by Justin Smith
My name is Justin, and I am joining the bike adventure for a short time this summer, the culmination of a few years of haranguing by some friends and personal pledge I made to myself to discover more of the world around me. I work in Chicago as a teacher, and I like to fancy myself a chef, but those things hardly seem important out here. What I have experienced most and what I will most fondly recall from the Fuller Center Bike Adventure are not the sights, though they’ve been breathtaking (any disparaging of Ohio and Indiana you hear from anyone else is much overblown), nor the smells, which have been, to put it lightly, diverse, nor the bodily feelings of pain, soreness, hunger, satiation, and hugs, but rather, above all these other senses, it will be the sounds.
The Fuller Center Bike Adventure is a cacophony of different sounds. There are bike sounds, such as the satisfying click-clack of special bike shoes sliding into place on touring pedals designed for people who mean business. There was also that weird clicking sound my bike made for around 20 miles outside of Sandusky, but then it went away, so it’s probably fine, right? There is the beep-beep-roar of the support van just before it passes you between rest stops (this is also your cue to either smile or look intense, as one of the trip photographers is sure to be hanging out the window to capture your biking essence as they pass). Each person, too, has their personal sound, and I have found delight in all of them – the mirthful joy of a mid-ride harmony carried forth by a Scot-Aussie, the easy banter of old friends, and even the austere and monosyllabic gruffness of a Texan itching to hit the trail (a special note should also be made for the joyful jabber of a certain Toledo resident whom I believed talked off roughly 28 sets of ears this past weekend). These sounds I will not soon forget.
But truly, truly a blessing has been in the absence of sound. I was lucky enough to be present and be thanked by a wonderful couple on whose house the Fuller Center had completed a wonderful day’s worth of work. While we all hung on their every kind word and tried not to grow headstrong over their effusive praise of the Fuller Center’s mission, no words in any language could match the power and grace of a lightning quick inhale, the kind one takes when trying to find the words to express gratitude, but must take just a second to be overcome by the emotion of the moment. It spreads like a wildfire of loving emotion that cannot and will not be contained. That is no ordinary silence, and to live in it for just that split second evokes feelings that can last infinitely longer. But that, still, is not the most powerful and genuine silence I have discovered.