Friday, 10 August 2012

The kindness of others

I have been humbled by the generosity, kindness and hospitality of the people of Virginia.

I am writing in the large kitchen of Sandlick Baptist church in . Last night as we rode into town and asked at the store about the local motel they told us it was at the top of a hill in the wrong direction. They suggested we should ask Richard who owned the house opposite and was mowing his lawn with a tractors - a common practice in these parts. I walked up the drive and was greeted by Clark a black, over enthusiastic Labrador who was thankfully called back by Richard. Good news. He asked the pastor and he said we could stay in the church with a huge kitchen, toilets, air conditioning and a cooker. Amazing. I cooked chicken, tomato and courgette pasta. For those of you who do not know me well you may tire of my constant references to food. I love it. The three best parts of the day.

The day had been a tough cycle, crossing 3 mountains with a brief stop at an outdoor pool in Lebanon. On James' suggestion we did a quick medley set - just 34 lengths - ending with the Cally high five. Here's to you Cally Masters.

We slept in the aisle of the chapel upstairs. Possibly a bit unusual but as I reminded James, sanctuary has long been a function of the church.

On day 5 we were had cycled 60 miles and were hoping to find a spot of garden to put our tent in. We spotted who people taking a stroll in their garden. This turned out to be Jeff, his friend and his guide dog Gigi. After a chat he offered us a space on his lawn and when his wife Cathy came home we had use of a bathroom, butternut squash stew followed by raspberries and ice cream supper. They were lovely people. The couple met because Jeff was teaching and Cathy's grown up daughter gave him Cathy's number. 'There's just one thing though momma, he's blind.' 'At least he can't look at other women!' was her life rich response. Jeff has been looking for work for 2 years and despite being a qualified social worker with a great track record cannot get a job. Many employers cannot see past Jeff's disability. They set us off on the right road and answered our 'What one thing would you teach the world?' question with 'kindness' amd to 'smile along with each other'. Their hospitality had shown that more than any words could.

The third welcome that humbled us was three nights ago in a campground called Pioneer campsite. We were at this point three and had been joined by Jonny, the Swede who was cycling in his baseball shoes. He'd had the dream of cycling across America since he was ten years old and now he was finally doing it.

The campground was managed by Lanny and Doug and lived in one of its static caravans along with the squirrel they had rescued. They brought us fire wood then offered us proper French fries for our supper. Lanny made them fresh from real potatoes like my mum does (though of course not as good as she does). She then made us a lemon drizzle cake and to top it all brought coffee on the golf buggy to our tent in the morning.

We stopped at a store and James helped the wonder Terry to fix his window bars. Terry chewed tobacco - a habit which requires depositing yellowy brown spit. Before we left James had borrowed a hack saw to fix his stand - loves to felttle - and he and his wife had invited us to stay with them in Idaho at their place.

The last place we saw Jonny was a hot dog joint in Wytheville. It was run by a couple who looked like they were in their 70s. A good advert for a pension if ever there was one.

Everywhere we stop I am humbled by people who are impressed with what we are doing. And yet I don't feel what we are doing is really all that impressive. I have a home and and a profession and a life to go back to. We got chatting to two guys who worked in a pizza restaurant. One of them was called BJ and had lost his other job so was about to join the army. He was really excited about our trip and after leaving the place and cycling off up the hill he caught up with us in his truck to take a photograph.

What you are doing BJ- leaving your home to join the army and Jeff your resilience and philosophical approach to life is a much more impressive thing than what I am doing. Good luck to you all.


  1. James - surely you packed some sunscreen!? great blog Mari x

    1. Thank you Annie

      Think India will be a whole different cycling experience!

      Love to Theo and Bads

      Mari xx

  2. Howdy Guys, amazing blog - so pleased to hear this incredible experince has got off to an amazing start. I look forward to your next update.. Take care xx