"What do you guys do for fun?" a question from our young friend Torin at one of our presentations about our 2 year Bike Ride
This last year has been one crazy roller coaster folks, with some pretty steep ups and downs. With all the best intentions of continuing to write on the Blog, we both just got lost in the storm of "life." Looking back, a very slow return to Bend after finishing our Ride (Alaska to Argentina by bicycle) was the best decision we made for re-entry. Somewhere in Peru, maybe miles before, we both came to the same conclusion that we loved our tent house and life on the road far better than our giant five bedroom house attached to jobs and bills. We agreed it was a good time to sell, except for day ONE of re-entry the roller coaster plunged as it hit us that after our renter friends moved out, our house would need a ton of work to be show ready. It was a massive blow to our unattached biking lifestyle that we needed to paint, finish remodeling the kitchen, install a bathroom, etc etc. We owe a depth of gratitude to my parents who rolled up their sleeves, persuaded us that it could be done, and dug in with us. True parental love is when my parents helped every single day for 3 months to remodel a house, knowing we would be selling it to be disappearing into the travel void, only to be an occasional phone call on WhatsApp to check in. Even if they don't say it, that is how I know my parents really love and support what we do.
Going from place to place while ever heading south further and further from home gave us a whole new appreciation for family and friends once we were back rooted. Having friends just pop by for a beer, gathering friends together for impromptu soccer matches in the park, snowboarding with my ride buddy all week before work, dinners with Mom and Dad, gatherings by our fireplace, and the love that is friendship was such a needed addition to our lives as the roller coaster climbed. We slept in the same soft bed, showers were always hot and at the ready anytime of day, mornings we walked to coffee together and saw the same crew who gave us hugs every day, the toilet flushed, when it rained we went indoors, life became over-regulated and beyond safe again.
But now living in our house, that also needed lots of work, we needed jobs to pay for it all and the roller coaster plunged. I re-hung my Real Estate license at a new office, Alpine. Ville had been a financial analyst in his former working life, but took up multiple short-term jobs with the plan that our house would sell and we would be back on the road. I spent every single weekend holding Open Houses to meet new clients. I became busier than I had ever imagined thanks to living in a beautiful town every single person and their brother wants to live in. I worked days, nights, weekends. Ville and I passed in the night. We made money again. I became one of the top producing Brokers in my company, was proud to be good at not just biking but helping people achieve buying and selling homes. We both now served a purpose in a community. But for us, this was not us living, just maintaining.
We volunteered a bunch of time to do presentations about The Ride in all the local schools, Rotary, Newcomers Groups, library, college, etc. We had been blessed by so many kind people along our journey, it was necessary for us to tell about it and inspire others to travel and spread kindness. It is how kindness spreads. And it was some of our highest points over the last year getting to talk about The Ride and pay it forward.
Rarely will one ever get to experience life so carefree and void of stress as riding bicycles for two years straight. At first I would watch my mileage tick by, continually check my watch, notice all the aches and pains, get really excited for lunch break and bummed when it's over and back in the saddle. But really quickly my focus shifted to the landscape, the smiles of people we rode by, the towns, my breathe, pedaling. It was a mediation on a bike that lasted all day every single day. The moments of stress happened when they were humanly necessary; facing a mother bear and cubs, being attacked by rabid packs of dogs, weaving in and out of daytime traffic in massive cities. Majority of the time our lives were stress-free and we slept better than we had ever slept before.
Coming back to Bend Life, I was overwhelmed by actually how stressed out everyone around me was for reasons we have created: the printer was jammed, WiFi was down, traffic when I'm already late, "what do you mean you ran out of that?", "I need to have a massive house to accommodate my family AND two giant cars" all with payments attached. I was driving to get to an appointment after working on the house for a few weeks straight already, got stuck in a long line of traffic, and just started sobbing. Uncontrollably crying, tears streaming down my face and I wanted out. I felt that I was being choked by all the stress around me and I wanted back on my bike.
The Bend real estate market has it's fairly predictable yearly cycle: hot in the spring and cool in the fall and winter. As many hours as we put in on the house, it just wasn't finished until Fall of 2018. Since the markets prices rose so quickly, it was hard to predict price and we shot too high out the gate. Always a challenge in this game, we dropped price quickly but too late into winter so we were stuck in the waiting game. And impatiently waited as Buyer after interested Buyer had not sold their homes either to buy our house. So we continued to work, save money, and remind each other how fortunate we are to have a roof over our head. Life, as both of us had seen daily and experienced, was so much worse for so many others. This was a mere storm and the sun would eventually come out.
And then, we were under contract with a Buyer! We were over the moon excited. We could almost taste the exit point. And then after two months, his own house sale fell apart taking ours down with it. I believe this was when the roller coaster hit the bottom. We had to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and climb back in the saddle. I put the house back on the market and asked the Universe to show us what to do next. That day, in our first Open House, the coolest couple (she has my same name and he has my birthday!) came in the door and put in an offer on our house. Ville and I ran to my 20-year high school reunion and by that evening papers were signed and we were closing in 2 weeks!
We bought a shipping container, dropped it on the lot we own adjoining the house we are selling, filled it with our measly possessions, Ville flew to Finland to be with family the week before close, and I stayed to clean and be there when the house closed. In the Real Estate game, no one gets to choose their Buyers. Since we would eventually be neighbors we hoped the Buyer would be great, especially because we love our home and put our heart into it when we fixed it to keep. But Karma gave us the best Buyers we could have asked for. They love our home, they are excited to be neighbors, and we will be having a beer with them on our old porch when we get back.
I had a month of transactions I had to stay in Bend to see to the close, and then loaded my trusty steed (YES, the same old Blue Bullet I rode the Americas on) into a bike box, and flew to Finland. It had been seven years since I was able to come to Finland. Always super budget travelers, we could never afford tickets, house and bills to visit Finland together, and so it was so over the top magical to be finally in Ville's home country together. I really had missed friends and family. Over a weeks time, I met our nephew for the first time, took spins on our bikes through our old neighborhood, rode rides at the amusement park with friends, caught up on all the years.
This morning in Helsinki, Ville and I climbed on our loaded bikes, and headed off to catch the ferry headed to Tallinn, Estonia. With no plan, a couple months time, a veracious drive to steer south, and no map. Roller coaster up, wind in my hair, listening to my breathe and pedaling. I'm back where I was meant to be. In the saddle with Ville by my side.
Keep On Keepin' On!
K.G. & Ville
In Buenos Aires, Argentina writing the book
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson