My initial thought going into today's posting centered around a book review, pure and simple. That's still going to happen. However, what's different in this particular case is that this time I actually met with the author. So, yes, I'm going to recount her story, but then add my own epilogue — because there's still more to tell, even if there are no more pages to turn.
Leah Day, a licensed clinical therapist, who lives on Peaks Island, Maine, felt a huge gulf was developing between herself and her 16-year-old son, Oakley. Seeking to reconnect, she believed drastic action was called for. So, the self-proclaimed "reluctant adventurer" decided that she and her wayward teen would go for a 4,329-mile bicycle ride across the United States.
Their journey of a lifetime is wonderfully told in her memoir "Changing Gears" (Familius LLC, 2022).
Despite their lack of experience in such matters, the pair took on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, from Oregon to Virginia, in 2019. From cycling in the pouring rain to struggling up high mountains, from taking delight in eating Pringles and cheese sticks to bedding down indoors next to fire trucks, Leah and her son encountered just about everything imaginable. But there was one constant — the people they met.
"Everyone was helpful and really friendly. They treat you differently when you're on a bicycle," said Leah.
In the book, she weaves her narrative around three different quests that were truly realized and accomplished during their cross-country trek: "A quest to see and understand the world better, personal internal quests to see what we are made of, and a family quest to navigate our parent-child relationship in a healthy way."
In praising "Changing Gears," Ainsley Judge, manager of the Portland (Maine) Gear Hub, said, "Leah is not only brave enough to bike across the country with her teenage son, Oakley, but to bring us all along on the journey through her writing — it's open, honest, and completely hilarious at times. Leah reminds us that adventures are not just about the places we go, but about relationships, accepting challenges, and continuing to grow up no matter our age." I couldn't have said it better myself.
Needless to say, their trip was life-changing. In order to stay connected and share their love of cycling, Leah and Oakley opened Lighthouse Bikes in South Portland, Maine. It offers repair services, bicycle rentals, and guided tours. But my recent visit to the shop revealed so much more.
There's no mistaking the relaxing and welcoming vibe as soon as you walk through the door. The place is chock-full of bikes of every description. But there also are the comforts of home, with chairs and an over-stuffed couch arranged in a sitting area. And the piece de resistance? A freezer in the corner, waiting for you to reach in and pull out your favorite ice cream bar. If I lived any closer, I would gladly "hang out" at Lighthouse Bikes.
The easy-going atmosphere is certainly a reflection of its owner. It was fun chatting with Leah, sharing cycling experiences and why two-wheeled machines play such an integral part of our lives. Her statements like "viewing things from bikes isn't the same as being in a car" and "I just want to get people on bikes" certainly aligned with my beliefs. A sort of kindred spirits moment.
Anyway, I highly recommend searching for a copy of "Changing Gears." And if you find yourself in the South Portland area, go looking for Lighthouse Bikes and its ever-smiling pedal proprietor, Leah Day. You won't be disappointed. Stay safe!