By Liz Miller

‘Finding Connections’

Rosalia, Washington, June 4

Communal mindedness and connection with our bodies and the earth were two of the guiding principles we established on our first day together, but in this past week of riding, the connectedness I’ve experienced has extended far past my own body and this small group of ours. I’ve noticed the way cycling across the country has and will connect me with my past experiences, a global community, those who have come before, and my home spaces. 

My past experiences

Just the ride to the airport set the stage for this trip’s surprises and the cohesion between my past and present experiences. Vanessa, Anna, and I got a ride from Vanessa’s family friend, who asked us in the car if we spoke Spanish. When he found out I had learned in Honduras during my SALT year, we ended up chatting for the rest of the car ride, talking about all sorts of places and foods that we both loved. I didn’t know three years ago that the seemingly disjointed moments I was living would bring continuity and understanding to what I am living now. 

My global community

Dusty, rural Washington wasn’t the place I expected to think about global community, but it has been just that. First, we passed a sign that read, “Necesitamos trabajadores.” Next, rows and rows of fruit trees. Then a taqueria called “Hugo’s Tacos”. After that, a dormitory with a sign, “No se permite visitas,” complete with a campo de fútbol right next to more fruit orchards. I don’t know a lot about the migration patterns and needs of Washington state, but  I do think about how climate change is part of the reason people migrate. I think about how immigrants are a vital part of the US economy and bring rich culture with them. I think about how Spanish language accessibility is crucial, even and especially in rural settings. I think about how I am a part of a much greater world.

Those who have come before

It was day 2 of riding, and we had a 2-mile tunnel to pass through on a gravel rail trail. I found myself in tears in anticipation of the later adventure, and it was only 7:30am. Just about a month ago, I lost a second cousin in a tunnel train accident. My family lost a sister, daughter, grandchild. My SALT year lost a dear friend, so full of life, adventure, and depth. As I rode through the tunnel surrounded by my coach and another SALT friend, we sang hymns together. It felt fitting to honour people we love through song and support, and it made me reflect on the many ancestors of myself, as well as ancestors of this land who have come before, and whose presence remains. As I honoured a family member that day, I also hope to learn about and honour indigenous communities throughout the duration of this trip.

My home spaces

I and another climate rider were at dinner with our coach, Bob, just a few days before the ride. As we chatted about our excitement and fears over pasta, we both mentioned how we hoped we had everything on the packing list. It said to bring a warm coat, but all I had were several thinner layers: a raincoat, a long sleeve, a sweatshirt. “If it gets cold, I’ll just wear all of them,” I said. Before I knew it, Bob left the room and returned with two high-quality, packable warm coats, one for each of us. “Take these,” he said, “I won’t need them this summer.” So far it’s been hot, but tomorrow and on will get colder as we continue climbing in elevation toward the Continental Divide. I’m looking forward to having something that keeps me from shivering through the chilly nights. 

It’s true— this whole trip wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my family, my community, my multiple homes. Frank, the guy who sold me my bike on Facebook Marketplace; Les, who made sure everything was working properly and I was fitted and ready to go; Bob, who lent us the coats and has mentored me these past two years; my family, who rides with me every day as I wear the perfect patterned socks I’ve been gifted for the past three Christmases. And so many more. Each day is a surprise, but as I move, I’m constantly surprised by the rootedness I feel to the many different contexts I’ve lived and families I’ve found.