It’s been a long day and I’m not in the mood to chat, especially with a stranger. This would be one of the days I’m trying to wean myself of. The kind where I shut down. It would be easy to roll up inside my head and ignore the world. Today, right now, this connecting with people stuff sucks. I’m sitting outside a burger joint, waiting on my order, when a guy walks out to get on his Suzuki and I realize this is my chance to interact. Immediately I launch into an avalanche of questions in a less than warm tone. I do not tell him about the project when I ask if I can take his picture. He looks young, smiles easily, and doesn’t seem fazed, or guarded as I point to his license plate and ask if he actually rode his bike out from Idaho. Troy answered each of my rapid-fire questions without hesitation and never asked why I wanted to know. I found myself softening as he explains that he’s been in NorCal for a couple of years and is struggling with relationship problems that have him thinking about heading back to his family home in Idaho.

“I keep trying, and sometimes I think it’s going to all work out, but then, it all just slips back into that place that makes me uncomfortable. I love her, but….” He waves his arms in the air and goes on about their issues and how he really wants it to be good, but she makes him crazy and he’s giving up. I laugh and stick out my hand to shake his sweaty palm as I tell him I know what he means, relationships are hard. The sadness in his face seems to relax as he takes off his helmet.

“I met her in Ukiah and we moved down here so her kids could go to a Waldorf school. Yeah, there are kids. Two of them and one’s a teenager. It’s a real problem. She’s 45 and I’m 32.” He puts his hand up here as if to stop a rebuttal and says, “Yes, I know, that is part of the problem. But I’ve been really trying to make it work for two years and I think I’m just going to go back home and rest for a while. I’m really tired, ya know? I think I just need time to relax and take it easy.” He sounds as if he’s practicing for the farewell speech he’s set to deliver to his woman.

“She’s an occupational therapist so she’s all set up, but I’ve done a lot of different things since I’ve been here. Mostly construction. Welding, whatever, so finances have been kind of a problem, too. Always a struggle.” I ask what he will do if he leaves. He looks off in the distance and shrugs as he tells me he’s really come to love traveling, just riding around getting to see the country.

I tell him my job is to ride my bike and write about it. He lights up. “Wow! Thanks for telling me that. That’s what I truly was meant to do, I think. Travel. It’s good to know there really are people out there who are living that life.” He smiles as he straps his helmet on and heads back to the life he’s trying so hard to make fit. I fetch dinner and realize that talking to people might not suck so bad after all.


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