Bike Power Bringing Us Together
“If you want to restore your faith in people, get on a bicycle.”
That’s the motto of James Dake, who says he learned this life-changing lesson ten years ago while riding his bicycle 3,287 miles across the country.
“After the trip, when we’re telling people about it, it’s never about a mountain we climbed or a road we traveled down,” says James. “It’s always about the people we met — people who often would go out of their way to help us.”
James pedaled all those miles with his future wife, Norte Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator Lauren Dake. Together, they rolled from town to town over two months, from Michigan to the tiny seaside village of Orick, California — deep in the Redwood National Forest.
“We did not follow any designated route. So we were very much off on our own, going through towns that had never seen a pannier rack or a bicycle tourist,” recalls Lauren. As a result, Lauren and James ran into challenges, including bike problems, intense heat, steep mountainous climbs, and pounding rainstorms.
Once, they became separated on a long and lonely road in Idaho.
“I decided to go on ahead — really fast — because that’s my personality, and James said he wanted to take it slow,” says Lauren. “It was hot, and I took a rest under a little shrub for shade when a car pulled up right beside me, and the driver said, ‘Hey, are you with that guy back there? Because we offered him a place to stay tonight, and he said he’s on board if you’re on board.'”
The couple offering shelter had once been bike tourists, and they all became fast friends. “To be offered a place to stay without even asking was pretty cool,” says Lauren. But the Dakes say they repeatedly ran into that kind of friendly hospitality as they traveled west. Offers of food, water, and places to stay were common, and some of the people they befriended are still friends today.
Ten years later, Lauren and James are married, and they have a house and a young daughter — Mira. Lauren calls it “the typical American life.” They still do short, overnight bike tours with Mira. They plan to take her on more extended tours someday. They also frequently host bike tourists at their home through the website warmshowers.org. The Dakes say bike touring taught them to be more patient — to take their time and be flexible, especially when traveling.
“I used to never ask for help, but now I understand that people genuinely do want to help each other,” says Lauren. “The tour really opened my eyes that if you need help and you put it out there, people will want to help.”
Or, as James says, “If you want to restore your faith in people, get on a bicycle.”
James and Lauren have put together a presentation based on their journey. If you need inspiration on the power of the bicycle to bring people together and want to host an event, let Lauren know. #BikeThere #BikeMonth
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