We rolled into Norwalk. Looking for a place to find something to eat. Once again. But this time we happened to ride past a bike shop, Excel Bike & Fitness. So we turned around, and rode back, since we were looking for maps of the area and thought they might have some.
And even when it turned out that they didn’t really carry road maps we got something much better: A brochure about a really nice bike route, the North Coast Inland Trail, running exactly in the direction we were going. Starting only a few blocks away from where we were.
And in addition to this piece of valuable information we were told about a bike shop a few towns ahead, who had a list of contacts that would be willing to host two tired cyclists. So of course we jumped on this option and gave them a call.
The guys at Fremont Cycle & Fitness understood well what we were looking for, and told us they would call us back once they had found someone. And it didn’t take long before we had a name and address in our hands.
Now we would only need to extend our ride for an hour or so, as the town our host was located in was even further than we initially had had in mind. But the weather was nice, tail wind and everything, the trail flat and smooth, so we had no problem going the extra mile this time.
In the end, we did a record long day, 124 kilometers. Which was distance-wise something like three times as long as our shortest day so far. And once we made it to Elmore we found a middle-aged man waiting for us, all dressed in running gear. He almost made an apology out of not being a cyclist himself, but rather a runner, but for all it’s all the same. As long as you’re a decent person, nothing else really matters.
And Gordon was more than decent. Way more. He was the kindest, most soft hearted person, a real pleasure to be around. From time to time felt the need to explain that not all the people here support Trump and that there is genuine education and appreciation for the better things in life in the United States, even in a time when all news seems to point to the opposite.
It was apparent that he was embarrassed by much that was going on in his country for the moment. But we assured him that we harbored no ill feeling towards the United States or its citizens, and that we had been met with both kindness and generosity wherever we had gone. And that we knew about his country’s contribution to the arts and sciences. (Gordon was especially pleased when he learned that we were familiar with both PBS and NPR!)
We were also given free access to Gordon’s kitchen, and were quick to locate the tortillas and beautifully sun ripened avocados there. A feast!
After our meal and a warm shower we also got to witness something unexpected: The summoning of Gordon’s four sheep to back to the barn! After ringing a small handheld bell and opening the gate from the pasture the sheep ran like possessed to the small stable.
It soon became apparent why – the sheep knew they would be fed candy! Or their sort of candy, meaning dried corn or maize. Never have we seen anyone so happy at the dinner table as these four sheep!
During our discussions with Gordon it also very quickly became apparent that he was a man of strong conviction, in his case Lutheranism. He was very open about it, and told about his struggles to find a church that was as inclusive and as openminded as the one he had come to know while traveling in Germany.
It has been refreshing how open people are about their religious convictions over here in the United States. A subject that borders on the taboo in our Nordic secular society.
Sure, it gets silly at times, like when a package of bread declares ”God bless our customers!” but at other times it is very endearing and humane. Like an elderly veteran we met at a campground, who after asking about Kaisa’s feet ended by simply saying ”who knows what the good lord has in store for us”.
I find this attitude to be a healthy kind of fatalism in a world obsessed with explaining everything in scientific terms while forever colliding with the unexplainable. And here I don’t mean unexplainable in a mystical sense, but rather in an everyday kind of sense – we are much less in control of our lives than we really care to admit.
Be that at as it may, we want to say that Gordon’s is the United States we have come to know – not the xenophobic, fearful one, preying on the distrust of the uninformed. You know, the one on the news.
Our reality differs from this. Drastically.