The best cup of coffee
I’m taking this from the ride files. The date: January 2009 The Place: Somewhere on the South Island of New Zealand.
It had been a long time dream of mine to visit the habitable continents of the world and to visit at least 7 seas. As it was, both of these dreams were on the brink of becoming a reality–my 6th continent and 7th sea. I remember I pedaled all day into a raging headwind the entire time questioning my reasons for being on the road but, as I crested the final hill I caught sight of the bright blue Tasman Ocean. While I can’t remember all the details of this trip I do remember vividly feeling the silent sense of accomplishment.
The Tasman Ocean
The story doesn’t end here. I haven’t even gotten to the coffee yet and you can see there’s more writing below.
I spent the day riding spiritedly along the Tasman stopping at different beaches along the way reveling in the joy of seeing my own dreams into reality. I’m also a sand collector so I had to collect a small sample for my collection. But alas, the sun was setting and I needed to start looking for a place to pitch my tent. I decided that it would be most fitting to spend the night camping on the beach. I was enchanted by the beauty surrounding me and cooked my dinner as the sun was setting and the waves were lapping on the shores in a timely manner. It was truly a beautiful moment. I’m sure many of you have had your own equally poignant moments.
The story still doesn’t end here.
My night took a turn for the worst when a camper van showed up on the same beach and parked feet away from my tent. Our idea of a great evening was wildly different. I wanted my peaceful perfect moment and they wanted to party with loud music until the early morning hours. My tent vibrated and pulsed to the loud bass in the music. I wasn’t scared or annoyed just sad that I had, over the course of many years of travelling, made it to this moment and the only trophy to be had was a miserable night sleep.
The story continues.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well. Horrible, in fact. I woke at first light, packed up my gear, and headed back to a small town that was several miles back. I remembered seeing a coffee shop at the top of a hill. Luckily for me, in New Zealand almost every coffee shop has great coffee and I was certainly prepared to enjoy a delicious cup and some breakfast.
When I got to the coffee shop I was greeted by the worst sign that made me swear off hippies, at least for the morning. The sign read as follows: “Sometimes we’re open, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we open on time and and sometimes we don’t. Thanks for coming.” I literally beat my head against the window of the shop. All through the night I had clung to the thought of a cup of coffee and now this tiny pleasure was going to be denied me. The next closest coffee shop was several kilometers and several hills back. Hungry, baffled, and severely under caffeinated I stood there trying to figure out what to do and yes, maybe I was even fighting back a tear or two. I was a self pitying mess.
Don’t worry, the coffee is coming.
My fate changed moments later. Two people came up to me after reading the sign for themselves. An older woman and man who, at the time, I took to be a married couple. They introduced themselves as Father such and such and Sister such and such. In the back of my mind I was thinking Well this is going to be annoying. The last thing I want to do is talk politely to people and especially a Father and Sister in vacation clothing… We lamented a moment or two about the coffee shop and I believe I shared my general frustration from the evening before and this glorious moment in my life that was turning out to be one of the worst nights I’ve ever spent on the road. They bobbed their heads politely and then they did what has happened to me a million times travelling but I’ve never appreciated as much as in that moment: they insisted I come to the vacation house of the church and enjoy breakfast with them. Eureka!
In this moment I was not going to decline. I followed them back to their house on my bike where two other Sisters were already beginning breakfast. I was offered a shower and a place to do some laundry and the best meal ever. While they were enjoying a modest breakfast of toast and coffee they prepared a special breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, bacon, and an endless stream of coffee for me. I have never felt so grateful. In exchange I shared with them stories from my travels and then the disappointing details from the night before. Better than the coffee, the shower, the laundry, and the amazing breakfast was this philosophy that the Father shared with me which I have carried with me every day since…when something bad happens, something great is around the corner too. I’ve tested this philosophy since that day and whether it’s actually true or not, doesn’t matter. It always seems to rescue me from despairing in the moment and it opens a curiosity about the road ahead.
A Father, two Sisters, and one clean and grateful cyclist
As it turns out I left their house that morning full and squeaky clean. They had treated me like a hero–though very undeserving. Moments later (about 2km later) on the road I would get to test this new perspective for the first time when I met a fellow cyclist who happened to be from Oregon also. For days we traveled together battling head winds, torrential down pours, and creating a friendship that transcended the experience from the night before.
And that’s the end of my story. As I get older the specific memories of my trips fade into the back ground making room for new memories but, this cup of coffee was genuinely outstanding.