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Paying it Forward

by Tara

This evening, just as the skies were darkening into a milky pink dusk, we turned on to route 7A, headed to our friend Jenna's house for an evening of board games and camaraderie. Rounding the corner, we passed a pair of touring cyclists, their helmeted heads bent down with weariness and determination. Tyler and I immediately empathized with them.

The site rendered me equal parts excited (there are touring cyclists in our neck of the woods!) and concerned. Where were they going? They were traveling in the opposite direction of the only campsite I know of in the area, and night was falling fast. "Do you think we should stop?" I asked Tyler. A moment later, without waiting for his answer, I made up my mind. Jenna wouldn't care if we were late, and I wanted to make sure the cyclists were okay.

I pulled a U-turn and drove past the pair, parking on the shoulder of the road just ahead of them. Tyler hopped out and jogged over to meet them as they slowed to a halt just behind us. I followed quickly after, and soon we were shaking hands with Addison and Jahnavi, a young couple from Brattleboro.

As we greeted the pair, I could see myself and my experiences mirrored in their faces. I felt their urgency about the impending nightfall, I noticed the barely perceptible questioning glance between them that asked "can they be trusted?", and the reassuring nods that said "yes, they can." There was hope in their eyes as they said they were headed to a campsite just down the road.

Hating to break the bad news, I winced and explained there was no such place. Who in god's name told them that, anyway? Sure, Lake Shaftsbury State Park was several miles ahead, but they don't have pitches. They'd find ample free camps along the road, but the only official campsite in the area was a couple miles behind them, up the hill they just coasted down. Tempering the disappointing news, we invited them to stay on our land. It would mean two miles of uphill riding, but they were welcome if they had the energy to get there.

Hobo Symbol for Safe Camp w/ Clean Water

Through further conversation, we learned they were headed to Saratoga Springs, New York. They had a gig tomorrow (some kind of performance theater thing with fiddle music and acrobatics), and they were afraid they weren't going to make it in time, much less with a few hours to spare for rehearsing. Most of their riding day had been eaten up with unforeseen complications (lost, and then, thankfully, found passports and credit cards), and they were now woefully "behind schedule."

After commiserating with them about how much it sucks to have a deadline on a bike tour, Tyler and I looked at one another and smiled. We were on our way to Cambridge, halfway to Saratoga Springs. If we dropped them off at the campsite there, they'd have more than enough time to get to their performance. As we relayed the suggestion, their faces lit up with relief.

"Really?!" they asked, delighted and bewildered. "Of course!" we reassured them. We made plans to switch vehicles—we'd meet them at a nearby gas station in our big truck in a few minutes. As we parted ways, I couldn't help but smile. Our new bicycle touring friends were on day two of their journey, and they were already experiencing first-hand the serendipitous magic that follows leaping into the unknown.

As we drove back to the truck, I was lost in thought, remembering the chain of the happenstance that infused our two year bicycling adventure. "Well, if we hadn't have lost that strap, we'd have missed the parade. If we hadn't missed that train, we would never have met Nadine. If we hadn't picked that one place to camp, we never would have rescued those puppies!" It's dizzying how these encounters stack up!

Back at the gas station in our truck, Tyler and I offered another plan: why not bring Addison and Jahnavi (and their little dog, Zoso!) back to our place so we could get to know them a little bit? We could easily drive them all the way to Saratoga Springs in the morning! The pair heartily agreed; their relief was palpable. And so, we bailed on Jenna (sorry Jenna!) and brought the exhausted but happy trio home with us.

Addison & Jahnavi

We fed them copious amounts of food, plied them with drinks, and spent all night chatting, laughing, sharing stories, and listening to them play music from their band's (The Love Sprockets) new album, Stories and Lies. How wonderful it felt to pay it forward, appeasing the travel gods by creating a little trail magic of our own. It felt almost as good as being on the receiving end.

Addison & Jahnavi Zoso the Dog, Relaxing in his Sweater Zoso the Dog, Howling/Singing Along

Note: We're pony and cat-sitting for our friends this week—we didn't magically spawn a house!