It was the sixth and final night of sleeping in the tent in the backyard. By now all the adults had had enough and chose indoor accommodations. But for Sophie and I sleeping outside in the tent on a rainy night was far more appealing. We donned our night clothes and jackets, I grabbed my camera, Sophie tucked Purple Bear under her arm and we headed out. We walked carefully down the slick porch steps then across the soggy lawn to the tent.
I was nestled in my sleeping bag listening to the rain on the tent and my niece talking about her plans for 2013 when she surprisingly bounced the question back to me. What are you going to do in 2013? Well? Maybe 2013 should be my year of the “world trip”. Yes, it's time I do what I've been talking about for decades – see a little of the world. I'm certainly not getting younger and on bad days my body's as contrary as congress so what the hell am I waiting for?
Bicycling around the world appeared on my “to do list” initially in the early seventies. While pedaling my Schwinn Varsity around the corn fields of Indiana I would think about what countries I wanted to see and what gear I would need to carry. The dream was fueled by the writings of Ian Hibell, John Rakowski and by the National Geographic article on “Hemistour”. In 1972 Hemistour was one of the first treks from Alaska to Argentina by bicycle. By my senior year in high school I was serious about a “world trip”. For Christmas 1976 I received a down vest, a SVEA stove and a Teddy Bear from my high school sweetheart to take on my “world trip”. I don't like to collect “things”, in fact most everything I own sits in a 5×10 foot storage shed in Indiana, but after all these years I still have those magazine articles and that SVEA stove. (Just three years ago I donated the Teddy Bear.)
Sadly often dreams are sent to the back of the line when family and economic issues arise. I worked as many hours as I could teaching swimming and life guarding at the Y to finance my trip and my bank account was looking pretty good. As high school graduation approached, I firmed up plans for the journey and even found an older cyclist (20-somthing) from Ohio to join me on the first leg of the trip. But as my departure neared my mother became more upset with the idea of me taking a “world trip”. Safety was not her concern. I had already bicycled across the US twice and the first time she didn't even bother to learn what state I was starting in. Her issue was if I remained a student, i.e. attended college, she would continue to receive a check from the government. If I went on a “world trip” the checks would stop and she and my brother would in her words, “end up on the street”. Of course I didn't want my brother and mother to end up on the street just because of a bike trip. The only acceptable alternative I could offer her was my joining the Navy. When both my Y earnings and the government checks she received in my name were combined, my contribution to our family's meager income was substantial enough to qualify my mother as my dependent. She was delighted with the Navy option and soon began receiving a monthly check in the mail and no one ended up “on the street”. Unfortunately I didn't get to see much of the world, I was stationed in Chicago, San Diego and Portsmouth, Virginia.
By the time I completed my Navy service the “world trip” had taken a back seat to education and career aspirations. I went to college, grad school and ultimately medical school. Then I spent a few more years in the Navy as a physician followed by private practice and before I knew it forty years had gone by. The high school sweetheart married (someone else), the magazine articles yellowed, Hibell was hit and killed while touring in Greece and Rakowski got old and passed on. Yet even after forty years I still have this dream conceived by a teenager in the Hoosier corn fields to take a “world trip” – and the stove is waiting.
(To be continued)