I was en route to DC on the GAP and taking a snack break with my friend Erin when this guy rides past and we all say hello. A minute later he turned around to stop and ask us some questions about the trail. Our bicycles were facing west and this guy figured we were coming from DC. We were actually heading to DC, we were just parked the other direction. Although we weren’t able to update this guy on the trail conditions we were able to talk for a few minutes and introduce ourselves. I’m glad Bill turned around or we might not have become such good friends. Over the next few days we kept crossing paths with Bill as we all traveled the trail. We ended up meeting for dinner a couple times, sharing snacks on the side of the trail, camping together and talking late into the night around campfires. One of the best moments ever, was singing “Country Roads” while sharing “Almost Heaven” beer at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.
Bill was super excited to be touring because it was his first time riding big miles since he had recovered from a severe crash with a truck that plowed through a red light. The recovery process was slow and probably very painful. As Bill was telling the story I had a hard time imagining him in a wheelchair so recently because he was so fast on the trail. It was really inspiring to hear him share his story. The last day of the trail we enjoyed cycling together and taking lots of snack breaks. I remember the peaches, that had been bouncing around ripening in my bag, and the Amish bread and cheese Bill shared. Some of the finest bike touring snacks ever.
Bill ended up ferrying across the Potomac to head to his sister’s place to pick up his car and drive back to Virginia. Before he left he told me if I was ever near Norfolk I’d have a place to stay, a warm shower, laundry and good beer.
Fast forward a few months and you’ll find me in Norfolk visiting Bill. (If you’re keeping track, this was at the end of September)
When I first arrived Bill was returning from a sailing lesson with kids from Norfolk city schools. He volunteers twice a week teaching for a program that has really changed these kids lives. I heard stories of kids nervously crawling on hands and knees the first time they were heading out to sail. When I saw them returning the the other day, they were expertly tying the boats to the dock, balancing standing on the boats and even jumping from boat to boat to dock. After stowing life preservers and rain jackets, the kids went into a classroom where I was asked to talk to them for a few minutes about my bicycle tours. The next day I saw KJ, one of the kids in the sailing class, commented on my blog and it totally made my day.
“im a kid he showed up in va as a cool guy during the time out club was docking our sail boat and soon as he showed up with alout on his bike and tells us hes been every where[not really] but he naver gave up and that gave me hope to never give up no matter how hard it is ……….. keep doing what u do never give up”
After sailing class was finished, Bill and I cycled to O’Conner’s Brewing Co.and met some of his cycling buddies and chatted about everything from Ragbrai to auto racing. Good times.
When camping I almost always (you’ll be laughing at this sentence soon. Stay tuned…) hang my food bag in a tree to keep it safely away from wildlife. Bill taught me a good knot for this practice. He also taught me the saying “Can’t tie a knot? Tie a lot!” (What I did before I was tutored)