It’s not too often that I can share an epic story about cycling, but I have one that is too good to keep to myself, and what better group of people to share it with than my fellow Pedalers.
A few months ago, I learned from the headquarters of my international triathlon team that the European Captain, Timothy Wolvetang, would be coming to the US to ride across America. He had a goal of 6,000km (a little over 3700 miles for you Imperialist measurers out there) between Carlsbad, CA and New York City. My team captain put a call out for anyone that lived along his planned route to reach out and offer any assistance- anything from a cup of coffee to hosting him for an overnight. He was trying to achieve this as cheaply as possible, and without a support vehicle, because the purpose of his journey was to raise money for a charity for children’s cancer research back home in the Netherlands. I reached out to see how close he’d be coming to Maryland, and as it happened, the Strava route planner segment he sent me showed he was thinking of coming within ten miles of my home. I gave him my contact information and address, and urged him to stop by, whenever that would be. I also gave him some suggestions for local riding, most of which I’ve learned of in my time spent with PPTC, that would help him achieve his goal in a safe manner, but also showing off the cycling our region had to offer him.
Well, fast forward to the middle of October, when I happened to look at his Strava profile and realized that he was pretty much HERE. I poked him on social media and again extended the offer of my home. I received a phone call from a Netherlands phone number at 10pm on a Monday night, from a weary but enthusiastic cyclist calling from the National Harbor area. He rolled into my driveway shortly after 7pm the next day, after riding up to Annapolis on the B & A trail and heading back west along the Old National Turnpike. I was thrilled to give him the opportunity to have a free roof over his head, wifi for his important Strava update, about 10,000 calories worth of food, and laundry service. He just about had tears in his eyes when I demanded he relinquish his clothes, because he had been rinsing his kit in the sink of a motel or AirBNB room, every night, since his very muddy trek across Kansas. Tim’s only luggage consisted of two kits, one pair of socks (he accidentally left a pair in Death Valley), a non-cycling outfit, and support equipment for his journey (a hand pump, a spare tube, and a frame pannier to hold his laptop, rice krispies treats and bananas).
This may seem pretty giving of me, to offer my home to a complete stranger, but I’d be lying if I said it was done for nothing in return- I did so in exchange for his stories. I wanted to hear from a person who had crossed fifteen states on two wheels about the parts of the country he had seen, the good bad and ugly of everything and everyone along the way. He was happy to oblige. I learned from a man, who rides in a country where half of the land is below sea level, what it was like climbing out of Death Valley, into the Rockies, and flying back down the Continental Divide across the Great Plains. I learned about his gravel bike and the one set of tires that had carried him for thousands of miles, how much he overthought, or underprepared, for the arduous journey. I heard him recap his rides along the best roads America has to offer cyclists. I was unsurprised to learn that most of them were gravel, mostly away from our country’s car-saturated infrastructure, but he said something that made me absolutely beam with pride- “The favorite segment so far was when I came out of the Appalachians, onto that trail you suggested, the W&OD? And into DC. It had been the first time in over a thousand miles that I felt welcome as a cyclist here”. I’m sure some of that was him being polite- after all, his bibs now smelled brand new and his belly was full of shredded chicken tacos and brownies. But the fact that we live in a region that has the ability to welcome cyclists of all backgrounds and riding calibers is something I’ve been turning over in my head since he left my driveway that Wednesday morning.
We have the ability, as the largest premier cycling club in this region, to make sure we do just as Tim observed - to welcome other cyclists here with our knowledge and camaraderie. Our PPTC cohort is special in the fact that we span two states and our nation’s capitol, every riding pace class, and riding styles ranging from gravel to triathlon. Why should we keep that all to ourselves? Without my experiences with PPTC, I wouldn’t have been able to get Tim in and out of the area in the best possible way to represent what we have here. I believe that the more we share who we are, and invite other cyclists to experience the splendor that we know and love as PPTC cyclists, the greater the flag we can plant on this area as a great region of cycling for everyone to enjoy. Because we never know when another Tim is going to arrive on our doorstep to give us the privilege of taking care of them.