Lincoln, NE

Scotch on the Deck

When I first got to Omaha, I made friends with Sam and Vic. At one point in the night, they both wanted to know what I was “searching for” on this trip. They insisted that there must be something, even if I didn’t know what it was. I don’t claim to know many answers, but I offer this in return: If I were searching for something, what would I do when I found it? Why would I be searching for it on this trip, and not from the moment I realized I was in need of it, whatever “it” is? Aren’t we ultimately all searching for the same thing? Don’t we all just want to be happy? I was thinking about this as I was spending some time in a park in downtown Omaha. I walked out to the middle of an eight-inch wide cement divider that was part of a terraced fountain. To my left was knee-deep water which came up to a level about an inch below where I was standing. To my right was a six-foot drop with water just as deep at the bottom. I turned to my right and looked directly down, hoping to see my reflection. I was looking for beauty, but unlike Narcissus, I was hoping to find beauty in the reflection itself, not my own beauty reflected. I knew that if I lost my balance I’d be underwater after a short fall. I’d be unharmed for sure, but my backpack, which contains all of my semi-valuable electronics was on my back, and they wouldn’t fare so well. I wasn’t worried, although I can’t say why. I was just comfortable. And for some reason, in that moment looking at the reflection in the water, I thought the answers came to me. I wasn’t looking for anything, but rather I found what we are all searching for: happiness. I’ve been completely happy in general for a long time now. Not that I was all smiles when I was battling the wind some days on the road, leading to my unmotivation, but I knew that I would be even happier than before once it was over. So what does one do when they find happiness? Whatever they were doing that brought them to happiness. I won’t be done with this trip anytime soon, because I’ve realized that there is no path to happiness. Happiness is my path.

I flew to New York City this past weekend so that I could drive to my friends Lindsay and Mike’s wedding in Connecticut with Kurt, Amy, and Danielle. Kurt and Amy are good friends of mine from RIT, and Danielle is a friend of Kurt’s from home whom I’ve met a few times. I flew in on Thursday evening, but we weren’t driving to the wedding until Saturday. This left plenty of time for causing trouble in New York with my friends, including Dave, my good friend from Buffalo, and his roommate Rich. I was also often joined by Erin and Brian, two more friends from RIT. It was really nice to see old friends, and really helped me regain my motivation to hit the road again. I visited some other friends of mine while I was in town, like Rachel and V, whom I worked with at the W in Boston. Rachel works at the new W by the world trade center, and V is at the Standard hotel. I’m going to leave the details of my adventures out of this post, since they’re certainly not PG rated.

At the wedding I had a good time, and I also met up with Ben and Justin, two more of my roommates from college. Ben brought his girlfriend Melissa, and Justin brought his fiance Trish. Yeah, I’m name dropping like that. The good news is that I wasn’t known as “the homeless guy at Lindsay and Mike’s wedding” since I had a decent haircut in Omaha before I left. The bad news is that I was known as “the sweaty guy at Lindsay and Mike’s wedding” due to a poor choice of fabric and color in my shirt. It turns a far darker shade of red when it gets wet, and I tend to sweat a little when I’m gettin my groove on. Oh well. The morning after the wedding was fun, too, since I got a chance to do a little skeet shooting, something I’ve been really itching to do for the last couple of years but haven’t been given the opportunity. Despite the fact that its been five years since I last fired a shortgun, and I was using a gun I’ve never touched before, I still managed to hit more clay pigeons than I missed. Apparently I’ve still got it. Maybe it’s from playing that Big Buck Hunter game so much when I worked at MacGregors.

Back in Omaha things were pretty low key. I stayed with Barry and Tammy, since I met Barry when I first got into town at the coffee shop across the street. My days were spent reading in the park, which is a fairly low traffic area so I was able to read without too many interruptions. I took a break to meet some of the local bike advocates for a “Handlebar Happy Hour,” which of course was a lot of fun! After my new friend Mark and I grabbed some dinner, I met up with Barry for a pint of beer before we both turned in for the night. The following day was much of the same, although I met two guys, Charles and Tom from, who left Montana in a pair of kayaks around the same time I left Montreal, and they’re heading for the Gulf of Mexico! Instead of a Handleber Happy Hour on Thursday it was Omaha’s famous Taco Ride! A few hundred bikers get on the local bike trail on Thursday evenings and head to a steakhouse about ten miles from the start of the trail, which has a taco-and-beer special on Thursdays. As it turns out, my friend John from RAGBRAI was in town for his friend JT’s wedding with his girlfriend Alex. By that I mean John’s date for JT’s wedding was Alex, not that JT was marrying her. Anyways, they invited me to join them for the bachelor party, which started at this steakhouse and progressed to other establishments of vice. I agreed to come along, and from that point there is nothing that happened which I can write about here on this public forum. The owner of the steakhouse, Bill, generously allowed me to lock the bike up in the restaurant for the night, since there was no hope of fitting it into anyone’s car that was there.

I stayed with John’s parents last night, and was treated to a delicious breakfast of waffles, sausage, fruit, and bacon(!) before retrieving the bike and getting a ride to the start of a rail trail which took me to Lincoln, Nebraska. I’m taking another side trip this weekend, this time to Lawrence, Kansas with my friend Lily, whom I met in Chicago when I was there. She insisted I check the place out, but riding there wouldn’t really jive with what I’m hoping to do for the next couple of weeks. I do still want to cross the rockies before the snow falls on those passes. Very Oregon Trail-esque, eh? I got here to Lincoln and found Pete at the local bike shop, who kindly offered to let me park my bike in his yard for the weekend while I’m in Lawrence. Thanks Pete!

Finishing up my laundry now, then dropping my bike off with Pete, then driving to Lawrence with Lily. More fun to come, I know it!

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  1. Alex's Mom
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

    We have friends in Arvada, Colorado if you need a place to stay. It is just NW of Denver. Bruce is from Hamburg/Eden area and is a good friend of ours from high school. He would surely take you in!!!! Call me if you end up in that area. JMT

  2. Mark
    Posted August 23, 2010 at 10:13 PM | Permalink

    Hey Jesse,
    So glad that our paths crossed! Your thoughts about searching and happiness (8/20 blog) reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, I keep it within eyesight so I can see it everyday: “Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” -Margaret Lee Runbeck

    If you ever decide to point that 10-ton bike of yours north again, and your journey takes you through Omaha, give me a call…we’ll grab a Guinness. Until then, I wish you smooth roads, small bumps, strong tailwinds…and safe travels.
    Your friend,

    P.S. If you see a crazy-assed dog chasing you…you know what to do! :o)

  3. Kirk Summers
    Posted August 24, 2010 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

    Jesse it very nice to meet you this evening @ the Chicken Coup in Grand Island,N E. I had some the best of conversation with you tonight. You are living the dream that I would like to do. This is so awesome what you are doing. I wish you the best of luck. Kirk Summers

  4. Posted August 25, 2010 at 1:15 PM | Permalink

    Feels like a storm’s a brewin’. Too bad your two books can’t be combined. There seems to be a perfect segue here. 😉

  5. Dick & Linda LaRue
    Posted August 25, 2010 at 7:14 PM | Permalink

    Really enjoyed visiting with you. You always have a place to stay if you end up back this way!!!