavors. It just wouldn’t be the same without you.
Until next time