'Hitting the Road' Embodies the American Spirit
And an Easton and Oliver Ames High School Guy Who Embodies that Spirit
This is one of those columns I write that is not Easton centric per se.
There is something about the American character and the American spirit — and here is an area in which Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, can smile, reflect and agree, and that gives us bliss and lifts our souls — that is that we love to just take off and hit the road and keep going … and going … and going.
And no people on earth are as in to pulling up stakes and relocating as us Americans.
Perhaps there is something hardwired into people — something that the American experience excites and pulls out of us Yanks. After all, when the first settlers stepped foot on America, whether it was on the land that would become Plymouth or the soil that became Jamestown, there was a whole lot of real estate in front of them — including a straight line of 3000 miles.
A pioneering spirit compelled them to get after it. That spirit remains and is as vibrant as ever.
I love to drive and just get on the road.
I am in Montreal tonight — actually Thursday morning as I write this. A little after five p.m. yesterday, I hopped in a rental car in Newton, and headed north. You can get up here in a little more than five hours from metropolitan Boston. I didn’t, though, because I made a wrong turn.
Being on the road is fun, and facilitates thought. Driving up through New Hampshire and Vermont, in the darkness, I listened to the first presidential debate on the radio. I am supporting Gov. Romney, and I felt he acquitted himself well.
Jack Kerouac’s classic novel, On The Road, touched, it grabbed hold of, the restless and adventurous that is resident in the marrow of millions of Americans.
And the thing that is so beautiful and fulfilling about hitting the road and heading out and going … and going … and going … is that people who have had very little, money and material wise, have roamed and explored America inside and out and received far more fulfillment and nurturing of the soul from the experience than have so many who criss cross our land while staying in the poshest and nicest places.
Driving, walking, running, and cycling America — all of it delivers its own reward.
Jeff Bergeron (Oliver Ames High School ‘72) is someone I highly admire for his smarts, his passionate arguing for social justice, his writing and speaking, and his zest for getting the most out of life.
Jeff and and his wife, Ellen, live comfortably in Breckenridge, CO.
Yet Jeff had stretches of his life when he lived the bare-bones and bohemian existence.
Jeff is a fitness freak, and has long tied his love of bicycling into his own road trips across America, and other areas of the world. I sent him an email the other day and asked him about his cycling sojourns. Jeff provided me this background:
Yes I did a lot of bicycle touring in my 20s and 30s — from Colorado to D.C. back and forth, and back and forth between Colorado and California three or four times. And from Miami to upstate New York, and back and forth between Seattle and San Francisco two or three times. And countless other rides of a thousand miles or more.
This was in the days when I was working as a bartender, and in my early days of TV [Jeff was host of his own popular cable TV show in Colorado; he was known to viewers as “Biff America”] and as a DJ. I would usually get off work for the winter season and pick a place I wanted to live until the next summer-- and then ship a steamer truck there and bicycle to meet it.
Other times I would just leave from where I happened to be living at that time and head out of town—ride for a month or more and end up back in the same place—often with very little idea of where I was going to end up. I used to carry camping gear and stove and would sleep out of sight on the side of the road, sometimes in desert areas, under the road in dry culverts if I could not get out of sight. I stayed away from camp grounds preferring to sleep on public lands—National Forest or BLM lands which there are a lot of in the West. My bike would weigh around 70 lbs with all the gear and water and I’d average about 60-70 miles a day.
I started doing it when I was young and broke but continued when I was just starting working in the media but was making some dough. But either way I would pride myself on being able to live on less than 10 bucks a day
I’ve also biked through Europe and around Great Britain and Ireland a few times.
I don’t bike tour much anymore though I do ride or hike almost every day during summer, and fall I’ll go out a ride 100 miles a few times a summer, but mostly I’m either on my mountain bike or if I road bike, I will go out for a few hours and do 50 or 60 miles and get back to work. Of course now my road bikes weighs about 18 lbs with water — not 70 lbs with water and camping gear.
Now, Ellen and I have a small RV and we will drive somewhere and camp and do road and mountain bike day rides and move on. In the spring we go to the mountain with our backcountry ski gear and our bikes and we’ll climb a peak and ski off it one day and bike the next.
I mean, really, has Jeff Bergeron does some living, or what?
He embodies, in a concentrated fashion, that restless and “get after spirit” I am talking about.