Many people have asked about my most memorable moments from my Atlantic coast cycling tour. It is surprising how easily the days run together and how hard it is, in retrospect, to distinguish one day from another. But now that the journey is finished, I can reflect on the major patterns that I experienced and what makes the journey so memorable.
Over the next few posts, I’ll talk about some of those reflections. This post is about the beauty I experienced. Up next, read about the “Biking Bubble.”
Cycling for all the Senses
I was overwhelmed by the virtual feast for the senses that came along with cycling the Atlantic Coast! Sights, sounds, smell and yes, taste!
We left Ft. Lauderdale in April and it was spring / early summer wherever we went. For weeks, wonderful scents filled the air. And not for a second or two – for a full day’s riding. At times, it was intoxicating. Nostalgic. And always sweet. The scents became less ever present as we moved north, but were still there, sending out little waves of fresh scents.
In Florida through South Carolina, jasmine and gardenias were around almost every corner.
Georgia to Pennsylvania, the smell of honeysuckle filled the air.
From Connecticut through Maine, lilacs.
Maine added the smell of pine, sea air and wild roses.
I loved moving through an everchanging display of flowers! From Florida to the farthest reaches of Maine, we saw beautiful flowers everyday. From the groomed lawns of wealthy estates, to well established ever-blooming shrubs and flowers, to those growing wild.
A lovely reminder of the simple beauty of flowers and plants that are present in our daily lives.
Scents and blooms are all a reminder of nature’s beauty. Buildings show us our history and our priorities. Buildings reflect the different ways that humans adapt their environment to their needs and desires. Yes, from Florida to Maine, there are huge estates built by those with wealth seeking to find their own picture of strength, power, durability and beauty. To symbolize their wealth and prestige.
There are also solid, less showy homes of those seeking to simply establish a community or their family within a community.
But there is also more modest beauty and utility. From shotgun houses in the deep south to row houses in the northeast. And utilitarian and lovely barns from Georgia to Maine.
They may be brick, stone or wood. In great condition, or failing condition. They all have their own beauty.
We passed these monuments every day. In tiny communities with a train station or public courthouse, to the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington monument.
Even more frequent were cemeteries large and small. In the south, they were often a reflection of a focus on the Civil War. In the northeast, the focus turned to veterans of the American revolution or the French and Indian War. But even in the far northeast, there were monuments to the sons lost in the Civil War.
And in many states, cemeteries were a family affair. For those from heavily regulated seates, the notion that a family would have its own cemetery was extraordinary.
We also rode past extraordinary bridges, factories and railways. All a tribute to human ingenuity.
It was impressive to see how significant libraries were in the New England states. Even small communities placed a high value on libraries, if their beauty is any indication.
The Extraordinary Beauty of Nature
Flowers, buildings, gardens – a function of human intervention in our environment. But the natural landscape is extraordinary without our help.
Beaches. Rivers. Forests. Mountains. Valleys. Seas and Oceans. It is easy to forget, as we strive to control our yards and public spaces, that nature, left alone, produces extraordinary beauty.