Physical Activity and The Human Connection
I recently had the opportunity to watch “The Bikes of Wrath”. What an incredible documentary, on so many levels! The film takes the viewer on a bike ride with 5 Aussies, following Route 66 West, from Oklahoma to California tracing the path of those who left the ‘Dust Bowl’ during the Great Depression, in search of a better life. And yes, it’s based on the book ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ by John Steinbeck (1939). Although the book has garnered much criticism over the years, it simply tells a story of Hope.
One of the Aussies who read the book, thought out loud to his buddies one day over a beer, ‘wouldn’t it be great to pack our bikes, head to the USA, and retrace the route of the Joads’ (the family the story is based on). Well, they all thought it would be a great adventure! And thus, began the planning! To sum it up, they headed to the USA, with $420 between the five of them, 31 days, bikes, some gear and their musical equipment, planning to busk along the route and pay for the journey! Haha. Great concept, and great set up for a superb documentary; One of the five is a cinematographer. Here’s the google description of it:
“Oklahoma to California: 2600 kms, 420 dollars, 30 days, 5 bikes, 3 cameras, 2 guitars and one of the most influential novels of the 20th century — The Bikes of Wrath is the story of adventure, human connection, and an in-depth look at today’s America through the lens of John Steinbeck’s seminal novel, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’.”
Why I loved the documentary so much? Aside from the great bicycle adventure, the entertainment value and the clips of novel readings sprinkled throughout the video, it shared the story of human connection. How most all people will connect and help others when the opportunity arises; how infectious optimism can be. There are many touching moments in the film, from the families that donate cash to help out (and follow up on them near the end of the ride), the people who upon meeting them take them to a friends diner for a meal, to the day the riders happen upon a destitute coloured fellow walking, miles from anywhere, in the heat of the day, hungry, dehydrated, and hoping to die; they talk for quite some time, convince the guy his life is worth saving, and call 911. Heart wrenching. The human condition. We all simply want Love. And Connection.
Why I’m telling this story? Connection.
I was invited to a potluck dinner with a few new friends last weekend. We marveled at the concept of potlucks; sharing resources, and the human connection. It took me back to 2015, the sharing of resources on a grand scale; the year I rode the ‘Cycle of Hope’ from Niagara Falls to Winnipeg (well, approx.1,600 km of it). The annual ride is fully supported through volunteers, is a different route every year, and has been going on for over 25 years now. It is organized through Habitat for Humanity, with the intention of raising enough funds annually to build a home for a deserving family, which the riders have the pleasure of meeting and getting to know. It was the most incredible 2 week vacation I have had to date! Haha. How many people would willingly take 2 weeks vacation to ride a bike half way across the country, and believe they were so lucky to receive the opportunity? Let me explain this; share my love for physical activity, where connection comes in, and convince a few more of you to consider an active adventure holiday. (maybe not this big, at first, but who knows what’s possible down the road)
Here’s what the privilege to ride rewarded me with:
- Deep connection with some incredible riders, who are athletes, good humans, caring and giving people, life long friends. (we’ve continued to ride, occasionally imbibe, and chinwag, all over the country).
- An opportunity to help a family acquire a home, and offer their family a better chance at success in life, and an opportunity to connect the donors to a worthy cause in their community. (Fact: Stats prove that kids in owned homes fare much better than kids in clumps of low rentals.)
- An opportunity to witness community coming together for the good of all – far and wide! Not just the family receiving the home, but the community the home was built in, the volunteers that made this all possible; the habitat volunteer builders, the 50 riders who solicited and collected over $200,000 in pledges AND all the generous donors; the volunteers who spent months planning the route, the food, the logistics for this epic ride, the communities we cycled through over the course of the two weeks, who provided us accommodations (gym floors, church basements, an arena, and the like) and the service groups who donated time and meals to us at each days end (we were a hungry bunch, and required a lot of food-it was a big task), not to mention the strangers along the route who wondered what we were up to and donated to the cause without hesitation and without solicitation, and many I’ve forgot. We are talking thousands of people involved in building one home for one family! Here’s my plug for the organization. I’m an avid supporter of Habitat, as they do incredible community work, and they are a completely self-sustaining organization. 100% of the money we raise for the homes goes into the homes. The organization (admin) is funded by their business ventures outside of the home building projects. A true non profit organization that contributes to humanity, with a self-sustaining business model, and an immense impact on the communities they serve. One of the few businesses I know of that don’t use any of the donor funds for running the business! Sadly, this is not the case for many, but I digress…that’s another story.
- A constant reminder of the ride and the enriching experience, the ‘cycle of hope’ if you will. You see, there was a personal achievement attained as well. Each rider is presented with what I call a ‘power pin’ if/when they complete their first century ride (100 miles or more in one day). I had the opportunity to complete 2 that year, and received the bike sprocket pendant, which I wore proudly, until I misplaced it a few months ago. Side note: I actually found it in an obscure place in my home the day after the dinner party and discussion about the ride. The universe is always tuned in and ready to help too! Hehe. Mostly, the pendant represents humanity with a capital H, and fuels me to continue to find ways to combine my physical capacity with humanitarian projects to achieve for the greater good, because I can. And to inspire others to join me. 😊
Finding the ‘power pin’ and connecting the two stories above, the bikes of wrath and the cycle of hope, and pondering the impact they’ve all had on me, I am encouraged by humanity. The whole lot of us. The human connection. We all strive to make this earth a better place to be. (well…most of us). I continue to see signs of this everywhere.
Those Aussies riding through the USA met so many incredible caring humans, and created so much connection while riding the “grapes of wrath” route. So many touching stories along the path; Talking and sharing with strangers who in turn helped in any way they could, no questions asked. As they rode across the country, they were touched by the love and compassion from many who really didn’t have the resources to offer much, but they did anyway. So many people, so willing to connect, share, give, merely through the act of 5 men pedaling their bicycles across the country, tracing the route of other who experienced hardships so many years ago. My guess is they didn’t have any clue how it would impact their lives either; “wouldn’t this be a fun thing to do”? It’s actually how most of my physical endeavors kick off!
Those Canadians (us) who rode mostly through the USA, on the sole (soul) mission to help a family have a better future. The physical act of pedaling miles after miles, supporting and encouraging each other, building comradery, sharing many a story along the back roads, sharing good times, tough times, and many a laugh or tear. The sheer act of completing the ride each day! For me, that’s what connection is about. Ask any sport minded (movement oriented) person about connection, they can explain this so well. I’ve made most of my best friends through run groups, hike, bike, paddle, yoga communities. Maybe that’s because movement is my passion, yet I think it’s more than simply that. There is something universal about the act of movement, energy exchange. It’s therapy, it’s talking through the stuff of life, it’s finding solutions, its simply heartwarming. The act of giving physically, the exertion of the human body to share effort for the good of humanity. Building connection on the pavement, the trail, the water! Any rider, runner, paddler (choose your passion here…) knows what I speak of. The pure act of physical movement amongst individuals creates a special connection, a special bond, that typically lasts a lifetime. Maybe it has something to do with the many benefits physical activity provides the body, the mind, the spirit? What do you think? We are designed to move, to be outdoors, to be in nature, to encourage our ‘happy hormones’ to course through our bodies, to keep us healthy in body, mind, and spirit. And… It’s better than any drug, It’s free, and non taxable!
If this doesn’t resonate with you, if you don’t get the connection between moving your body and being healthful, it just may be that you have not had the opportunity, the inspiration, or the motivation to venture out and experience this thing called living. We live in times of misalignment with our purpose. We’ve been led away from what our body needs to survive, from what our hearts yearn for, what our spirit requires to thrive. The simple act of slowing down from the hustle and bustle of making a living, to actually living, breathing, exerting, is what our Western society is so sadly lacking. I leave you with this thought. What small changes can you make in your daily hustle and bustle to start living and feeding your body, mind and spirit a little piece of joy and happiness each day? Something as simple as a walk in the park to watch the sun rise can do a world of wonders for you. Anything that slows the pace, allows you to breathe deeply, connect with nature, with others; Join a group of walkers, runners, hikers. Try it, notice how your outlook starts to shift. Before you know it, you could get hooked on endorphins too!! And it doesn’t cost a anything to step out your door each morning and walk for 15 mins. Who knows, maybe you’ll end up climbing a mountain some day too. 😊 Or creating your own version of 'bikes of wrath', OR helping to build a school in a 3rd world country. Let your creativity run wild, explore what your souls desire is.
I would love to hear your thoughts, or stories of your adventures, your connections through activity, movement, energy sharing. It’s a big deal! A game changer! If it’s not anything you’ve ever experienced, would you like to explore this thing? I’d love to inspire you towards your passion for life, your desire for vitality. You know where to find me! If not, I’m climbing a mountain, hiking, biking, kayaking, yoga’ing, or foraging in the woods. Leave a message. i'll find you. :)