We never planned on riding with other people. It just happened. Several times, really. With the programmers we met in Vallejo, Simon the Kiwi in Nevada. But the ones who we stuck with, of course, are Matty and Johnny. It just worked out that way. Same maps, same ability, same miles. But, there is an unspoken agreement with people we have met on the road: If you get ahead of us, don't wait. We make no promises to stay behind for you in the same regard.
But I suppose the part that I am missing from the equation is the desire. If they had decided we were intolerable assholes, they would have made sure to spend an extra day spinning out, just to lose us. But they haven't. Rather, they have become our real friends. They are no longer just people we met on the road. When we look back, they were strangers for such a brief time.
The day after we met, we thought we had lost them. We had all planned to meet up in Baker. When we arrived there, we discovered that we had no cell service. We had no meeting spot planned so we had resigned to return to our tandem mission on Highway 50. When I walked back from the RV park showers that night, there they were, sitting on the picnic table at our campsite. The two of them smiling, all cleaned up with the old fashioned mess kit sitting on the table and fire pit dust blowing around their feet, they looked like a Norman Rockwell painting.
We have been on the road together for nearly one month now. Like young orphans braving the pony express. The struggle of being on the road has bonded us, irrevocably. When Matty doesn't make it in before dark, we all pace and repeat, "I hope Matty is okay" over and over to ourselves or each other. When Johnny insists we push on while he stays to fix a flat, we crank slow, wondering what he would do if his "American phone" runs out of juice.
We do one another's laundry, share fruits and vegetables and cans of chili, lament the pain in our joints and the longing for home. We bounce stories and ideas off one another just to stay awake on a night ride through Kansas.
In a state or two, we will part ways. I will try not to cry. But I can't make any promises.