Editor’s Note: In last week’s RBR Newsletter, we ran an article by Stan Purdum titled Days of Adventure on the Bike, in which Stan detailed a self-guided tour where he had some particularly memorable “mis-adventures” – bad days on the bike. He rightly pointed out that good days on the bike far outweigh any bad days, and fellow reader and RBR Premium Member John Yoder wrote in to share one of his most memorable good days, focusing on the kindness of a stranger.
By John Yoder
You published a story about a bad day cycling. I think stories of good days are just as valuable. Here’s one.
Many cyclists have experienced the kindness of strangers. Standing by the side of the road with a wheel off the bike, people think that we need help, and although we are complete strangers to them, they will often stop and offer assistance.
My most memorable experience of the kindness of strangers occurred 10 years ago on my commute home from Elkhart to Goshen, Indiana. Normally, if the forecast is for rain, I would drive to work and bring a change of clothes for the week with me. This day, there was only a small chance of rain, so I rode to work and took along my rain jacket.
The ride home started out normally. With wind from the west, I had visions of a 16-mph ride, a fast ride for my 63-year-old legs. But about a third of the way home, it started to pour rain.
And did it rain! Visibility got worse and worse. I was having trouble seeing the road, and that meant that cars, despite my array of lights, would surely have trouble seeing me.
I looked for a place to get out of the rain and off the road. Eventually, I stopped under a tree beside the road on County Road 115, near the Elkhart River. Fortunately, there was no lightning with this storm, so I wasn’t worried about standing under a tree. However, before long the heavy rain was coming through the leaves, and I was thoroughly soaked, even with the rain jacket on. At least I had put my cell phone and wallet in a plastic bag before leaving the office, because it looked like it might rain.
I had been standing under the tree for less than three minutes when I saw a teenage girl with an umbrella come out of the house across the road and start walking toward me. Her house was set back about 75 feet from the road, and in the time it took her to reach the road, I tried to imagine what she was going to say. Was I on their property, and was she going to tell me to leave? Would she offer me an umbrella? (That was unlikely since she only had one with her.)
She came to the edge of the road, stopped, and asked if I wanted to take shelter in their garage. What a wonderful surprised!
That thought had never crossed my mind. I quickly said, “Of course,” and thanked her for the offer. So we walked back to the garage, and I took off my rain jacket, gloves and helmet, hoping the rain would soon stop.
The driveway to the house had three trucks in it, and the garage was full, too: there was an SUV, convertible and three motorcycles. This family liked to be on the road.
While we waited for the rain to stop, I helped her put a tarp on the back on the SUV. I asked her name and what she was doing this summer. She said that her name was Blair, and that she was working at Perkins, a local restaurant. She asked me if I was in training for some race and offered to get me a drink. I let her fill up my water bottle from the garden hose and told her that I was just riding home from work. After our brief conversation, she went into the house and left me alone in the garage. About 10 minutes later, the rain stopped, and I headed home.
While waiting in the garage and on the ride home, I tried to imagine why she had offered their garage as shelter to a stranger. I decided that the three motorcycles in the garage were the clue. Her family of motorcyclists was familiar with how bad weather impacts a rider exposed to the elements, and she transferred that knowledge to a cyclist like me and wanted to help.
After I got home, I wrote Blair’s family a letter of thanks for the use of their garage, but the letter came back. Apparently, I remembered the address incorrectly.
I looked in the phone book but didn’t find anyone with her last name on that road. In the years since, I have ridden and driven by the area where I stopped that day many times, hoping to locate the house, but I can’t pick it out.
I’d really like to thank Blair for helping a stranger and to tell her that in addition to being my guardian angel that day, the impact of her actions has stayed with me: whenever I am inclined to doubt the goodness of the human race, I remember her simple act of kindness, and the day is suddenly much brighter.