People are good.

Over the past week I rode across Illinois a little at a time.

I have never done this before, and it’s a completely overwhelming experience- every single moment is entirely new, except for the pedaling. The observations, lessons, brief encounters with people, logistical challenges, headwind struggles, sudden moments of total beauty and awe, fortunes shifting like the winds over the prairies and fields- it’s all too much to distill right now. It’ll come in time. But there’s this:

I reached out to a host on a website called Warmshowers, on which people offer their homes or yards to touring cyclists. I was having a Bad Time and getting to my planned campsite another 10 miles away was going to break me.

Kathy drove out from her place and picked me up in the quaint town of Princeton, Illinois, and brought me to an extraordinary place: 400 acres split between organic farming and prairie that they’ve allowed to return to its natural state to provide biodiversity and a habitat for local wildlife.

Kathy and her son John gave me a tour of the farm on a little buggy, cooked dinner, and set me up in the farm’s guest house overlooking the prairie. After a phenomenal sunset, I sat on the deck and watched something my camera can’t capture. The fireflies in the pitch dark looked like camera flashes at a concert; above them the stars shone unobscured in the rural sky. A very hard day turned perfect.

A couple of days later, when I crossed into Davenport, thrilled at having traversed an entire state, I got lunch at a restaurant on the water. 
I got to chatting with my server. He invited me to the minor league game happening later (Davenport has one of the best minor league stadiums in the country.) 
I spent the evening with him and his wife, and their gregarious little kid Maddux (named after Greg). They bought me a t shirt, took me to the skybox where they had friends hanging out, and were just awesome, kind, open and hilarious people. 
Humans are good. America is not full of hatred, even if hatred is having a moment right now.

I wanted this trip to destroy my cynicism. This trip is destroying my cynicism.