The gentleman in the photo is Billy. Over the Labor Day holiday in 2017 while riding through Kentucky, I had the pleasure of meeting this incredible soul. I was at a state park and had just got my tent set up and was getting my bike secured. I heard something on the path and then realized it was another cyclist. But this cyclist was different from others I had met on my journey. He rolled up on an old 10 speed bike with a bike trailer in tow. He wasn't a bicycle tourist but his bike was his home. We were the only 2 people in the area and when I approached him and introduced myself, I had no idea how impactful Billy would be on my life.
We sat on a step and started talking about our respective lives. I told him what I was doing...riding my bike across the country in memory of my brother. He told me how awesome that was and asked where I started from and how long I had been on the road. After sharing my story with him, I asked Billy what his story was and I wasn't prepared for what he shared with me. Billy told me that he was a Kentucky native, an Army Veteran and homeless. He had everything he owned in the small trailer attached to his bike. As the conversation continued (which was for hours into the early morning) he reached into a backpack and pulled out two plastic bags containing spaghetti. He generously offered me one which I thanked him for but told him I was fine. He had got the meals from a restaurant several miles away that he had stopped at and swept the kitchen in exchange for the meals. Here he is offering one to me! What a kind and amazing spirit Billy had. We stayed up talking for hours, he told me about his military service and how he had been homeless for many years, cycling around Kentucky, Sleeping where he could doing odd jobs, playing his banjo and singing for food and money.
What happened next touched me so profoundly, He said to me, "Dan I want to give you something". I again told him that wasn't necessary. He stood up, walked to his bike trailer and took out a banjo he had wrapped in blankets. He then leaned against the wall and said "I don't have much but I want to give you this". He then started playing his banjo and sang this beautiful Willie Nelson song.
That was absolutely beautiful and I remember Billy again saying "It's not much but it's all I have". I thanked him, we gave each other a hug and talked a bit more.
Billy is but one of many people I met that touched me and changed my life. When I started my ride, I had no idea what I was doing, didn't have the special bike, clothes or equipment. Still, I decided to do it and I'm so grateful I did. Without having made the decision, I would never have had the joy of meeting Billy and so many other amazing people across the United States. Life isn't always easy...but it is always good.
Today was an absolutely gorgeous day! Bright, sunny, no wind and a balmy 45 degrees. I decided to get away from the keyboard and to do what I've been missing so much since my ride across America. I have an amazing environment to ride! The foothills and even a mountain bike park are just a mile or so away. While I could tell pretty quickly that I hadn't been out in a while (physically) but even more evident was what I was missing emotionally. Whoever originally said "you can't be in a bad mood when riding a bike" had no idea how right they were!
What a complete joy to put all the craziness of the world out of my mind and enjoy the quiet and beautiful scenery! Today's ride wasn't long compared to my daily averages I was making in the summer of 2017, still the exhilaration and just overall calmness cycling provides can be enjoyed anytime without needing to ride cross country.
Though the advancements in bicycles would make the ride easier, the main thing is to ride! Below is the bike I took out today. The first mountain bike I ever bought, way back in 1986. A Raleigh Elkhorn mountain bike.
"Simple is a good thing"