I’ve learned first-hand what its like to seek out a place to crash at the end of a long day of cycling. Factors such as weather, mechanical problems and physical exhaustion can dramatically alter your plans. It’s hard to plan a long-term trip in detail in advance. Even more so when this is your first cycling tour.
There is a somewhat strange organization called Warm Showers that is a cooperative group of touring cyclists that puts up cyclists, such as myself, without cost and other of the etiquette of a B&B. The idea is you willfully accept others to stay with you if you are a host and do this thru the kindness and empathy as a fellow touring cyclist. I knew about this organization but was skeptical of its coverage and effectiveness, so I never really looked into it as an option. Figuring if you are paying someone you at least can expect something reliable in return. But, it’s still an admirable thing they are trying to do.
So far, I’ve been able to make a combination of airbnb 1 night stays and a few motels work for me on this trip. But, Monday as I got off the ferry my plan fell apart as the motel I reserved near the Hatteras Ferry wanted $129 per night in a dead season and they informed me that the WiFi was not working. I was pissed as it was already getting near 5:00 pm and I needed shelter for the night, without a lot of choices.
Then I remembered Jim. Jim had approached me on the ferry going to Ocracoke Island as we discussed cycling and his main interest of wind surfing. I surmised we were of a similar age and background with an interest in lively sports. I wondered if there was others out there that saw a need to keep physically aggressive in different ways as we age. Jim offered me to stay at a place he was sharing with an older woman who was 85 and still was wind surfing. He also insisted that I take his phone number. Just in case.
So, here I was so pissed for being ripped off and remembering Jim’s offer, that I called him and he insisted I come right over and stay there. A brewing catastrophe was averted by sheer luck. I canceled my reservation and got back on my bike and headed 20 more miles more to Jim’s place.
By now, the sun is setting and I find their house at the end of a road that meets the sound. It’s Jim’s friend Lu’s place right on the Pimlico Sound where a bunch of now 60-80 year olds have rented each year about this time since the day they discovered and fell in love with wind surfing decades ago.
Jim looks spry and is here to wind surf as is Lu. Many of their friends have left the sport behind. Some have stayed here at the Outer Banks. A smaller number come back each year as the numbers dwindle. This area seems to be the world-wide hub of the sport because of its vast body of shallow water and ideal winds. But newer sports like kite-sailing are getting the attention these days. This is the ideal time of the year for these wind sports.
Lu is an interesting person. She remarks about her 6 or 7 joint replacements and endless PT. But, you know these are all just temporary obstacles. She’s always been an active person from Vermont and an avid skier. Even at her age she is on the ski patrol at Mad River. Most of her injuries have been from skiiing.
After showing me my room, I sit down totally exhausted for dinner. Here I am in conversation with two very unique interesting individuals. Jim seems to know everything about wind and air and various sports around that, from kiting to ice gliding and dessert sailing. Lu is active everywhere, looking after her five kids and their families now as far-flung as France and Utah. We eat a dinner of roast pork, potatoes and asparagus. This simple meal was some of the most appreciative food I have ever eaten.
I ask myself how does this happen? Is this just pure luck that I’m here? I’m convinced that it was Jim who took the initiative to introduce himself, engage with me and probably because he has experienced the magic that giving gives not only to the person receiving but to the giver too.
Jim and Lu asked nothing of me. No money or promise. I hope I helped them enjoy the two weeks of wind surfing ahead. I hope I can pay this too forward. And, I wish that at 85 I can still stay active and ride a bike, handle the problems of getting old and be generous enough to help others as Jim and Lu taught me that day.