Day 42 – Heading Home

Loading baggage at BWI

A baggage handler loading my boxed bike (and half my gear) at the BWI airport, en-route home. I haven't yet opened the box to survey the damage. Tomorrow is soon enough.

4 May 2011. I have mixed emotions as I’m winging my way home. Flying into Jackson, Mississippi, on the first leg of this Southwest flight, I looked down at the dense green vegetation and the rain-swollen rivers and had some pangs of regret that I didn’t get into Louisiana or the truly lush green of the Delta Country. A few of the roads I could see wending their way along creeks and bayous looked pretty inviting.

And, as noted yesterday, I was also disappointed not to end my trip on a train—that would have been a great way to decompress after a month-and-a-half of biking.

But I am also very happy to be heading home to Vermont—to Jerelyn and our golden retriever, Roxy, and the many friends who have sent such good wishes to me on this adventure. Spring has sprung in Vermont, and I can’t wait to see our forsythia in bloom and our redbud in bud.

I’ll also be glad to leave the heat of Texas that I’ve experienced for over 1,000 miles (even though the last two days have been very pleasant). I’ll be glad to stop looking in my rearview mirror, swerving from tractor-trailer slipstreams, and dodging broken Budweiser bottles on the pavement.

Baggage at BWI

The baggage handler had a little trouble dealing with this awkward--and heavy--box at the BWI airport. Southwest only charged $50 for a bike; some airlines charge as much as $200. UPS was going to charge $140.

The trip has been rewarding on many levels, and I’m incredibly grateful to Jerelyn for encouraging and supporting me from my very first suggestion of the idea, to the incredible team at BuildingGreen who have made it possible for me to simply step out of the picture for a while, and to all the readers of this rambling blog who have encouraged me on at important times and offered helpful tips from a distance.

Thank you all.

As for my original purpose of the bike ride, when I set out from San Diego—to reflect on environmental issues, to think about priorities for our company, and to figure out which projects would occupy the rest of my sabbatical—I think that has been satisfied…at least partly. But the miles of reflective contemplation were not quite as I expected.

I spent lots of time contemplating, all right, but more often than not it was about my knees or whether there would be a gas station in the next town where I could buy a Gatoraide or how many miles I was still hoping to cover that day. Much of my thought was in the present—how I was doing and what I was doing—but I’m sure on a deeper level I have gained tremendous insights that will serve me well, not only for the next six months of sabbatical, but in the years and decades ahead as well. This trip will, indeed, be one that will remain with me the rest of my life.

Relative to that deeper thought, the one area in which I really did succeed was in thinking about water: from California’s Imperial Valley and its crops’ dependence on flood irrigation from the Colorado River, to Phoenix’s profligate use of water in the middle of a desert (that image of dockside homes in the City is perhaps the most disturbing of my trip), to the wildfires in West Texas, and the intense drought throughout that huge state. All this has helped me think about just how fragile our dependence on water is in this country—this is something we need to take much more seriously!

I’m already thinking about another bicycle trip—I think that’s a good sign! For that next trip, though, I want to be on a Rail Trail (a bicycle trail created on an abandoned railroad bed). I want to bicycle along without trucks bearing down behind me and without the road noise from all that rubber on pavement.

Perhaps I can even convince Jerelyn to join me!

Postscript: As I finish this blog, I’m sitting in front of our wood stove at home. It’s 45 degrees outside and expected to drop to 37 tonight–with a chance of snow tomorrow! Texas this isn’t–in many ways!