Friday, July 10, 2009
Fulfilling my Dream of being on Public Radio (Paonia, CO)
Paonia, Colorado is where we have our day off today. I will admit that I didn't understand the point of taking the day off of cycling to stay in a small no-name town when we could be continuing our journey throughout the scenic landscape of this beautiful state. However, I can quickly and safely rescind my thoughts now that I've fallen completely in love with this place! Paonia is a small Colorado town bubbling with life beneath the surface. We spent yesterday being introduced to the members of the United Methodist Church where we're staying. It's a little upsetting to see that the church community itself only consists of mostly senior citizens. From the conversations we had during dinner, there are no younger generations within the church community. Throughout this trip, there's been a growing cynicism that some of us have developed for the more conservative Christian regions. (This is not to say that just about every community we've entered hasn't shown us a deep appreciation and generosity, no matter what religious affiliation people may have on the team.) However, Colorado (and Paonia in particular) has proven this prejudice wrong. The library at the church here, for example, is filled with books of authors from all different cultural and religious backgrounds...I even spotted my favorite book, Three Cups of Tea, on their shelves!
Another surprise that quickly surfaced once we came to Paonia is the absolute humility and generosity of one particular community member, Felix Belmont. Mr. Belmont is actually a graduate of the Johns Hopkins class of 1940! This makes him 91 years old...and still kicking! He attended our dinner yesterday evening and was kind enough to share his story of graduating from Hopkins and coming to Paonia about 30 years ago. Despite his wife's passing from cancer six years ago, his involvement in the community is still astounding. After speaking with him yesterday, he invited Caitlin, myself and a couple other members of the team to visit the station the following morning. Of course we jumped at the opportunity and at this moment we've just returned from a tour of KVNF Public Radio, as well as a group interview! As geeky as this may sound, it's been one of my biggest dreams to be on Public Radio. Caitlin and I share a passion/obsession for NPR and it was like Christmas walking through the KVNF's (GREEN!) studio building in town that was dedicated and named after Felix himself. Of course, being the gentleman that he is, he would never own up to his amazing generosity and accomplishments that have helped create the face of this town. We also were lucky enough to bump into some musicians at the local coffee shop this morning who offered to play a small concert for us this evening!
I feel like I've ridden right into the beautiful epitome of small town America...coffee shops where everybody knows your name and where you're from, openness and hospitality to all who enter and real human connections made in a place where you'd least expect it. While the interview was being recorded, it was a perfect moment to re-connect with our diverse reasons for joining the team and taking this 63 day journey across the country. In particular, it was a suddenly touching point in the trip for me. As we went down the line and each described our adventures along the way and what we've enjoyed most about the trip, I suddenly realized that this is going to be an adventure I can have with me always. As we near the end of our second leg and come closer to the last third, I'm hoping to squeeze every ounce out of the surprises that pop up in the coming weeks. It's easy to deem certain things as frustrating or detrimental to having a perfect cycling day. However, isn't the perfect day one that is filled with those moments you least expected?