A Lifetime of Memories for a Shoeful of Dust
What do you call it when you have profound nostalgia for the not so recent past?
We’re only a few days out of Nashville, a few days from all the new friends we’ve met, the great meals we ate, the comfortable beds we slept in and it seems so distant – a dream. We are on the road again, the stunning Tennessee country side moving around us like a three dimensional postcard. We are moving, but moving slow, overcoming the inertia of being still.
Riding a bike all day affords you a lot of time to think, to solve the worlds problems in your head, to question the nature of space and time. One thing I am constantly struck with is the endless march of the present. Pleasure and pain is fleeting. The agony of a seemingly endless climb, the transcendent joy of late night conversations with new friends is equal in Time’s eyes. Neither lasts longer than it should or moves faster than it should and when it has passed, there is nothing left but ephemera, the photos, a journal entry, half remermbered dialogue in your head.
We are approaching a year of being on the road, a year of moving through this American landscape wide-eyed and hearts open. A few nights ago, as the rain was coming down hard against the tent I went flipping through the photos in my iPhone and was stunned to see all that we had experienced. Going through each photo, I feel momentarily transported back. We are on the Amtrak riding to Portland, we are in a pop-up tent on Orcas Island listening to horses run in the dark of night, we are eating the best hamburger ever in Seattle, we are cold and hungry in the desert….we are in this tent in middle of Tennessee and I am looking at my iPhone wondering where all that time went. I experience something like extreme nostalgia for the recent past, the futile gripping of thin air.
Time is a funny thing. Earlier today, we broke down camp and rode down some lovely country roads and stopped at a swimming area by a lake to have some tea. It was just perfect and I feel blessed to have done something as simple and beautiful as that. But that moment is over and has joined all the rest, the remnants of which exist on my iPhone.
Laura and I joke that we have traded in a “prime earning year” for a “prime living year.” We definitely have lived this year, maybe more this year than we have in the last five. And yet, the funny irony of it is that we really have nothing physical to show for it except for the strange tan lines on our feet. A few years living in town and you can amass roomfuls of stuff. A year on the road, living life as full as you know how and we have no trophies, no employee of the year plaque and by all accounts we probably have less than when we began.
A lifetime of memories for a shoeful of dust. In the end will it have been worth it?
We met a man while we were checking into camp the other day. He was older, round about the belly and looked like the farthest thing from a cyclist. The first words from his mouth were, “Is that a Brooks? I had one of those.” He goes on to tell us about a bike tour he did in ’79 in Germany with a twinkle in his eye. He tells us about how when he was at camp one night lightning struck a tree by his tent, it bursts into flames and it was the most scared he had ever been but by god it was the time of his life. Listening to him talk about the trip I can see the old age momentarily lift from his face and at that moment, I know that this trip, every painful and pleasurable moment will have been worth it.
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or our new Brompton Touring Book, or some of the fun bike-themed t-shirts we’re designing, or buying your gear through our Amazon store.)
shannon day July 12, 2010 at 3:19 pm
we are out here in cyberland, following your journey and being inspired by your courage.
Gersemalina July 12, 2010 at 5:51 pm
Nice writeup, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the second photo here.
Tina July 12, 2010 at 6:14 pm
If only we can stop in the moment each time and savor it. I remember being at a Starbucks with friends drinking coffee late at night and laughing my ass off. We did this regularly and one night, it clicked in my head that this moment in time spent laughing with this group of people would not go on forever and I stopped and took it all in. It was perfectly wonderful.
Soak it all in. I can only imagine as a couple, what a wonderful thing this trip has been to experience. I hope you make it to Germany too one day!
Carl & Beth July 12, 2010 at 7:18 pm
Wow, in-freaking-credible! We so admire you two and this memory and how well you say it just goes to show one of the many reasons why. What an awesome life you two have, we can’t wait until it’s our turn. And we’re waiting with abated breath until your second year and the next chapter. It’s better than reading a book because we’re reading about it while it’s happening and it just keeps going and going and going and……
You two are a total inspiration!
Cheers and happy trails!
Carl & Beth
Ashley Akers July 12, 2010 at 7:29 pm
Beautifully written, and just as inspiring as your presentation was! It appears to me that the trip will be well worth it in the end.
Meaux July 12, 2010 at 7:47 pm
Wonderful! Beautiful essay! Stirs that longing to hit the road! Thanks
Jimmy July 13, 2010 at 4:06 am
thanks for the post. It was great to see you in the new adventure cyclist! great photo of russ on the bridge!
Tanya July 13, 2010 at 12:47 pm
So many of us work hard to retire and get to do the things we dream of (if we live that long). You’re doing the things you dream of now- and I’m so envious of you.
Beautifully written. I can’t wait to see where this journey takes you in the next year.
Jharte July 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm
Awesome post. A tour most people think (dream) about. I know I do. Thank you!
Elliot July 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm
Beautiful words. Keep living to the fullest. Enjoy life in every breath. Thanks for the inspirations.
Simple Living News Update July 16, 2010 at 6:01 am
[…] A Lifetime of Memories for a Shoeful of Dust | Russ Roca “Laura and I joke that we have traded in a “prime earning year” for a “prime living year.” We definitely have lived this year, maybe more this year than we have in the last five. And yet, the funny irony of it is that we really have nothing physical to show for it except for the strange tan lines on our feet. A few years living in town and you can amass roomfuls of stuff. A year on the road, living life as full as you know how and we have no trophies, no employee of the year plaque and by all accounts we probably have less than when we began.” […]
Family on Bikes July 17, 2010 at 5:25 am
You’ve hit the nail on the head Russ! When we first took off to cycle with our children we were amazed at how much we learned each day and how we lived life to the fullest. Now, after more than three years on the road and 36,000 km under our belts, we still feel exactly the same. I look back through our photos from these three years of traveling and marvel at the diversity of what we have seen and learned.
Yes – you will not regret it. You will know you’ve lived!
Doug July 17, 2010 at 11:08 am
Russ, Beautifully written. My wife and I spent 6 months backpacking the Appalachian Trail back in 2001. Although it was a shorter trip than yours, we were out long enough to experience the same feelings you are experiencing. Going back was the hardest. I never felt so alive as I did when we were living that adventure everyday. The monotony of a five day a week job is mind-numbing. Nine years later I still have trouble with it. I’m planning my first long distance trip since than for next year. The ACA Trans-Am route. Can’t wait to start living again.
Albert Moreno December 7, 2010 at 10:56 am
Dude, you inspire me. This post and the You’re Doing it Wrong post reminded me why I’ve spent eight months preparing for my bicycle tour next summer. I needed this especially as I have been losing enthusiasm. I need to keep riding.
I’ll be hitting the road over winter break just for a test run before the real thing. Thanks for inspiring me and reminding me of the dream. I’ve got my Adventure Cyclist maps and I’ll be poring over them until the day I take off. Thanks.
Kristin Dahl August 30, 2011 at 9:44 pm
John February 10, 2012 at 1:33 pm
Wonderful posts and a fantastic journey. Have really enjoyed following your adventures. Oh .. and I love those Bromptons. 🙂
Ed July 21, 2012 at 2:45 pm
Great entry, Russ. Thoughtful and honest. My wife and I have tried to keep our own lives as simple as you can for having a family of six, and I think our children have grown up to know that you don’t have to have lot’s of “stuff” to be truely happy. I worry about their futures as our country seems to be sliding into a time of madness, and yet, living simply is a very good way not to be as hurt by whatever bad future this country is heading for. I have always tended to look at my life the way Henry David Thoreau viewed “economy.”
In our family my wife and I tried hard to leave the kids good memories: of sipping root beer floats on the back porch in summer, or camping and hiking in the mountains, of looking at the stars at night, of conversations around the dinner table. Simple stuff, but there is a value to all that that you can’t buy. It’s lived. It’s a cruel trick society plays on the majority of us that you’ll be able to enjoy your life AFTER you retire, etc. That’s a shell game, a card trick, a lie.
Good luck with your adventures, both of you. Way to go. Thanks.
Sam Joslin February 4, 2013 at 11:30 am
My travels were never long, but I do remember knocking on the door of a house outside Jefferson City, Missouri, to ask whether I might camp inside the family’s barn. Instead, they invited me in for rabbit (it tastes like…rabbit) and to sleep in the middle of their living room. Best night on the road, ever.
And I think the word you’re looking for is “newstalgia.”
Julia March 19, 2013 at 11:00 am
So, as a seattleite I have to know… you referred to the best hamburger in Seattle. Which one is it??
Russ March 20, 2013 at 11:01 am
It was at the time Lunchbox Laboratories when it was in the little shack in Ballard!
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Wonderful reflection Russ! At least in those moments of sweet memory we can find the strength to savor the little joys that we find in the present. Having a reverence for time and experience is a wisdom few of us achieve before old age. You and Laura have taught us, your readers, that we can attain happiness without having to retire first. Cheers!