July 12, 2017

Strangers to each other, both of my grandfathers immigrated from Greece to the United States in their early teens. For a while, all that they knew was unfamiliar: foreign in every sense of the word.

One suitcase each, both of them poor, unable to speak English, they embarked on boats to America in the pursuit of something better: courage over comfort.  Cycling reminds me of my grandfathers. I envision their toils, their humor, and their determination; when I’m on my pedals, I know what it is to be brave. 

During WWII, one volunteered for the Army, and the other for the Navy: they became part of something that they believed in. Despite language barriers, financial struggles, prejudices, and numerous other obstacles, both of my grandfathers expanded their lives, established themselves, and raised families in the U.S. 

When I push my physical limits: when I climb a road that seems impossible, or stick a breakaway in a race, I have the strength of an immigrant. When I crash, and heal, and find my way back out there, I am my history. 

One became a philosopher, priest, professor, author and artist. The other worked in factories, saved, and opened his own Greek - American restaurant in Manchester, New Hampshire, which he ran for thirty years. He worked every day of the year except Christmas.

And along the way, both men met more and more people--each one lending something to their definition of the country that was now their own.  When I meet someone new on a bike: someone wildly different from myself, I wonder how they got here: who put strength behind their legs. Sometimes even without words, we tell our stories on the bike: and more importantly, we make new ones.


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