Oct. 16 | The first time I met Ryan all I could see was this goofy, rainbow-colored hat. It looked like something a kid at a carnival would wear. The bill was stiff, and the way it sat off-kilter on his head gave the impression that he didn’t know how ridiculous he looked or that he did know and just didn’t care. I liked him immediately.
Like me, Ryan was at the Adventure Cycling office in Missoula to get information about his trip. He was with his two friends Matt and Erik who were also biking across country, and we quickly got to talking. Because we were all heading in the same general direction, we traded contact information, although I didn’t think we’d see each other again. I was heading north for a few days to visit a former writing instructor of mine, and they were on their way south to Yellowstone. The chances of us meeting up were slim.
Still, we kept in touch, and two weeks later, we ran into each other at a Burger King in Cody. I was still pretty hesitant about biking with other people. I was worried it would be harder to finding lodging and that we’d all just get on each other’s nerves. But they seemed like good guys and so we decided to ride through Wyoming together, at least as far as Devil’s Tower. It turned out to be one of the most important decisions of my trip.
Ryan and I would end up crossing paths numerous times on our trips around America, biking through several states. When we weren’t riding side by side, we were always messaging each other, in part because we knew the other person was always available and because there was no one else who could possibly relate. Ryan was with me through some of the hardest days — from the hot, windswept plains of South Dakota to the day my dad died — and he got me to think differently about things. It’s because of him I learned to be more efficient with my packing and that the best response to a bad driver is to smile and wave. It was Ryan who even put the idea of coming to Europe in my head.
You meet a lot of people when you bike across country. Most you’ll spend a few days with and then never see again. With Ryan, it’s never a question of if I’ll see him. It’s just a question of where, and when.