Let me tell you a story about my dad. His name is Sandy. He is awesome. He is the kind of dad that a I, as a12 year old kid was so embarrassed by because I was too self conscious and immature to realize that his absolute weirdness is what makes him so unique and cool, and in turn, what made me unique and cool. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, my Dad began biking to work regularly. He had a long commute, from Chevy Chase to Pennsylvania Ave downtown. He wore bike short suspender things and stylin biker jerseys to show off his curves. He rode a simple red Trek road bike from the 80s that he still rides today. Many mornings, he rode by my friends and I at our neighborhood bus stop and never neglected to wave and draw lots of attention to himself. It was always amusing but I was at that stage in my life when everything was embarrassing and I never wanted that kind of attention.
A little while into his bike commuting, Sandy declared his interest in tracking his mileage and attempting to "ride across the country" in a year. He began recording well into the first year and made it to Colorado by the end of that year. We'd sit down to dinner and he'd declare, "I made it to Kansas today", etc. The next year he started at the Atlantic and made it to San Fransisco by October so he turned to head south for the winter and ended at the Baja Peninsula. His cross country travels inspired him to take it a step further and go international. The next year, he would ride around Europe, starting in Iceland. From Iceland, he rode all through Scandanavia, Scotland, Ireland and England, ending just north of London. Year four started up where he had left off and from London, he rode south through France, Spain, across Gibralter and down the west coast of Africa. He lost steam and finished in Africa (it must have been too hot to continue on!!).
When I say he was tracking his mileage, I don't mean he was looking up the distance from one country to another and riding until he reached that distance. He was keeping track of his journey on a daily basis, using a map to decide exactly which routes to take. Tracking his route spiked his curiosity and he began doing research on the areas he was riding through, learning about the people he'd meet and their languages and culture. He found a website that told him the road conditions on the roads he was riding on in Iceland and Sweden in January and February. He found another website with an online webcam at the famous St. Andrews golf course in Scotland so he could take pictures of the course the day that he rode by it. My favorite is a webcam he found that allowed him to take pictures looking out for the Loch Ness monster. After the first year in Europe, which I think was the most meaningful, he made a powerpoint slideshow of the journey. The first slide was a picture of him leaving our driveway on his bike one morning. Jump to the next slide and he's interacting with village people in little Icelandic towns. He went online to find photos along his entire journey and photoshoped himself into them. It was unbelievable. The best part was that he would show the slideshow to people without revealing to them that the journey was imaginary. Of course, most people knew the truth eventually but I remember his showing the pictures to one person at work who never knew he hadn't actually ridden through Northern Europe on the lookout for the Loch Ness monster. It was a great tragedy when we, as a family, were talking about this slideshow a few years ago and came to realize that it had been lost at some point in the many computer changes we've made over the years. I would love to be able to go back and see that slideshow now, as I know he would too.
This is one of my favorite stories about my dad, or about anyone for that matter. Not only does it exemplify his role as the original bike commuter in our family, without whom the rest of us may not have been inspired to take up biking so passionately. But it demonstrates how awesomely weird, unique, funny and imaginative he is. It is cool that he spent several summers traveling Europe in a volkswagon bus with his best friend from college, it is even cooler when people ship their bikes across the world and devote a chunk of time to biking a portion of unfamiliar territory. But none of this, in my opinion, is as cool as the fact that my dad, in his 50s with a wife and two kids ages 9 and 12 and neither the time nor the resources to spend a year biking in Europe, had an imagination fresh and creative enough to embark on and be so passionate about his virtual journey.
Needless to say, it didn't take me long to get over my embarrassment and appreciate my dad for all that he is. I'm not ashamed to have been embarrassed, I think that is something that all kids go through, and I hope it doesn't offend our parents to know that. I am just glad that I got over it and I look forward to many quirky bike rides with my dad and family in the years ahead.