A little story time:
In 2004, Falon and I were on our way to Alaska. We called it "the mad dash to Alaska." We’re on touring road bikes and averaging about 90 miles a day. Somewhere in the north of British Colombia we bumped in to another cyclist. An energetic, bordering on spastic, middle aged man named Sergey. He was from Estonia and pedaling around the world for his second time. The first time he went around going east. This time he was going west, crossing Europe, Russia and the States both times.
Our pace was a bit much for him so we slowed, camping together for a few nights. He was an amusing and interesting little guy. His broken English with heavy slavic accent and the frantic way he did things was hilarious. "Go Go Go" was his favorite phrase. It's how he explained his trip, how he told us it was time to ride and how he woke us up in the morning.
It rained just about the whole time were together. The first night we slept in a junk yard, the next we camped in soggy tents. One morning we had a fire to dry things out and cook pancakes. Falon laid his socks along the fire to dry and quickly melted the shit out of them. They were his only pair. Sergey and I were cracking up watching him try to get his feet back in them. They weren't socks so much anymore as scorched and destroyed flaps of fabric. He wore them anyway, classic Falon style.
Later that same day we bid Sergey farewell. We were going off to some town I can't remember the name of to pick up a tire. So we got back on our old pace. My sister was getting married soon and I needed to be back in California.
Two years later, Falon, his brother Jasper and I were in Scandinavia. We had just ridden from Bergen, Norway to Stockholm, Sweden. Jasper headed home to the states. Falon and I boarded a ferry across the Baltic Sea.
Sergey had told us he was from Tallinn Estonia. As we rolled off the ferry in Tallinn, we thought: it couldn't be too hard to find him? The guy rode around the world twice. One of these bike shops is going to know of him.
Shop after shop they shook their heads at us. Until one. While doing our terrible job of describing just what we wanted and giving a vague description, I turned around and there was Sergey’s bike... hung on the wall next to a big photo of him. Excitedly we got the shop owner to phone him up.
He had just got off work and said he would come to the shop. We weren't sure he was going to remember us. We had only crossed paths for two days a few years before.
He busted through the door, obviously having sprinted there, yelling "my friends, my friends!” He gave us big hugs for a little guy. I asked "do you remember us? He said yes, but it was only when he reached down to check the condition of Falon's socks that I was sure.
He invited us to his home. We rode through the city, stopping several times at homes of his friends so he could show us off. He beamed, playing out the story of Falon's melted socks in his hyper way, more emphasized by his happiness.
We went back to his tiny communist block style apartment. He made us dinner and played for us many of the tapes he recorded on his tours. I had forgotten about the big lump in his coat back in Canada… the VHS video camera he carried around his neck, occasionally popping it out to film something. Eventually he found the tape and we watched ourselves on the screen 2 and a half years earlier.
Sergey had a girlfriend and a child on the way. He left us in his apartment and went off to her place for the night, returning to meet us in the morning. Together we rode to the city limits. He had to return to work and Falon and I were continuing south to Latvia.
He gave us big hugs, wishing us "Go Go Go,” then turned away abruptly, his eyes full of tears, too choked up to say anything more. He got on his bike and rode back.
I stood there a long time watching him go. What he must have felt? Twice he pedaled around the world at its largest land mass. The friends he made, the experiences he had. The things he saw and learned. All the emotions that come with it were in those tears. Elation and sadness, joy and frustration. The flood of memories from a monumental experience done twice. We were just two beings who had morphed out of the mist as living reminders.
We pedaled on. All of us better for the chance meeting. People like Sergey make this a better world. One that can be lived without borders, supremacy and fear.