When I left Chicago that morning it was just like any other departure morning for me. Double check I hadn't forgotten any items, load up the bike, make sure everything was secured. Say goodbye to the host and hit the road. I had no idea this leg of the journey would be a substantial turning point for me.
After around 2000 miles of riding I knew I had a long way to go to make it to 10,000 miles. I made it out of Chicago and it was almost immediately corn fields and nothingness, as is much of our beloved midwest countryside. I noticed a town called Dixon in Illinois, which is my last name.
Shortly after I passed Dixon, IL, a strange and uncomfortable feeling came over me. The enormity of the task ahead of me set in, and it began to eat at me and cause my stomach to turn as I clicked over the miles. It got so heavy I pulled off under an overpass to have a moment to get my head right. I think I was experiencing a panic attack, as some would call it, or something darn close.
This was a critical moment for me. As I understand it now, I truly hadn't become a man yet at that moment in my life. I was still a scared boy, afraid to fail. Afraid to venture out on my own, into a part of the world unknown to me and void of people I knew. Sure, i'd done some crazy things, and taken lots of risks most people I knew would never dream of doing, but unbeknownst to them I always felt I had a safety net to catch me if I fell. I was around people that loved me and cared about me all the time. This was different. This time, I was on my own. Under that overpass I dealt with a seemingly insurmountable amount of fear and doubt. Could I do this? 8000 more miles, all alone? I texted several friends and asked for prayer. I called my fiancee and told her I was headed to Omaha. I didn't let on what a mess I'd been moments before, but I'm sure she could hear it in my voice. I sure missed her and it would be another month before we'd see each other in Vegas.
I'm very glad I have this photo of my bike under that overpass. I'm not ashamed to admit the tear streamed down my face as I took it. I had decided I would suck it up and finished what I started. I would complete this journey. This photo marks my entry to manhood. Im humbled to share this experience with you.
That was the low point of my trip, and in just the few hours following it I would experience drastic improvement.
I remember a few minutes after crossing the Mississippi and into Iowa the first attitude enhancer appeared. It was a fighter jet on my right. I've loved fighter jets my whole life; drawing them, playing with models of them, learning about them, had pictures on my walls of them, but had never seen one in person. This one was running parallel with the interstate, low to the ground, doing aerobatics. I grinned from ear to ear watching it roll and twist and turn. I could hear it over the wind noise in my helmet. It was awesome.
I had my camera mounted to my right hand pelican case with a remote running into my jacket pocket, and I was able to snap this photo of the jet. The second photo is a crop to show it closer.
Later, at an Iowa gas station, I ran into this big yellow van full of college students. They were apparently big sports fans. Very cool van. Couldn't help but cheer me up to see something like that.
I caught a few pictures of it on the interstate, with my remote triggered camera, when I eventually caught back up with them.
The most incredible moment of the day would come at a rural McDonalds along my route in the mid afternoon. I had stopped for a break from the bike and a cold drink. I sat in a booth near the window and kept an eye on my bike.
I saw a middle aged couple pull up in the lot on a cruiser and walk toward the entry. They stopped to look at my bike, giving it a full 360 degree inspection. I could see them pointing and discussing my tag, likely the fact that I was from NC. They entered and ordered food. I had my back to them. They came and sat down nearby, and stopped over to speak to me.
They asked how I liked my seat (referring to my Airhawk pad), and I explained what a lifesaver it'd been. I told them about what I was doing, and where I was headed. They were astounded, a response i'd become pretty numb to. We talked a bit and they went to finish their meal. Eventually they got up to leave and said goodbye as they headed back out. I watched them walk down the sidewalk back toward their bike.
Then, I saw the lady stop. She said something to her husband and turned to come back inside. I figured she'd forgotten something. Next thing I knew there she was standing next to me, as she put a hand on my shoulder.
"I want to give you this," she said, as she handed me a $20 bill. "I think what you're doing is really great."
"Well thank you, you don't have to do that, but I appreciate it very much," I said, surprised.
"And I wanted to tell you something, and I don't want to sound crazy, but I'm a Christian lady and I just felt like God put it on my heart as we were leaving that I needed to come back and tell you this. I have this friend who always reminds me that it's up to us to choose to have a good day. No matter what happens, it's really up to us whether we decide it is a good day or not. So, whatever that may mean to you, I just felt like I needed to tell you that. Make it a good day."
I was stunned. I was certain I hadn't let on what an emotional roller coaster that day had been. I snapped a photo of them getting on the bike knowing i'd remember that moment forever.
I know this isn't necessarily the "forum" for discussion of God or religion, but this is my ride report and you can deal with it.
That experience was the clearest, most real occasion of God speaking to me that I have had to date. I cannot do the story justice. I know it may seem simple and mostly insignificant to most, but I cannot begin to explain how anointed it felt. It was as if God himself had put his hand on my shoulder and encouraged me. I'm not the sort of person who has a list of experiences like this a mile long, and it really spoke to me. It was clear to me in that moment that I was meant to do this trip and that God would be with me every mile of it. He'd given his stamp of approval, no doubt.
I stopped and took pictures of myself at this big windmill farm I came across. I remember thinking how majestic they looked. After so many miles of flat corn they made an impression.
Anyway, several hundred miles later I made it to Omaha, NE, shortly after sunset, ending a day I'd not soon forget.
More to come...